Blizzard says World of Warcraft does not use generative AI to create content

Artificial intelligence and its application in games was one of the top industry topics during the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in March. And while some studios touted AI-generated NPCs or AI level creation, Warcraft franchise director John Hight was more conservative.

IGN spoke with Hight after his GDC talk on the last 30 years of Warcraft, and he touched on the topic of AI. When asked what he thinks is most exciting about the industry, he pointed to AI. Specifically, the kind of AI that game developers have been using for years and which is gradually becoming better and more efficient, freeing up developers’ time for creative work.

We’ve used machine learning to help in ways that humans either can’t do or are very tedious to do. For example, adjusting armor on characters, of which we have many. Our artists had to go through all this, they created the armor for the human form and then they had to redo all the elements for all the different body shapes, horns, big snouts, tails and everything else. It’s just not a very fun job. A few years ago we asked the question, “Can we use machine learning to help get things to the point where 90% of the work is done for them, and then they can refine it?” And we got down to it. In the end, the result turned out very good. This allowed us to create a lot more different types of armor. Artists are delighted because they no longer have to deal with routine work.

Hight also talked about how improvements to NPC AI have led to the ability for WoW to support features like Exile’s Reach, a tutorial area where new players unfamiliar with how WoW dungeons work can try them out with NPC support. Blizzard is also working on a new feature called Delves for The War Within, which uses similar technology. But, critically, Hite says Blizzard stays away from anything generative.

I am the son of an aeronautical engineer and an artist. My mother was an aeronautical engineer and my father was an artist… So I have an understanding of the creative process that an artist goes through in his imagination. I think the artists on the team are afraid that AI will be used to take their work away, and they certainly don’t want their work used without permission or without attribution or anything, so I think we all We understand the situation. In addition, there are issues of rights, and how deep we use this technology – but we do not use it. We don’t use generative AI in WoW.

Hite’s caution about AI is justified. Generative technologies have been widely criticized by players and developers alike due to a combination of ethical concerns, copyright issues, and AI’s inability to create content that audiences will enjoy. For example, Keywords Studios tried to create an experimental game relying entirely on AI. However, the game flopped, with Keywords telling investors that AI “failed to replace talent.”

AI will probably find its place in the gaming industry, but this will not happen in the near future.