AI opens the horizons of independent video game studios

2023-12-06 09:00:00

The democratization of artificial intelligence (AI) tools comes almost as a blessing for independent video game studios. Thanks to this technology, they can aim higher and further.

ChatGPT was released in November. I was using it in November, says Brian McWilliams, director of the Bleuet Sauvage studio. A true enthusiast of new technologies, he was entrusted with the role of manager of technological projects at Indie Asylum, a group of independent studios in Montreal.

If at the start, he and his colleagues had fun carrying out tests with the AI ​​tool, for example by playing a role-playing game Dungeons and Dragonshe realized the opportunities for small studios by simply asking: What if we played in Portuguese now?

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The Indie Asylum brings together around ten video game studios, and around 150 people from this industry in Montreal.

Photo : Indie Asylum

Studios could, among other things, use ChatGPT to translate video games, or even live video conferences, into several languages, and thus open up to an international market. Our team is bilingual, we speak French and English, but we would perhaps like to communicate in German, like Gamescom [un des plus importants rendez-vous annuels du jeu vidéo] takes place in Germany, mentions the director of Bleuet Sauvage.

That’s when Indie Asylum started thinking more seriously about how to integrate ChatGPT into the workplace as a tool.

Lighten up everyday life

The first thing I asked my team was to use ChatGPT on a daily basis as much as possible. Everyone has a paid license of ChatGPT.

According to the developer, even if the technology is not yet ready, mastering it is an important skill.

Despite some pitfalls encountered when submitting his programming codes to ChatGPT, he has already managed to save time: Before, I had to write each line of code. Now, I am able to take a step back, to ask ChatGPT to make for me what I would describe as Lego blocks of codes, which I arrange.

That’s what I find interesting about my work as a programmer, it’s the structure, and finding how to tie the pieces together, he adds.

Artists can also save time. You make a line, you press a button, and it does the coloring for you. You go over it again and you just saved yourself 30 minutes of filling, he emphasizes.

Because AI is not just about ChatGPT. The studio also equipped itself with the Stable Diffusion image generative AI model from Stability AI, which it uses in local mode on an ultra-powerful PC, named “the big blueberry” by the team.

I’m toying with the idea that if we make a card game, we could make each card unique, borrowing a style that we have defined and trained.

The technology could thus enable significant savings – in money and time – for independent studios, whose reality differs from that of the video game giants. I experienced it, working for five years for Ubisoft, where we were 600 people working on a single production. But when you’re in a team of five people, you do 20% of the game alone, says Brian McWilliams.

Ethical and moral questions

Even if the ideas for putting AI to work are flowing for the head of technological projects at Indie Asylum, the fact remains that we must ask ourselves the right questions before going any further.

There are many ethical and moral questions associated with this technology, insists Brian McWilliams.

It’s not true that we are comfortable bringing in an actor for 10 or 15 minutes to use his voice ad vitam aeternam in our video games.

Fake voices, generated by AI, also exist and their use is perhaps more ethical, according to him. Many artists from the Indie Asylum knocked on his door to ask him about the use of image generators, among other things, for fear of having their artistic style stolen.

Intellectual property, that is to say copyright, is only the tip of the iceberg of the issues linked to the use of these new technologies. Should we include AI tools in the game’s source credits? Who owns the intellectual property if we use AI?

Many questions remain unanswered for the moment, but the Indie Asylum’s approach is intended to be open, insists Brian McWilliams. My position is to say to myself: “We’re going to see what it’s possible to do with this technology, and once we’ve made up our minds, we’re going to draw the line morally. It’s a ongoing discussion, it is evolving quickly, and we do not yet know all the limits.”

We don’t want to work on a project that would associate us with bad practices.

Despite these uncertainties, the director of Bleuet Sauvage persists and signs: This technology is here to stay, but it is not close to replacing human beings.

What I like are human beings who manage to connect me with [un jeu, une histoire]. People won’t be inclined to put as many hours into a fully AI-generated video game as they do with, say, Baldur’s Gate 3, [en lice pour le jeu de l’année aux Game Awards].

A special show on artificial intelligence will be broadcast on December 7 at 8 p.m. on ICI Radio-Canada Télé, ICI RDI and on our digital platforms.

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