Blizzard to jump on the AI bandwagon – what could possibly go wrong?

Blizzard to jump on the AI bandwagon – what could possibly go wrong?

It looks like Blizzard is to be the latest company to jump on the AI bandwagon according to recently surfaced internal emails.

With Diablo 4 right around the corner, the tarnished company could make steps towards repairing its public image with a quality gaming experience. However, it’s set to rock the boat once again with an internal company email, reported on by the New York Times, that makes mention of an AI image generation tool by the name of Blizzard Diffusion.

The email, from Blizzard chief design officer Allen Adham, reportedly said staff should “prepare to be amazed” in reference to Blizzard Diffusion. The AI tool would be used to “help generate concept art for game environments as well as characters and their outfits.”

The usage of AI image generators has been deeply troubling for artists who share their works and make a living online, as they have a tendency to lift from creators’ works without express permission. This often leads to AI-generated imagery being pieced together from, essentially, stolen artwork.

Hopefully, this won’t be the case with Blizzard Diffusion. Another email, written by Activision Blizzard chief technical officer Michael Vance, states that employees should not implement its own intellectual properties with external AI image programs. I sincerely hope this is code for something along the lines of ‘we will not lift from non-company works for our image generation program.’

I do think that AI can help creative folks when used in a strictly assistance-oriented capacity. And I hope that’s what’s happening here with Blizzard Diffusion; learning from a database of Blizzard’s own assets to streamline the creation of new ones.

However, I can’t help but wonder how Blizzard Diffusion will affect the company’s workers. With AI technology improving at an alarming rate, there’s a chance that concept art creation at the company could become fully autonomous, and that’s concerning.

Blizzard of course are far from the first player in town when it comes to utilizing AI. Controversially, Ubisoft announced plans to make use of an AI tool named Ghostwriter (thanks, Polygon) to generate features like NPC and ancillary dialogue. 

It’s not something I’m particularly keen on, as I’d much prefer writing and concept art for games to have that human touch. I’m all for AI being used as a helper to make employees’ lives slightly easier, but don’t be surprised if we start seeing a temptation from these publishers begin taking steps toward full autonomy.

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Rhys Wood

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