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Mobile Mavens: Is AI a helping hand or to be kept at arm's length?

Our round-up of opinion from around the industry returns with AI's role in game development the hot topic
 Mobile Mavens: Is AI a helping hand or to be kept at arm's length?
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The gaming industry is an ever-evolving space that often finds itself at the forefront of future tech. We are now into our fourth month of 2023, and already it's clear that artificial intelligence is the big topic of the year.

With Chat-GPT taking the AI scene by storm, every big name company is striving not to be left behind and so it’s only natural that AI's role in the complex but underpowered, creative but repetetive, and risky but highly lucrative games industry is increasingly under scrutiny. 

While many may already be using AI in some capacity, recent advances in creating new ideas and finding new roles for AI has got everyone's attention piqued.

So we asked our friends around the mobiles games world what they think about AI and its future role in game production. If it’s a thing to be welcomed or perhaps cautiously kept at arm's length. Is AI just having a moment or is here to stay, and what part do they see it playing in their work and business plans for the years to come. 

Callum Godfrey

Callum Godfrey

Head of Casual Mobile Games at Kwalee

I prefer to think of AI as “Additional Intelligence” rather than artificial intelligence because I don’t see it ever replacing the need for humans with a creative spark at the core of what we do as game makers, but it can take that creativity to places we can never achieve either through sheer breadth of things it can try or through it’s unique perspective on what we’re asking it to solve.

AI is a fantastic boon to game development and production, able to absorb and rationalise more data near instantaneously than we could as humans in a lifetime, and it’s something I’m personally very excited about if it's used in the right way, like any other tool at our disposal.

We’ve already been working with AI for years in some capacity, particularly with data and machine learning technologies and these don’t seem to have had nearly as much difficulty being accepted by the development community at large, perhaps because it's usually technology we have built within our own teams that makes it feel less artificial or more like we own and control it.

We’re only at the beginning of the use of AI at scale in our industry and at Kwalee we’re already seeing huge benefits to the productivity it can provide in terms of things like research, image manipulation and creation, taking the “laborious” work out of the day to day to allow teams to focus more on pure creativity and innovation work and in helping find another way to validate some of your assumptions. Additionally, we empower all Kwalee team members to create and submit innovation ideas that use artificial intelligence with our monthly K.A.I. program.

The place of AI in a creative work space is always going to need to be carefully handled or we run the risk of normalising to a bunch of soulless carbon copies of something already successful, though some may argue that humans have been following this trend for themselves before AI became a more mainstream tool.

I believe it’s here to stay and we as an industry need to learn to embrace that, and to find ways to leverage the power of it. But, like all tools, its usefulness comes down to how we put it to work, and I’m excited to see where we as game makers take this.

David Hanson

David Hanson

Founder & CEO at Ultra

AI is a powerful tool that must be regulated appropriately. Currently, some workers in the games industry feel uncomfortable, if not unhappy, with what is happening in the AI space. This is partly due to how their work and data are being used or stolen without their consent, but also because some jobs are competing directly with automated AI competitors who work for a fraction of their fees. Innovations can cause disruption, and with AI, we are facing one of the biggest disruptions in modern history. Software capable of replacing human cognitive abilities is bound to have consequences. However, like the internet, AI will ultimately enhance humanity's daily lives. As is often the case with new technology, the games industry will be a leading force in adopting AI and helping project managers, artists, and programmers in their daily tasks and productivity.

At Ultra, we already use AI to produce and validate code, understand external code libraries, create illustrations for our social networks, craft legal documents, and gain business and technological insights. Overall, AI has replaced Google for me in terms of accessing humanity's general knowledge. It's fantastic because I no longer have to search for information on the internet or bother my teammates and business partners. AI instantly provides thorough and accurate answers to my questions most of the time.

[people id="3107" name="Ivan Trancik"] [/people]

It’s always exciting when there’s a new technology that can enhance what we’re doing in the gaming industry.

AI and games go back a long way, whether it’s some smart component, or playing against a computer. But you’ve never needed AI to create a great game experience, so most game companies are not native AI companies. The new-gen AI tools - language processing, image creation, voice -the  impact the immersive elements of games, which is a huge shift. Historically, these are the most expensive elements to produce. It’s good news for small companies wanting to put out Diablo-levels of richness, because they won’t need triple-A budgets to do that. On the other hand, we know there are legal and ethical risks. So established companies will be slower to adopt and face disruption, and some disruptors will play fast and loose - and get burnt.

Eventually, AI in game development will become routine. Ultimately, the secret to a great game is not in AI, because you’re going from zero to one. Machines aren’t good at that. Instead, what it can do is free up creative people to have ideas, by taking care of other parts of the process.

At SuperScale, we don’t make games, we’re more like a publisher - we think of it as publishing as a service - we grow your game and you keep your IP. So we are a native AI company, because our whole model is using AI to grow our clients’ games and businesses.

Over half our people are AI specialists, from R&D to engineers and data scientists. As such, new technologies aren’t a revolution for us, because harnessing AI to grow games, while managing risk, is what we do.

Like any new technology, AI looks like a set of overwhelming possibilities; some are a distraction, some will be dangerous or give you headaches, some are safe and have huge potential for your business. We help our clients find the biggest possible upside.

Yassine Tahi

Yassine Tahi

Co-Founder & CEO at Kinetix

We're blissed out. We’ve contributed in our own small way to the emergence of generative AI over the last few years, and recent tech releases make generative AI a hot topic no longer for the happy few but for everyone. What's fascinating is that updates to Large Language Models (LLMs) are going as fast as specialised AI with solid foundations. At the same time, hundreds of apps are under development to increase productivity on repetitive tasks or expand everyone's creative and technical toolset.

We must double down on developing apps as current LLMs already enable numerous use cases. We believe that every games industry professional needs to familiarise themselves with AI tools and the art of prompts, as they will become standard for interacting with multiple applications. The fact that Generative AI will soon be integrated into Microsoft Office proves that. Professionals will iterate faster, saving time on repetitive tasks, but the most transformative thing will be giving a voice and impact to more people. We cannot wait to see people from more diverse backgrounds exploring AI to bring their fresh perspectives onto the table.

Our primary concern is clarification on how we train AI models. There is a need to explain to the audience how we built the AI and the source and makeup of the data used. We need to talk about the ethics behind each model and its current limitations.

We developed an AI that empowers everyone to create a category of assets that used to have numerous barriers to entry. Before, you needed to invest in hardware and software and train yourself to create your first 3D animation. Now, our AI handles the most critical task for you so that you can create animations from a simple video recorded with a single phone. We realised sooner than others that, besides professional's expectations, casual users wanted an AI for creating simple, short stories representing their feelings. This is the reason why we specialised in user-generated Emotes: animations that express emotions.

Our team comprises 3D animation experts but also generalist AI engineers, game developers, and designers. Having integrated generative AI into our internal processes, we’ve seen high productivity and a positive shift in collaboratively building products. 

Eric Lux

Eric Lux

Riyadh Studio Operations Director at Sandsoft

AI has been in game production and video/electronic games for the last 50 years. Our industry always has and will continue to welcome innovative technologies that enable us to provide more immersive, enjoyable and personalised interactive experiences to our players. It’s in our DNA. However, we need to make sure we work within local and regional regulations wherever we operate across the globe.

We will benefit from the uptick of great AI technologies in our toolsets, delivery systems and immersive experiences. From story-telling games where NPCs and environments will feel more realistic to strategy games providing more consistent challenges. Even casual games will feel more fun and appropriate. We will use those AI tools to build, test and operate more human-like interactions, more “imperfect” gameplay. I believe all those underlying hardware and software innovations will support us to provide a greater choice of customised experiences and better service to each one of our players around the world.

James Draper

James Draper

Founder & CEO

While web3 has been the poster child for technological change in recent years, I think it’s AI that will impact life and entertainment on such a scale that humankind won't ever be the same again. The reaction I had using ChatGPT for the first time was similar to the first time I used a search engine, or saw a smartphone - this is a true technological stepchange. Though it is getting press coverage, I’m astounded by how little gaming and advertising industry chat there is for the acceleration of large language model (LLM) AI.

Can you imagine playing The Sims but every character in the game is ‘smart’, aware or even 'conscious'? The connection between the gamer and the universe they play within will be indistinguishable from real-world relationships, bar physical touch. AR, VR and haptics will be intriguing to observe as they begin to complement these experiences. What’s real and what isn’t will become harder to define.

The creative and moral implications are going to be stark. Regulation around the gaming space is something that will become open for public debate. Codeless game creation is in its infancy, but soon we will be able to create whole games in minutes, baked out of fantasies and ideas in our heads, using real or fictitious prompts to form entire worlds and environments we can share with our friends to play in. The battle of IP and copyright is going to become widespread, fast.

The way games are currently produced will change significantly - just looking at the recent Unreal Engine demonstrations where whole environments are being created through AI around the gamer. The game developer can give the system a prompt, and an idea of how the world should operate, but 99% of the world can be generated automatically from those rules.

Because of AI, the status quo in the industry will look very very different over the coming decade or two. We have technical and commercial goals surrounding how we maximise the impact of AI to drive increased immersion for gamers and revenues for the game developers.

Through improved targeting capabilities and the flexibility AI gives us surrounding advertising messaging creativity, we are excited to see how our talented team capitalises on these truly industry changing technologies.

Michael Hudson

Michael Hudson

CEO at KYLN

AI is a great thing. Caution is always advised with anything new, but I can't see programmers, designers etc losing their jobs any time soon - a human touch will always be significant for many aspects of game development. I believe there is a huge swath of opportunities to massively optimise many roles within the development process and this is where I see AI really playing a key role as we all move day by day into the future. We already see developers using ChatGPT to write more mundane pieces of code, creating a faster and more efficient development cycle, and I think this is a perfect case study to show how teams around the world will take up the AI torch and use it to build more amazing games for players around the world.

I am already using the likes of ChatGPT to help me cut down my time spent on research tasks, and I am starting to use it to keep me up to date on news stories, build social posts and more in a fraction of the time I would normally spend on these tasks. I can't see AI completely removing daily tasks from my to-do list, but it is certainly adding efficiency and time savings and I think that is even better in many ways.

Aleksey Savchenko

Aleksey Savchenko

Chief product officer at XLA

I think that AI is a great toolset to play around with, especially in the RPG/simulation genre. For example, at my project, XLA Metasites, we are currently working with Hexagram to create simulated AI-driven societies consisting of multiple individual agents and NPCs. Communicating with them is interesting as hell! In some sense, it's possible to build indirect gameplay similar to some of the mechanics in Majesty (yes, I'm old enough to remember that), but in a much more sophisticated manner. Players are able to figure out intricate relationship groups between characters, whom they like, dislike, how they operate, and to deal with news and events they produce. On the other hand, I think that AI is essential for narrative gameplay mechanics, with a wealth of opportunities in detective and investigation genres combined with an open world idea. In a broader example, AI seems like something that may lower the threshold of entry into game development for many, many people, and having more aspiring game developers being able to tell their story or build a new, interesting set of mechanics with these new tools is quite exciting.

As a producer, I see great potential in generative AI for processing references and saving some time on traditional search. Iteration times on building different types of prototypes for touch and feel might also drastically lower. In general, pre-production activities can be pretty much simplified. 

Another idea I'm personally toying with at this point is virtual assistance in level design: this has a long way to go, but having a co-pilot in object placement and procedural generation for locations is a fun thing to have.

David Cremades

David Cremades

CEO at Taproom games

We feel quite confident that it will be a key part of the industry in the future. There are already some fields in which AI is the present like App Store Optimization or character generation. However, it will take some time to adopt all this new technology in the day to day processes.

It is undeniable that AI is here to stay. It is time to learn, test, investigate and step by step, take advantage of the full potential of this amazing technology. For us, one of the upcoming goals of the AI is to replace the classic algorithm when we simulate users in the games to get a more realistic behaviour.

Edited by Paige Cook

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash