The latest offering from Embark Studios, 'The Finals', an arena-battle first-person shooter (FPS) game, has been in the spotlight recently. However, not all the attention was positive. The game's audio designers, Carl Strandberg and Andreas Almström, revealed in a recent podcast that artificial intelligence (AI) and text-to-speech technology were employed for commentary and other vocalisations in the game.
This news led to a wave of discomfort within the game's community. In response, Embark provided an official statement to Eurogamer, asserting that their ultimate aim is not to produce games "without actors". They explained, "We use a combination of recorded voice audio and audio generated via text-to-speech (TTS) tools in our games, depending on the context. At times, recording real scenes where actors interact enabling character chemistry and conflict to influence the outcome adds a level of depth that technology cannot replicate."
In the case of contextual in-game action call-outs, TTS helps the team to create custom voiceovers that otherwise might not be possible, due to speedy implementation requirements. Regarding 'The Finals', any TTS used is always based on real voices. Even in the Open Beta version, a blend of professional voice actors and temporary voices from Embark employees is employed.
“Making games without actors isn’t an aim for Embark. The introduction of TTS technology has presented new methods for our team to collaborate," the company elaborated.
'The Finals' is presently hosting an open beta on all platforms, including Xbox Series X|S, running until the 5th of November. Despite the spotlight on the game's use of AI, it leads to a thought-provoking debate on the ethical use of such technology in gaming, with community opinions remaining diverse and varied.
Despite the arguments, it's clear that the aim for Embark Studios is not to replace actors completely, but to use AI and TTS technology to enhance gameplay experience in certain contexts. The future of gaming continues to evolve at the crossroads of technology and creativity, shaping new experiences for players around the globe. 'The Finals' is just one example of how developers are navigating these rapidly changing landscape, considering both traditional and innovative approaches to game design. With such complexities to address, it seems certain that the conversation surrounding the role of AI in video game development is only just beginning.
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