The Unity report claims that AI is already being used by 62 percent of studios.

AI may seem like a dirty word at the moment, but 62 percent of studios are using AI at some point during game development.

That’s according to a new report from game engine maker Unity, which shows that more and more development studios are adopting AI tools to save time and efficiency.

The average time to start games in 2022 was 218 days. It has been 304 days now, the report said. 71 percent of studios responding to the survey said that AI has improved their delivery and operations, to reduce time to launch.

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So what exactly is AI being used for? The number one use of AI is to improve character animation, followed by writing code – or at least speeding up the process. Next is close to both art and level generation, writing and narrative design, and automated playtesting.

One of the main reasons for using AI is to reduce the time spent on prototyping. The report states that 68 percent of developers surveyed chose to use AI to accelerate prototyping. In 2023, 96 percent of studios spent three months or less on prototyping, compared to 85 percent before when it took longer.

Another area for AI use is global construction, which is used by 56 percent of AI adopters. Of these, 64 percent used AI to develop NPCs to populate the world.

This is consistent with a further report from Inworld, an AI company that partnered with Microsoft last year to offer AI tools to developers.

According to Inworld, 3 in 4 developers are “enthusiastic” about AI NPCs. He reported that generative animations and textures are the most likely AI tools to be adopted, followed by AI generated NPCs. Nearly half of developers surveyed by Inworld believe more than 40 percent of studios will adopt AI NPCs.

On the other hand, are there reasons against using AI? Unity’s report found that 43 percent of developers surveyed who are hesitant about AI are interested but don’t have the time, while 24 percent lack the technical know-how. The remaining respondents either did not know that AI was possible, or did not know its purpose. Only three percent chose “other,” which might include more moral reasoning.

Unity’s report is based on data from developers using its engine and tools, as well as a survey by market research firm Cint with 300 respondents to 2023. It should be noted that this survey is likely biased toward smaller, mobile projects using Unity that are more likely to implement AI solutions.

The finale was criticized for its use of AI voice acting. | Image credit: Emark Studios

The Unity on AI adoption results are slightly higher than a recent GDC survey, which surveyed not just developers but industry workers as a whole. More broadly, then, 31 percent of industry workers used creative AI tools, of which 44 percent were associated with business and finance.

From the GDC survey, developers working in narrative, art, and QA were more likely to say AI will have a negative impact on the industry, while those working in business, marketing, and programming were more positive.

It is clear, then, that AI is already widely used in the games industry and is only set to grow as development costs and time costs increase. This is one of the major reasons why the industry is suffering from layoffs at present.

But will AI completely replace humans? That seems unlikely. As the game developer recently reported, solution provider Keyword tried to create a 2D game that relies entirely on generative AI tools. The experiment used more than 400 different tools to see how they could “enhance” growth.

However, eventually it turns out that humans are irreplaceable. “While the project team started small, it identified more than 400 tools with excellent potential, evaluated and used them. Nevertheless, we eventually adopted as part of the project used bench resources from seven different game development studios, because the tooling was unable to change. talent,” said Bertrand Bodson, CEO of Keywords.

“One of the key learnings was that while GenAI can simplify or speed up certain processes, the best results and quality requirements can only be achieved by experts in their field who use GenAI as a new, powerful tool in their creative process. Use on.”

Still, the response to AI seems to be slowly becoming more positive. AI was a major talking point at last year’s GDC, with many responding with “respect and outrage” as Eurogamer’s Chris Tapsel reported at the time. These recent reports suggest that views may be softening.

One area where AI is still viewed particularly negatively is voice acting. Actors stand out in AI, especially when used for deepfake modes. This is something that both the UK actors’ union Equity and the US union SAG-AFTRA need to stand up against to protect the work of actors.

In September 2023, SAG-AFTRA members voted overwhelmingly to strike and then, earlier this year, a new AI contract was introduced, sparking concern among the acting community. There is now a possibility of a strike against the game companies.

Finals developer Embark Studios was criticized for its use of AI voice acting in the online shooter, although in a statement it said that “creating games without actors is not Embark’s ultimate goal”.

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