When The Finals, a multiplayer shooter, fresh from an open beta weekend on PS5, experienced what some gamers described as less-than-human character voices, many fans were suspicious. It was later revealed that Embark Studios' game used AI to create the in-game voices rather than employing traditional human actors.
Designer at Embark Studios, Andreas Almström, confirmed in an interview that bringing AI text-to-speech technology onto the project was a conscious choice. His admission spurred a somewhat controversial discussion after voice actor Gianni Matragrano stumbled on the information recently.
The usage of AI for voice generation isn't an all-encompassing solution, though, as Almström explained during the podcast, Meet the Makers, that Embark Studios produces. AI couldn't impersonate the heavy grunts or other such "vocalisations" perceived when a character is running, jumping, or performing similar actions within the game. This particular work had to be dealt with in-house by human developers at Embark Studios.
The employment of AI in creative spheres like video games has always generated a heated discussion. The friction stems from the concern that human creatives could be made redundant by this advancing technology. Almström contests this viewpoint by suggesting that the superior power and versatility of AI text-to-speech technology outweigh any potential downsides. He believes that the AI voices match up in quality to human voices and the technology allows game development to be highly receptive to new concepts while keeping the gaming experience fresh and exciting.
While AI technology can be lauded for its speed and cost-effectiveness, some in the industry have reservations about these perceived benefits. Matragrano, for example, believes that the pandemic has catalysed the shift towards professional voice artists recording high-quality audio remotely, often completing a job within a few days. He suggests that for a sum less than a thousand dollars, pro-grade voiceovers can be quickly produced for video games that not just sound good, but also keep any ethical issues related to AI at bay.
The Final's bold move of relying extensively on AI technology for in-game audio has sparked a lively debate. What do gamers think about this practice? Did they notice any difference in the voice quality? The answers to these questions will undoubtedly shape the future of AI use in game development.
Reflecting upon this argument, one might ponder over the domino effect this could have on other realms too. Is AI the future of not just gaming but also of other creative fields? Perhaps what we perceive today as sci-fi could someday turn into our regular reality. Such instances remind us of the importance of staying open to technological advancements while retaining a discerning eye on their impacts.
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