ChatGPT and Midjourney have come for our creative jobs using scraped data from the internet. Currently, the global AI adoption rate is at 35% and continues to climb. While some advocate its usefulness and quick responses to their problems, how much will AI change the games industry? Could the continued use of AI in game development processes mean the death of human expression and new ideas? We don’t think it's that dire! 

In this blog, we embark on a journey to explore the multifaceted realm of AI in game development. We will examine its advantages, such as the possibility of entirely new game systems and streamlined development processes. Simultaneously, we will confront its limitations, including the potential lack of creativity and the ethical dilemmas that arise. Join us as we delve into the realm where algorithms and imagination coexist, seeking to understand the true potential of AI as a catalyst for innovation in the gaming industry.

Can AI make games?

AI is everywhere now! From AI-powered website generation to intelligent virtual assistants in customer care, AI is entering industries in which it had no previous role. This includes game development as well. Where previously, game development was the exclusive domain of passionate and creative people, now we are seeing AI users who can make simple (but complete) games entirely through AI tools. 

However, we can safely say that AI in game development has its challenges. The seamless integration of AI into gaming poses complex problems regarding creativity, copywriting, and quality control. While algorithms can analyse patterns and scroll through endless data faster than humans, they cannot yet create original and compelling games. However, as AI learns and grows, we will almost certainly see a future where AI can make new and exciting game experiences without much human input.

Within this broader context, game development has already embraced one form of AI. By using algorithms to fake the intelligence of actors in the game world, developers have been creating games that respond intelligently to player actions, tailor experiences to individual preferences, and challenge players with unpredictable and lifelike opponents (NPCs). Even though this is called “artificial intelligence”, game AI differs from the recent explosion of machine learning and generative AI (like ChatGPT). 

With that out of the way, how are machine learning and generative AI being used within the game development process right now? Is there a world where we can safely and constructively use this new technology to enhance our processes?

Let’s dive into the details!

What are the advantages of AI in games?

When everything is said and done, there is plenty to be marvelled at with AI’s capabilities. Below are some of the main advantages of integrating AI into the game development process:

Dynamic Game Systems:

For many game genres, it’s essential to design systems that allow emergent gameplay, enabling players to interact with the game world unexpectedly. This can involve creating robust physics engines, procedural content generation, and reactive AI systems. By leveraging AI to create unscripted and unplanned content within a sandbox environment, developers empower players to explore and create unique experiences, enhancing the game's replayability and longevity. For example, Roblox created a generative AI tool, one called ‘Material Generator’, that allows players to create simple graphics from prompts, and the other is a code completion tool called ‘Code Assist’. t

Creative Brainstorming:

We at Chaos Theory mostly use AI for brainstorming sessions as they are great for helping to spark innovation and generate new ideas. It also enables team members to contribute ideas outside their expertise. This helps encourage open discussions and cross-disciplinary collaboration among team members. Our game designer at Chaos Theory, Elric Milton, uses ChatGPT to help with iterative starting blocks before going on to more detailed designs.

Increased Capacity:

As games become more content-driven, developers face the challenge of producing vast amounts of high-quality assets, such as 3D models, textures, animations, and audio. We can use AI in the pipeline to help decrease the need for smaller repetitive tasks, allowing for more capacity in content production. Microsoft used the help of AI generation software to help transform 2D images of the Earth into 3D, which would have taken much longer to do manually!

Chat Bots in Games:

Implementing natural language processing and AI capabilities into games can create more realistic interactions, allowing players to feel like conversing with real characters, thus enhancing the overall gaming experience. These bots can serve as in-game NPCs, quest givers, or even provide support within the gaming environment. Latitude developed a text-based storytelling game where players interact with an AI chatbot, providing endless player-driven content with many open-ended possibilities. 

Community Support and Abuse Monitoring:

The success of a game often relies on its community. As a developer, fostering a healthy and supportive player community is essential. AI can help implement forums in-game reporting systems and play the role of responsive community managers that address player concerns effectively. Platforms like GGWP are used by companies like Riot Games (League of Legends) to help filter and label harmful content much faster than a human could. 

AI Playtesting:

Collecting playtesting data from real players helps identify issues, fine-tune game balance, and understand where to focus development efforts. Using AI to playtest our games can supplement traditional methods and provide valuable insights into potential balance and design issues. Unity announced Game Simulation, an AI agent that can simulate various player behaviours and identify edge cases by playtesting games millions of times, making them a valuable asset in the iterative design process.

What are the limitations of using AI in game development?

The current form of AI is a double-edged sword. There is much we need to learn or fully understand about AI before using it impulsively in a production environment. There are obvious negative implications and things everyone should consider before using AI themselves. Some of the main pitfalls of this technology, especially in game development, are:

Ethical and Social Considerations:

Incorporating AI in game development raises ethical and social considerations. Developers must carefully assess the impact of AI on copywriting, privacy, and inclusivity. Most generative models are trained on data that is scrapped from the internet without the consent of the original creators, leading to accusations of exploitation and unclear copyright ownership. Stable Diffusion and Midjourney are currently facing one of many lawsuits from artists against AI training in creating art based on artists' unique styles. AI algorithms may inadvertently perpetuate biases in their training data, reinforcing harmful stereotypes or exclusionary practices within the game.

Limited by Current Data and Information:

AI is fundamentally constrained by the existing data it can access. Without diverse and comprehensive data, AI may struggle to innovate and may miss out on new perspectives and ideas. This limitation hinders its ability to capture the full spectrum of human experiences, often leading to repetitive or derivative content. 

Unpredictability and Unintended Consequences:

AI-driven game mechanics can result in unpredictable outcomes and unintended consequences. As AI systems become more complex, it becomes more challenging to anticipate how they will interact with each other and the game environment. This unpredictability can lead to unexpected bugs, imbalances, or offensive content affecting the game's overall experience. As game developers, our job is to craft experiences for our players and handing over control to an AI bot can lead to an unpolished game that fails to meet our goals.

Refusal to Distribute:

The entire gaming community is consistently split on the use of AI in general, with many criticisms around the ethics and morals of companies willing to use AI in game development. Games can be rejected before release by the general public or get review-bombed if there’s even a whiff of AI. But aside from this, Valve (the company behind Steam) has been known to take down game submissions if AI art has been used to create any project component. 

Lower Perceived Value:

Despite AI's limitations in creating final game content, the perception that AI can handle significant portions of the game development and content production processes may lead investors, clients, and players to undervalue the efforts of human developers. This can result in lower compensation, recognition, and appreciation for the hard work put in by game development teams.

Job Redundancies in the Industry:

The unfortunate reality of AI gaining popularity and hype is that roles with easily replicable tasks will now be replaced with AI. These roles are typically entry-level positions that people use to get a start in the industry, which could make it even more challenging to break into a competitive occupation. This is a company-to-company decision, and we will likely not see any widespread changes soon. Still, people trying to get a start might see more difficulty if AI is widely adopted in the coming years. 

Endless AI Loop:

There is a concern that AI-generated content could be used to train other AI models, leading to a loop of regurgitated content. Without new, original ideas being put back into the system, there is a serious risk of some creative industries stagnating. To ensure the creative nature of games continues to grow and develop, studios must balance utilising AI tools and nurturing human ingenuity to push boundaries.

So, AI cannot replace Game Developers… Yet. 

Relying too much on AI-generated content could lead to a stagnant creative landscape within the gaming industry. It is essential to remember that AI should be a tool to augment human creativity and not replace it entirely. To avoid stagnation, developers and businesses should actively work on crafting new, original content that reflects evolving cultural dynamics and player preferences, be this with or without the assistance of AI.

While AI brings numerous benefits to game development, knowing the limitations and potential drawbacks is vital. By addressing these concerns and using AI as a supportive tool rather than a replacement for human creativity, developers can harness its power to create innovative, diverse, and engaging gaming experiences.

Additionally, ethical and legal considerations must always be at the forefront to ensure that AI-driven game development doesn’t cause damage to studios or society at large. 

How can we safely use AI in Games?

Considering everything we’ve outlined above, how can someone safely and smartly integrate AI into their process? We have some answers for you! Chaos Theory does use a certain (small) amount of AI in our development and daily work processes. We spoke to our Creative Lead, Jennyfer Ong, about how helpful she finds AI, and she had this to say, “I find it especially useful for learning how to approach programming problems that are completely outside my experience and that I would otherwise have no idea where even to begin solving. It's great for brainstorming, prompting discussion and exploring early rough ideas, much in the way Google or Pinterest do.”

And that’s not the only department; we also spoke to one of our Developers, Sebastian King, on his thoughts on AI and whether it helps him with programming challenges. He said, “One way I like to use ChatGPT is like having a programming buddy. Whenever I'm stuck on a problem and unsure, I just toss my ideas at it. With the right context, it usually offers some cool suggestions that help me keep my design on track.”

In addition to Art and Programming, we use AI (ChatGPT) for creative brainstorming when ideating certain game design challenges and content ideas. Even gaming powerhouse Ubisoft has introduced AI into their narrative writing pipeline by utilising “Ghostwriter” to help them flesh out NPC dialogue and other small pipeline-clogging script pieces. The creator of Ghostwriter, Ben Swanson, said, “Rather than writing first draft versions themselves, Ghostwriter lets scriptwriters select and polish the samples generated.”

AI in Games: What’s the Real Scoop?

Using AI in the game development pipeline has clear pros and cons. It all concerns the context and thought behind how much AI is being used and for what purpose. We firmly believe that AI will not replace human genius but can be a helpful assistant.

And we’ve only scratched the surface of this new technology. With more industries, use cases, and companies making revolutionary AI models, the future is uncertain but interesting. Businesses must embrace new technology but never let it cloud their vision and ethical ideals. 

Want to chat about your next game project? Book a free brainstorming session with us (a real person will respond, we promise).