Blizzard’s ‘World of Warcraft’ Head Says Online Game Isn’t Using Generative AI

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Gaming giant Blizzard Entertainment, like other AAA studios and developers, is tapping generative AI to design characters and environments across several titles—but the company draws the line at its flagship massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft.

In May, The New York Times reported that Blizzard Entertainment had deployed a proprietary AI tool internally and warned employees against using third-party platforms in order to prevent intellectual property leaks.

Blizzard Entertainment has used machine learning to help perform tasks people can’t do, or that are very cumbersome, Warcraft franchise director John Hight told IGN at the recent Game Developers Conference.

“The fitting of armor on characters—you see how many different characters we have—our artists used to have to go through and they’d build it for human form and then they’d have to go and retrofit all these things for all the various body shapes and horns and big snouts and tails and all of that,” he told the gaming news outlet. “That is just not particularly fun work for them.”

He acknowledged the tension in employing AI in creative endeavors, however.

“I think the artists on the team have a fear that the AI will be deployed to take them out of a job and they certainly don’t want their work to be used without their permission or without credit or whatever else, and so I think we’re all sorting that out,” Hight said. “The rights issues, the how far do we use this technology, but we’re not using it.

”We’re not using generative AI within WoW,” he clarified.

Even before the generative AI craze started with GPT-4 last year, Hight said Blizzard had been brainstorming ways to use machine learning to get to a point where 90% of the work is done for the artist, which they can then fine-tune.

“It’s actually worked out really well,” Hight said. “It’s allowed us to make a lot more different armor,” adding that the artists loved that the technology removed the “grungy” part of their work.

In October, technology giant Microsoft finalized its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The following month, Microsoft and its M12 Ventures portfolio company, Inworld AI, announced the development of generative AI tools for video games that the companies said are meant to empower developers.

Still, not everyone is on board.

“I fucking hate this,” Mary Kenney said on Twitter, responding to The Game Awards’ announcement of the Inworld AI news. The associate narrative director for Marvel’s upcoming Wolverine PS5 game at Insomniac Games continued, “As a member of your future class: this does not honor or celebrate our work, and you should be ashamed of devaluing artists this way.”

The threat of generative AI replacing actors and writers was also one of many points of contention in the months-long SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.

Blizzard Entertainment did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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