Generative AI Will Change Game Dev Forever
The gaming industry has always been ahead of the tech curve when it comes to adopting new technologies. Unity, a top game engine, recently announced an AI marketplace that could revolutionise the way studios make games. Last month, Unreal Engine announced it would be integrating generative AI into its workflows. NVIDIA recently released ACE, a generative AI service that aims to bring intelligence to NPCs.
When looking at these innovations, a generative AI revolution seems to be brewing in the gaming world. From making more believable non-playing characters, to generating game assets with a click of a button, to creating whole 3D worlds with a single prompt, generative AI holds the potential to change how games are developed forever.
A new revolution in game development
Unity’s AI marketplace is the biggest announcement in generative AI for gaming yet. Other products like NVIDIA ACE and Inworld AI only tackle a small part of game development, while Unity’s marketplace handles many more aspects of the process. Along with the recently-launched Unity Sentis and Muse generative platforms, this marketplace fleshes out Unity’s genAI capabilities.
Unity Muse allows game developers to harness AI-driven assistance during their workflows, such as real-time 3D creation for digital twins. It also includes a chatbot called Muse Chat, which will eventually allow devs to create textures and even animate a character using prompts.
Sentis, on the other hand, directly integrates neural networks into the game engine. This cross-platform tool will allow developers to run AI models on the edge, and integrate it with various aspects of the game.
The marketplace completes Unity’s tri-tipped AI strategy, offering pre-created AI solutions to accelerate certain game development workflows. At launch, the platform included some big names like Inworld AI, Polyhive, LMNT, and Atlas, which brought a host of AI-powered improvements to all aspects of the development process.
The marketplace offerings can be split into 3 main categories, namely asset creation, NPC platforms, and voice generators. These 3 categories are representative of the larger use-cases of generative AI in gaming. In addition to these, another interesting trend we are seeing emerge is the rise of game developer tooling powered by AI.
Take modl.ai for example, one of the offerings on Unity Marketplace. This AI engine tries to improve game testing workflows by automating coverage for devs, including by managing service report errors, events, and crashes in one platform. These kind of vertical-focused AI tools are yet to be created, as a majority of studios are still using general-purpose tools. Moreover, industry experts believe that generative AI has the potential to completely change the way games are made. John Riccitiello, the CEO of Unity, said in an interview,
“I think this is 10x the potential transformation because I don’t think anybody looks at their games and thinks of them as real worlds. we’re about to find out what happens when we make these worlds fully alive in terms of how it feels to the player.”
It seems that the industry is also moving towards this trend, notwithstanding the current hype around generative AI. Even as the world continues to hype up the field, game developers are finding actual use-cases for the technology.
More than just hype
A study conducted by a16z games, an arm of the VC giant Andreeseen Horowitz, shed some light on the state of generative AI in game development today. Drawing on their network of 243 independent game studios, a16z’s survey found that a whopping 87% of studios are already using generative AI, with 99% stating that they plan to do so in the future.
It also seems like generative AI can bring optimisations to both big and small studios. Troy Kirwin, a games investor at a16z, said in a tweet, “AI allows small teams of creators to build games previously only achievable at AAA budgets. Meanwhile, large studios are chomping at the bit to find any way to accelerate production timelines cheaply.”
Another interesting trend found by the survey is that 64% of studios plan to fine-tune and train their own models in-house. There have already been whispers of game studios doing so, such as Ubisoft’s in-house GenAI tool called ‘Ghostwriter’ for writing NPC dialogue. Roblox has also expressed its enthusiasm in helping its user-generated content grow by using generative AI.This newfound interest seems to have come from a larger focus on vertically optimised tooling for game development. While a majority of studios are currently using general purpose tools, like ChatGPT, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and GitHub Copilot, the launch of tooling by established players like Unity, NVIDIA, and Unreal Engine will catapult generative AI into complete adoption by game studios.