Blizzard President Claims AI Will Allow Artists To Be More Creative, Others Aren’t Convinced
AI systems like ChatGPT for text or Midjourney for imagery have improved to the point where they can be used in some day-to-day work. For example, the hero image above was created by Midjourney in response to the prompt “game developers working.” While AI-generated content isn’t always perfect (just check out the hands in the image above), it can do many things relatively well, like integrate into Skyrim for example. As such, Activision-Blizzard is looking to capitalize on the power of AI to accelerate some parts of the art pipeline, though this move is drawing some ire from the community.
As of February this year, Activison-Blizzard has had a patent published for “machine learning-based 2D structured image generation.” Per the patent’s description, it covers the use of machine learning to “automatically generate 2D images, and more specifically, to automatically [generate] structured texture images.” The goal is to help artists produce high-quality, high-volume artwork that requires “limited creative input from an artist,” such as environment texture art.
While this might not sound bad initially, former Blizzard developer Eric Covington voiced some concerns on Twitter. He explained that this use of AI might dimish the expectation of hand-crafted Blizzard quality and that his artist colleagues deserve better. However, the president of Blizzard, Mike Ybarra, retorted that this take is somewhat reductive in that Covington was “trying to associate recent AI advances (generative AI) to something completely unrelated.”
You can read the patent here and draw your conclusions, but in summation, Activision-Blizzard, since at least 2020, has looked to streamline the process of creating textures and artwork for various things in its game worlds. This is effectively what Hearthstone Design Manager Brenden Sewell was hinting at in a reply to Covington’s original tweet, which you can see above.
At the end of the day, there is clearly a use for AI in the game design industry, to potentially streamlime some mundane processes in development and design, freeing up human resources for other imaginative or creative work. Artists, designers and developers, however, still have to navigate the waters to decide how to best leverage the tools, without crossing any ethical boundaries and minimizing their creative talents. These are not insumountable problems, but until the trail has been blazed, there is still much uncertainty. In the meantime, let us know what you think in the comments below.