Blizzard Entertainment has reportedly trained an AI-powered image generator to create internal concept artwork for new game characters, outfits, and environments, in an effort to reduce menial tasks in the game development process.
The creation of a proprietary tool named Blizzard Diffusion has reportedly enabled developers at the company to turn prompt text into Blizzard-style artwork, with these images serving as launching points for human inspiration. In an email shared with staff and seen by The New York Times, Blizzard’s chief design officer Allen Adham has enthused about this tool, and its potential for the future.
‘Prepare to be amazed,’ Adham reportedly wrote. ‘We are on the brink of a major evolution in how we build and manage our games.’
How extensively Blizzard Diffusion has been implemented in Blizzard-developed games was not made clear in the NYT report, however Andrew Guerrero, Blizzard’s vice president of global insights claimed it would only be used as a time saver.
‘The goal is to remove a repetitive and manual process and enable artists to spend more time on creativity,’ Guerrero told NYT. ‘Our goal with A.I. has been, and will continue to be, to try to make creative work easier.’
Blizzard Diffusion has been described as purely supplementary, but it has already allowed the company to ‘fit cosmetic headpieces to player models’ in World of Warcraft. It has also generated some concept artwork for game environments, characters, and outfits, which have likely inspired Blizzard artists.
As made clear in the NYT report, only Blizzard-owned images have been fed into this propriety Diffusion model, as any third-party imagery supplied would constitute plagiarism – an issue which is currently facing other major AI image generators.
That doesn’t take away from the risk of job losses commonly associated with AI implementation like this. While Blizzard management has reportedly enthused about the use of AI to reduce repetitive and manual processes, these time-saving measures will effectively take work away from humans.
In early 2023, Ubisoft faced major backlash for its decision to implement AI writing for simple sound bites and basic narrative design in its games – as this implementation has the potential to take jobs directly out of the hands of early career writers.
Blizzard’s foray into the world of AI-generated concept artwork should be treated with caution for similar reasons. While it may save time on some of those menial tasks, leaning on AI for creative inspiration is a slippery slope towards a grim future.