Developing a AAA (i.e. big budget, blockbuster) videogame that can meet the expectations of today's gamers has become an almost impossible and extremely expensive task. Tech blog Motherboard recently chronicled the near-futility of the endeavour in a series of blogs about the making of Gears of War 4, a newly released AAA game.
These dynamics are of course bad for the industry, and bad for gamers too. Game publishers take fewer risks, preferring to release sequels to well-known but tired franchises on an annual basis. AAA games are commonly shipped so full of bugs they are barely playable, or just contain less playable content.
This is why I'm excited about the potential for AI-powered tools to fix the state of the AAA videogame industry. We hear a lot about how AI has the potential to transform different industries, but I've heard surprisingly little about how it can be used to improve the efficiency and scalability of content creation. Given the size of the videogame industry ($92bn in 2015, or twice the size of the film industry), this is a space we'll be watching closely.
But style transfer isn’t just a novelty, it’s also a tool. Video game AI developer and Creative.ai founder Alex Champandard has been working on open source style transfer tools for designers. In the near future, he told me in an interview, gaming studios could be using AI to render game worlds in a fraction of the time it takes now. And, it follows, at a fraction of the cost. “You can take the first part of a world—you can texture, say, a two metre by two metre world—and use these techniques to apply it to the whole level,” said Champandard. “Or you can take an existing level, perhaps from a previous game or expansion pack, and then apply a weathered style so that you come back to that same level and this time it’s flooded and everything’s been destroyed.”