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Several studios have continued to experiment with the use of AI for game production. However, that doesn’t always sit well with game developers and players. Embark Studios is the latest video game maker to come under fire for using AI voices for their first-person shooter (FPS), The Finals.

Embark Studios Under Fire For Using AI Voices For The Finals
Embark Studios portrait (Photo credit: Embark)

The Finals enjoyed a strong opening on Steam until players discovered that the game used mostly AI voices instead of real actors. The discovery was made through a podcast with the game’s audio designer, Andreas Almström.

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During the podcast, Almström said that the game uses artificial intelligence for in-game vocal recordings, “with a few exceptions”. Apparently, the exceptions were the breathing sounds and random grunts that AI text-to-speech (TTS) can’t create at the moment.

Back in July, Embark Studios said the studio made use of in-house developers and not specially paid voice actors “to record, just grunting”. The backlash about the use of AI in game development is usually centered around morality and how it renders actors and developers redundant.

Embark Studios Under Fire For Using AI Voices For The Finals

“What really sticks with me is that they needed to bring in real actors to get the grunting, effort, and breathing sounds because the AI can’t do it,” wrote Kit Harrison on X, a popular voice actor who appeared in Dying Light, Genshin Impact, and Ghostrunner 2. “It can’t replicate the noise that I make when I stand up from my chair, but it wants to take my job? Don’t make me laugh.”

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Generally, the resentment about the use of AI is not always about quality. Rather, it has usually been about the potential that these tools may eventually replace humans. The use of AI voice in The Finals has not made the game any less popular. On Steam the game hit an all-time peak of 267,874 concurrent players according to SteamDB.

Embark Studios clarifies the scope of its AI voice use

Embark Studios responded to the criticism from voice actors and developers for their use of AI voice in The Finals. According to the studio, “making games without actors isn’t an end goal”.

Embark Studios Under Fire For Using AI Voices For The Finals

“Sometimes, recording real scenes where actors get together—allowing characters chemistry and conflicts to shape the outcome—is something that adds depth to our game worlds that technology can’t emulate,” an Embark Studios spokesperson told IGN. “Other times, especially when it relates to contextual in-game action callouts, TTS allows us to have tailored voice-over where we otherwise wouldn’t, for example, due to speed of implementation.”

In what appears to be backtracking from their earlier statement, the studio said they used a mix of both recorded audio voices and AI voices for The Finals. The developer now claims the open beta makes use of professional voice actors as well as temporary voices from the studio’s employees.

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“In the instances we use TTS in The Finals, it’s always based on real voices,” the Embark Studios spokesperson said. “In the open beta, it is based on a mix of professional voice actors and temporary voices from Embark employees. Making games without actors isn’t an end goal for Embark and TTS technology has introduced new ways for us to work together.”

The controversy about the use of AI in the entertainment industry including interactive media will not go away any time soon. It was one of the strong concerns raised in the SAG-AFTRA strike. The striking body called the use of AI in entertainment an existential threat to all artists.

The Finals Open Beta started on October 26 and will run until November 5, 2023. What makes the game really remarkable is that anything can be destroyed. The Open Beta trailer description captured it better, “Experience destruction in a way you haven’t before”.

Is there really a place for AI voice or TTS tools in video game production? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Is there a place for text-to-speech tools in video game production?

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