Image Credit: Story Machine
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While AI has been a part of game development for years, generative AI‘s ability to create assets for games instantly is a relatively new component. This new technology has the capacity to serve as a tool for game developers, especially those with smaller teams — and, according to the creators of Story Machine, it already is.
Generative AI is not without its critics, but Story Machine contends that its intended to work as a creative aid and help for developers, not a replacement. It’s targeted, not at large game studios, but indie developers who don’t have the programming or artistic aptitude to build all of the assets for the games themselves.
Story Machine: Game creation for neophytes
Story Machine is a game engine from Robot Invader, designed to work for creators who have no background in programming or art creation. Robot Invader raised $5 million last year to bring Story Machine to market, and it plans to launch the engine in early access later this year.
Users give Story Machine a prompt for what they’re looking for, and the engine generates the asset using AI such as Stable Diffusion and DALL-E 2. Users can choose any of the assets created and drag and drop them into the game engine.
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The engine is designed to help create 2D narrative games, not necessarily larger, 3D titles. At the moment, Robot Invader has a game listed on Steam called Beacon’s Bluff, the art for which was created with Story Machine. Creators who make their games with Story Machine can deploy them to PC, consoles and mobile platforms, says Robot Invader.
Gregory Love, Robot Invader’s COO, told GamesBeat, “If you’re a programmer who can’t draw, now you can create full-fledged, professional-quality games. If you’re an artist who can’t develop or program, you can use Story Machine to create your game. It’s designed to remove some of the other aspects that have gated people from creating games and content in the past, and allow anyone who’s a storyteller to be able to go out and tell their story.”
One of the reasons Robot Invader created these tools, according to Love, is also to help users access AI technology for their games more seamlessly. “There are other interesting technologies that are wrapping around Stable Diffusion or DALL-E and we want to use those as well.”
AI in game development: Tool or shortcut?
Story Machine is not the only game development tool built around AI and art assets. Scenario AI recently spoke to GamesBeat about its generator platform, where users can train their own AI to generate art assets with a specific style in mind. It was also described and positioned as a tool for game developers to use to save time in the artistic stage and put more focus on other areas of development.
In fact, using AI to pick up slack and put more development into gameplay and story is a common theme among developers of AI tools. This is an optimistic view of such usage, but does not address the common complain that AI is used to rob skilled workers — such as artists — of jobs in the industry. Most recently, Squanch Games was criticized for using AI to generate art that made it into the final game.
Robot Invader CEO Casey Richardson told GamesBeat that the intention of Story Machine is to assist studios and developers during the early stages of game development. “Outside of art, we view AI as an accelerant and a creative aid, not replacements for developer creativity. A set of tools that open up game development to folks who have never been able to create games before, allow smaller studios to “level up,” and small and big triple-A studios alike to boost processes and development phases, primarily planning and pre-production.”
While AI tools are not yet widespread in the industry, the development of user-friendly tools mean that more developers might discover them. This might mean that incorporation of these tools at more levels of game development is a matter of time, not preference.
But Richardson says human artists cannot be replaced by AI tools, not even Story Machine. “The role of human artistry in the creation of important and moving media is not going anywhere. Rather, we see AI as a way for many artists to accelerate their ability to produce their art, and a way for people who are not artists to build visually compelling work … . It can be part of the process, but by itself it’s not the solution.”
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