Lords of the Fallen has released and reviews are mixed, but the Unreal Engine 5-powered game has some development secrets, one being the team revealed to me how generative AI was toyed with during production.
While generative AI's role is not to replace the human artistry and creativity of game designers, artists and developers, generative AI increasingly proving to be a powerful tool to enhance efficiency, streamline processes, and even offer creative insights. And worringly there is emerging evidence some studios are replacing artists with AI.
Game developer Hexworks used generative AI to create the newly released Lords of the Fallen, a game I've played and one with a dramatically creative art style. But speaking with Creative Director Cezar Virtosu and Head of Studio and Executive Producer Saul Gascon, the use of generative AI was done in a narrow and specific way.
Virtosu, an experienced game developer, emphasises that AI's integration isn't meant to replace human creativity in video game production. He explains, "AI is 100% something we are going to be using and integrating in our pipeline, but it's never going to substitute the artist or the brain behind it. [AI] is going to help us, for instance, in optimisation."
One of the significant challenges in game development is resource management, such as memory usage and the kind of complex computations that a AAA studio working in graphics heavy engines needs to control. AI can play a vital role here by automating the detection of inefficiencies and suggesting potential solutions. Virtosu tells me, "AI can help in detecting these moments and offering potential solutions; it can suggest we reduce the texture sizes or you simplify the shaders".
Gascon chips in and echoes what has been said, explaining the value AI brings to tasks that might be considered mundane. "We're already using AI for localisation," he says. "AI is going to be used for a lot of menial things, we hope that we'll be able to use it for sound… AI is going to be very valuable, after all no-one wants to make 6,065 types of footsteps."
AI's influence could extend beyond routine tasks in game development, and even be used to aid creative aspects of production. Virtosu reveals an early build of Lords of the Fallen used of AI-generated voices for prototyping. "AI voices were used to prototype the game," he says, adding: "They were very convincing… like very convincing, to the point of me thinking, 'I'm not sure if this is AI'."
But something was missing. "The level of quality and intensity you get when a voice actor comes in, with their flaws and the creative inputs they bring, is intoxicating," recalls Virtosu.
Hexworks' experimentation underscores the potential AI holds in assisting creative work and getting a video game project up and running, but will likely not replace human creativity. I noticed how both developers became animated and excited when discussing the colour and passion voice actors brought to Lords of the Fallen, an excitement lacking in their admission of trying AI during the prototyping stage.
Gascon discusses how AI can handle certain tasks, but for him the richness of human imagination and style adds depth to any project. "[People] will add their own thing, and it's not going to be what you expected, but it adds to the texture… An AI is just going to do what you tell it."
Gascon is clear AI is a tool, to help speed up workflows and enable greater creativity. "For faster prototyping, 100% we're using it," he tells me, explaining how AI can aid the exploration of ideas and new directions in design quicker.
But AI is not replacing anyone at Hexworks any time soon. Virtosu reflects, "AI can't match the madness of [Art Director] Alexandre Chaudret and his creative team".
It's clear that generative AI is creeping into all aspects of digital art, including game development. But that doesn't mean it will take jobs, so it's still a good idea to learn the fundamentals, for example read our feature on why everyone is obsessed with Unreal Engine 5 to get up to speed on the real-time engine used for Lords of the Fallen.
But that's not to say you should sleep on AI; the new Masterpiece X - Generate browser-app, for example, is proposing to be an ethical way anyone can begin modelling and animating in 3D for games.