Gamers are once again up in arms, but this time, NFTs are not what’s drawing the ire of the community. Several actors who lend their voices to video games are protesting the use of AI voices in the upcoming first-person shooter The Finals.
The fervor arose after a podcast featuring Andreas Almström, audio director of The Finals creator Embark Studios, who said they used AI in creating most of the voices in the game.
“We use AI with a few exceptions,” Almström said during an episode of the Meet the Makers podcast. “So all the contestant voices, like the barks and both of our commentators, are AI text-to-speech.”
“The reason we go this route is that [text-to-speech] is finally extremely powerful,” Almström said. “It gets us far enough in terms of quality and allows us to be extremely reactive to new ideas and keep things really fresh.”
Advances in generative AI have brought the technology into several industries, including gaming. In May, Blizzard Entertainment said it is experimenting with AI in the game development process to free the team to focus on more critical tasks. However, the strategy has proven controversial. In June, gaming platform Steam, which also hosts The Finals, rejected a developer’s game due to using AI-generated content.
At the time, Steam’s parent company, Valve, said the issue stemmed from the assets used in the game appearing to be based on copyrighted material.
That same month, Myst developer Cyan Worlds was caught in its own controversy after users pointed out the use of AI in its new release, Firmament. Gaming blogger Gregory Avery-Weir noticed and pointed out that the credits for Firmament did not include character voice acting recognition.
“This isn’t okay. I hope I don’t have to go into how virtually all AI-generated art is plagiarism,” Avery-Weir wrote in a post.
Almström’s comments were met with swift condemnation, as several voice actors took to Twitter to criticize the move.
Embark Studios has not yet responded to Decrypt’s request for comment.
I’m both a game developer and voice actor, here’s my take on this. I’d like to again encourage devs to reconsider the use of voice in their games as simply an “asset” in the pipeline of agile development. Ethically and artistically, TTS *does* have its place in development… https://t.co/URozpr08UG
— Pax Helgesen (@paxsonh) October 28, 2023
“I’m both a game developer and voice actor, here’s my take on this,” voice actor and senior sound designer at Bungie, Paxson Helgesen, wrote. “I’d like to again encourage devs to reconsider the use of voice in their games as simply an “asset” in the pipeline of agile development.”
Helgesen’s comments came in response to a thread by voice actor Gianni Matragrano, who initially lamented the idea of using AI to create character voices.
“Trying to imagine how an audio professional could possibly think this sounds good,” Matragrano said. “I guess the only reasonable conclusion is they know it doesn’t, and are just so eager to get rid of the people who make the stuff, that they’ll ship this slop to a paying playerbase. Disappointing.”
Some voice actors like Ben Prendergast, who voices Apex Legends’ Fuse, don’t feel threatened by the new technology.
“That might come back to bite me,” Prendergast previously told Decrypt. “But look: If I’m out of a job, I’m out of a job. But I do know story, I do know lore, and I do know how audiences react to real-ass actors.”
In some cases, AI is the best way to retain human voices in a project.
Earlier this month, CD Project Red (CDPR) revealed the family of Polish actor Miłogost Reczek gave the developer permission to use his voice coupled with the Respeecher platform to recreate and record new dialogue for the Cyberpunk 2077 and Phantom Liberty ripperdoc Viktor Vektor after Reczek passed away in 2021.
“Miłek’s sons were very supportive and gave us their permission to move forward with the project,” a CD Projekt Red representative told Decrypt at the time.
Edited by Ryan Ozawa.