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The Promise of AI in Game Development

The Promise of AI in Game Development


The workshop of Ralph Baer on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in 2014. The Smithsonian Institute –

As the processing power of computing devices has grown over time, so too has the potential complexity of the games they can play. While this has been a positive development in terms of providing a breadth of options, it also means achieving the very best results becomes increasingly complicated. To address this growing issue, better tools are constantly being developed, and in the 2020s, it’s AI that looks to be the most promising of new assistant systems. Already being rolled out, AI could play a part in every aspect of the creative process, and it’s only going to grow more pronounced.

Help in Every Step

Artificial intelligence in computing is not a new development, it’s just that perception of what AI is can be skewed. Any basic system that simulates human intelligence through technology can be regarded as artificial intelligence, and these have long been parts of many components of game development. AI aids in testing, helps determine the best areas of distribution, and can be used to focus marketing efforts. The difference in the 2020s is that new generative AI can be far more powerful than older systems, demonstrating the type of AI that has long captured imaginations in science-fiction media.

Modern Efforts

Houston, TX, September 12, 2005 — Kids play with electronic games donated by local merchants. Photo by Ed Edahl/FEMA

The first games to truly leverage generative AI appeared in 2022. These were simple titles like block puzzle games, more experiments than anything else. According to the developers, everything from art to music and even story was created by AI, leading to projects that were interesting if disjointed. Opening the floodgates, the basic processes AI played in these early game developments illustrate both the advantages and disadvantages of what the gaming market can expect next.

Generative AI’s fundamental advantages come from its ability to fill in gaps and provide a basic framework. A developer might have great ideas, for example, but lack the artistic skill to create graphics or write a story. AI can step in here and perform some heavy lifting. At the same time, AI can’t fully deliver on the humanity imparted by living beings, so its output has a way of creating mistakes and falling short.

Depending on the type of game and level of implementation, AI contributions in gaming might be unnoticed and loved by all, or they might dissuade discerning players entirely. There is a fear here that AI games could end as shovelware titles flooding the market, though they’ll likely not manage complex genres anytime soon.

An Inevitable Future

For a look at the future potential of AI, consider MMORPGs and modern online strategic games, and their constituent components. These rely on a huge amount of graphics, code for interactions, abilities, code optimization, and debugging as the games develop. Each combination of attacks and units needs to be checked, each character needs to be modeled, skinned, and animated, and each world needs to be built from the ground up. Every one of these steps can be aided by AI.

At the end of the day, the contributions of AI could be thought of as those of a skilled assistant who has trouble understanding context. With the right guidance and expertise, AI could help in delivering world-class entertainment to the world. Left to its own devices, AI will often miss the mark so much that it leaves an incomplete, glitchy, and confusing product. It’s another tool, and as always, the output of the tool will depend on the skills of the craftsman.

The Promise of AI in Game Development

Atari 800 Other images: slot closeup

Atari 800 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a critical component in game development for several decades, responsible for creating intelligent behaviors and decision-making capacities in non-player characters (NPCs). However, the promise of AI in game development is now extending beyond traditional roles, providing new and exciting opportunities for enhancing game design, personalization, realism, and efficiency in the production process. Here, we examine the current and future potential of AI in game development.

Current Applications of AI in Game Development

Atari Portfolio Other images: 1

Atari Portfolio Other images

1. Non-Player Characters (NPCs): AI is most commonly used in games to control the behavior of NPCs. This can range from simple programmed behaviors to complex, adaptable behaviors that respond to the player’s actions.

2. Procedural Content Generation (PCG): PCG uses algorithms to create game content such as levels, landscapes, characters, and even whole narratives. This allows for a richer and more varied gaming experience. Games like “Minecraft” and “No Man’s Sky” use PCG to create vast, explorable worlds.

3. Player Behavior Analysis: AI can be used to track and analyze player behavior. This data can provide valuable insights into how players engage with the game, highlighting areas for improvement and helping developers understand what players enjoy about the game.

Future Applications of AI in Game Development

1. Advanced NPC Intelligence: As AI models continue to improve, we can expect NPCs to become more intelligent and responsive. Future NPCs may be capable of learning from player actions, adapting their behavior in complex ways, and providing more challenging and engaging experiences.

2. Personalized Gaming Experiences: AI has the potential to create highly personalized gaming experiences. By analyzing player behavior, AI could adjust difficulty levels, generate personalized content, or alter game narratives in real-time based on the player’s preferences and actions.

3. Improved Game Testing: AI could revolutionize game testing by automating the process. AI bots can play games repeatedly, identifying bugs and balance issues faster and more efficiently than human testers.

4. Real-time Game Adaptation: AI could be used to adapt games in real-time, altering game rules, mechanics, or visuals based on player behavior and feedback.

5. AI-Generated Art and Sound: Advances in AI could allow for real-time generation of art and sound assets. This would make it easier to create unique and varied game environments and could revolutionize the way games are developed.

The future of AI in game development is full of exciting possibilities. As AI continues to advance, it will undoubtedly transform the gaming industry, creating more immersive, personalized, and engaging experiences for players. However, these developments will also pose new challenges and ethical considerations, such as ensuring fair and responsible use of player data. As such, the game development community must actively engage with these topics to harness the full potential of AI in a manner that respects player rights and promotes enjoyable gaming experiences.