Generative AI in Gaming is a Double-edged Sword

Twelve years after its release, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is being reinvented with the help of generative AI
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When Bethesda’s ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ (aka Skyrim) was launched in 2011, the blockbuster game garnered $1 billion in sales within the first 30 days. Twelve years later, this classic is being reinvented with the help of generative AI, creating a new dimension to the world that players know and love.

Through the efforts of Skyrim’s modding (modification) community, Inworld AI, a developer platform made to create AI characters in games, has been integrated into the game. Through this mod, players can speak to the non-playable characters (NPC) in the game by harnessing the power of LLMs. However, even though such platforms increase the immersion in games, generative AI in gaming is slowly becoming a thorny issue. 

A new lease of life…

By using the Inworld platform, a coder named BlocTheWorker has created a modification (mod) for Skyrim that gives more personality to the NPCs. This project uses AI to add new life to the characters, going beyond the original game’s scripted and often repetitive voice lines. 

The mod works by creating a connection between Skyrim and the Inworld platform. The Inworld program itself is made up of 4 components: integrations, a contextual mesh layer, a character engine layer, and a real-time AI layer. The AI layer is optimised for real-time performance and is built on GPT-3.

The character layer uses multimodal AI to give NPCs more expression, while the contextual layer keeps them in character. By combining these layers and integrating them into a game, either through their Node.js SDK, Unreal Engine, Unity, or REST API interface, NPCs can respond realistically to the players’ queries. As one enthusiast stated, “It’s like having a neighbour you’ve said “hi” to 100 times, and now you’re suddenly having your first real conversation with them.”

BlocTheWorker has also created a set of voices for some of the NPCs in the game using ElevenLabs speech generation algorithms. He also stated that it was possible to include real-time text-to-speech using a paid subscription to ElevenLabs’ service. It can also be integrated into other text-to-speech systems, like xVASynth, which is a software made specifically for the replication of in-game voice lines, created by the Skyrim modding community. 

However, there has been backlash against these applications, mainly over the ethical concerns surrounding reproducing voice actors’ likenesses. 

Actor’s voices at risk

In 2020, Martimius, a member of the Skyrim modding community, created a mod called SDA or ‘Serana Dialogue Add-On’. This modification added 6000 unique voice lines to a companion character called Serana. These voice lines were recorded in collaboration with a voice actor called Kerstyn Unger, but the character was originally voiced by celebrity voice actor Laura Bailey

To stay true to the original character, Martimius asked the community whether they would be interested in a ‘revoice’ — an AI-generated voice trained on the original voice actor. However, the community responded explosively to this, stating that it was both illegal and immoral to replicate a persons’ likeness. The creator then amended their stance to be against using AI in their mods. However, the discussion touched upon a deeper issue in gaming — that of voice actors being replaced by AI. 

Voice actors and game developers have had a rocky relationship in the past. The gaming industry has even been the reason for a voice actors’ strike in 2017. Moreover, voice actors are a big cost associated with game development, with prices ranging from $800 per day up to $2400 per day. Due to this, many companies are looking to cut down costs using AI

Altered AI, a voice-generation platform made specifically for voice acting in games, already has few big developers on board, specifically Ninja Theory and Neon Giant. While the former has stated that AI tech is used specifically for placeholder content, the death march for voice actors seems to have already begun. 

Video game voice actors are also being asked to sign away the likeness of their voice to AI. According to reports, game studios are using this technology to get the most out of their voice actors. Moreover, these clauses are also becoming more prevalent in contracts given to VAs. Fryda Wolff, a voice actor, stated, “Game developers, animation studios, and perhaps even commercial clients could get away with squeezing more performances out of me through feeding my voice to AI.”

While gaming might be the trendsetter for how AI can be used to make experiences even richer, it also shows the dark side of the misuse of AI. Generative AI is the current talk of the town, but it might become the status quo for gaming in the future. However, it also seems that many talented individuals will be cheated out of their due thanks to AI. 

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Anirudh VK
I am an AI enthusiast and love keeping up with the latest events in the space. I love video games and pizza.

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