It hasn’t been the best week at Blizzard, so let’s check in and see how things are going with something other than Overwatch 2 like...ah, the company’s management sending out emails about how AI tools are going to be help design character outfits and “generate concept art”. Lovely.
Shannon Liao, writing for The New York Times, has published excerpts of an email sent to Blizzard employees last month by the company’s chief design officer Allen Adham. “Prepare to be amazed,” he writes, “We are on the brink of a major evolution in how we build and manage our games.”
He’s talking about ‘Blizzard Diffusion’—a play on Stable Diffusion, one of the more popular AI image generation platforms—and says that presently “it was being used to help generate concept art for game environments as well as characters and their outfits”, though he also adds Blizzard is looking at further AI implementations for everything from “autonomous, intelligent, in-game NPCs” to “procedurally assisted level design” to “voice cloning,” “game coding” and “anti-toxicity.”
Blizzard is one of the most famous and, until very recently, most dependable video game studios in the world. It has survived for decades not just because it creates great games, but because it has filled those games with memorable characters. To hear people at the company enthused about letting robots, trained to serve an algorithmic gruel, take over even some of that work bums me out more than I can put into words.
About the only good news to be found in the whole story—which also includes mentions of similar efforts everywhere from Halo studio 343 to Ubisoft—is the fact that a different AI approach Blizzard had been trying (and had even patented) has already been canned because “the tool was taking up too much artist time to be effective”.