AI Takes Game Artists` Job… or NOT? SpeakEasy E12

We are confident that each of you has encountered, or perhaps even expressed, the sentiment: 'Soon, AI will replace Game Artists because technology can generate visuals.' Undoubtedly, AI has witnessed significant advancements in recent years, but is the platform truly as formidable as it seems? Ninel Anderson (CEO of Devoted Studios) and SpeakEasy guest Joshua Balcaceres (Studio Art Lead at Ubisoft San Francisco) will address this question.

Why Joshua Balcaceres?

A glance at Joshua's impressive track record spanning over two decades reveals why.

SpeakEasy12: Joshua Balcaceres Background

With a wealth of experience, he stands as a proper authority on the evolution of the gaming industry, having contributed to iconic projects like Star Wars and Battlefield 4. During his tenure at Lucasfilm, Joshua gained insights into what sets apart a genuine professional:

SpeakEasy12: Joshua Balcaceres“It doesn't make sense to hire a guy and then tell him what to do. We should hire him and say, “We have this problem. What should we do? And he must do his best.” This approach enables Joshua to form an informed opinion on the impact of AI in the realm of Game Development. Furthermore, it consistently aids him in navigating the legal, security, and other crucial issues that significantly influence Game Artists daily.

“... The Genie is Just Out of the Bottle”

The future remains uncertain, and no one can assert with 100% certainty that AI will prove superior. However, the undeniable truth is that AI has already become an integral part of our lives, generating content utilized by globally renowned companies.

Let's take a moment to reflect on the Napster story. It marked a significant breakthrough during an era when people listened to songs on CDs and, in some regions, even on audio tapes. What ensued? The emergence of platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and others overwhelmingly supplanted physical media. Why did this transformation occur? Simply put, it offered greater convenience for both performers and end-users.

The trajectory of AI in GameDev is poised to follow a similar course, albeit with its unique nuances. Whether this turns out to be positive or negative, we'll elaborate on below (spoiler alert: 'it’s good').

“AI is Soulless”... But We Have Soul

Despite prevailing concerns, the integration of AI into the workflow of Game Artists is imperative. Failing to do so would mean ceding opportunities to others who leverage AI for more significant benefit. Let's delve into a practical example.

Consider the task of crafting a high-quality moodboard. If undertaken independently, sans AI assistance, one would invest 1–2 hours in scouring and selecting creatives. Subsequently, an additional 15–30 minutes would be required to assemble a finalized moodboard. Now, view this process through the lens of AI.

Using platforms like Midjourney and others, a comparable list of creatives (potentially superior) can be generated in 10–15 minutes. The subsequent step involves crafting a ready-to-use collage for future work.

It's important to note that AI lacks a soul and a "sense of beauty" akin to ours, but it excels in productivity for routine tasks. Therefore, these platforms guide and streamline our processes, freeing us while we, as Game Artists, infuse the final output with creativity and aesthetics.

The Future Is Promising for Game Artists

Now, let's confront reality. Examine the two images below to reaffirm that Game Artists still hold the upper hand over AI. The image on the left is crafted using an AI platform, while the one on the right is the creation of a skilled Japanese Artist, "AT."

SpeakEasy12: Joshua Balcaceres

These examples serve as a compelling testament to the current state of affairs. AI will not threaten their livelihood if Game Artists can produce such remarkable work. Therefore, the critical takeaway we urge you to grasp is that there's no immediate need to fear displacement by AI. Instead, focus on optimizing your work processes, allowing these platforms to enhance visual outcomes, making them more realistic in less time.

For further insights, explore the SpeakEasy E12 release. In this video, you'll discover additional insights from Joshua Balcaceres. Ninel Anderson has meticulously curated a plethora of questions for the studio guest. If you're eager to conclusively assess the prospects of the AI versus Game Artist confrontation, be sure to watch the entire video.