How is AI going to change game development?

hardspace: shipbreaker
(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive)

The tech world can only talk about one thing right now: AI. Microsoft just debuted a new AI assistant in Windows, after launching its Bing chatbot only a few months ago. OpenAI is barreling ahead with ChatGPT, even if, worst case, the CEO thinks AI could be "lights out for all of us." No pressure, then.

In every field, including gaming, there's some uneasiness that AI will be used to push people out of jobs. The developers at Blackbird Interactive don't see AI as anywhere close to that capable, however—at least not yet.

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Who's talking?

From Blackbird Interactive:

Rob Cunningham - Founder & CEO

Rory McGuire - President & CCO

Alex Delamaire - Director of business development and communications

"With Midjourney or Disco Diffusion, the various art programs, our pedigree as a studio [values] art very highly," said president Rory McGuire. "We've been collecting amazing concept artists for as long as the studio's been around. As a craft we value it a lot. All of us have spent time with those programs. I think they have a lot of value, but I think that quote about 'the power of a thousand interns' is pretty spot-on.

"We've built pitch decks for projects, concept pieces and key arts, and I've never seen an AI program produce a piece of art that was even close to any of our senior concept artists. And in terms of giving them direction... I spent a bunch of time with Midjourney and you can keep refining a concept and eventually get it kind of ballpark, but if I have to give something direction 20 times, what's the actual value of that? We have concept artists that we give directions to once and they nail it 95%."

From there the discussion moved to how much of art—and game development as a whole—is about thinking and problem-solving, not just the act of creation itself. Blackbird's CEO Rob Cunningham mentioned the motto "Think now, draw later" and how important discussion is to the creative process, beyond just the final produced piece of art that a tool like Midjourney can produce.

We also discussed what AI tools are likely to be used in game development first, and how its efficacy will depend more on the game designers than the tools themselves.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).