Boosting Productivity and Creativity with AI: A Look into Solid Clouds' Game Development Process
Over the past year, AI has become a buzzword. Tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney and DALL-E have exploded into our consciousness, becoming hot topics of conversation for anyone interested in AI, especially among the team here at Solid Clouds. It's easy to see why this would be such an exciting frontier for any tech company. Some of our initial thoughts were, "How can this be applied in our work?" and "Which teams will benefit most from this?"
Imagine having dialogue that never repeats! However, with that kind of implementation perhaps years away, we turned our attention to how we can realistically apply these tools to assist with our everyday operations. Like many others, we first began using AI to generate images. It offered a starting point for inspiration and had the potential to speed up production for our Art team.
Moving on we defined a few tasks AI could assist with:
- Character base creation
- Multiple Icon creation
- In-game voiceovers
- Visual effects
Stefanía, our 2D artist, uses AI-generated images as a basis for creating characters. She either paints these images or uses them for ideas and inspiration. It's important to note that the result significantly differs from the AI-generated image. The software serves as a tool to accelerate the creative process, allowing artists to conceive more refined images than if they started with just a sketch.
Artists often use a technique called photobashing, which involves combining different parts of various images to create a base for new artwork. This process can be time-consuming, as it requires gathering references and carefully blending the images. Using AI-generated art can reduce the need for photobashing. Stefania shared:
"Before using the AI image generator, I would spend time gathering references online, making a sketch, and photobashing different parts of various images to create a base for the artwork. The AI tool cuts the work time down by around 20-25% since I can skip the sketching and photobash image search. Using AI-generated art as a base also provides me with a light and colour plan already, so I can go directly into editing, adding my personal style, and rendering."
Trausti, our CG Artist (Animator), utilizes AI to generate speech for game trailers and in-game content, create visual effects, and automate repetitive tasks using expressions, a programming language specific to After Effects. He says:
"I've been experimenting with applications in speech generation for game trailers, as AI-generated speech can provide natural-sounding dialogue for characters and narrators, enhancing the immersion of the game's world. Similarly, in animation and FX work, AI can assist with generating expressions in After Effects to automate repetitive tasks and help create complex effects, saving time and effort for the artist."
Guðni, a 3D generalist, shares:
"I mostly use AI to help with Blender 3D work. It simplifies my workflow in the sense that I have to import hundreds of models into a project, and doing adjustments by hand can and will be tedious. Thus, I ask our generous AI to generate a script that will help me in doing just that. So, actions that used to take some time, now are reduced to a single click."
In addition, Ágúst, our Art Director, has recently been experimenting with extensions in Photoshop that allow for more tailored results. Ágúst says:
"These latest extensions are very promising. At this early stage of my testing you can essentially select an object, let's say A t-shirt on a character, and change the colour and texture of that t-shirt without changing the pre-selected shape."
Other teams have also reaped the benefits of AI, specifically ChatGPT, which has been utilized by both our Marketing and Support team along with the Lore Writer to enhance their work processes by assisting with writer's block and refining content.
When we first started using ChatGPT, we were eager to understand its limitations. We extensively explored the tool to get a feel for its capabilities and to learn how to become better users, ultimately getting the best results we could.
It has helped us with tasks such as:
Providing us with article ideas
Drafting advertising texts
Helping with Lore texts
Structuring and re-wording Policies
Creating Support answers templates
We discovered that, given the right pointers, ChatGPT performed these tasks very well. However, all texts were later proofread and edited by our team to bring the voice of the "Starborne: Frontiers" universe, that AI didn’t catch. This serves as a reminder that ChatGPT is a tool that you need to actively work with, providing human oversight throughout the process.
What convinced us of the tool's value was when the team needed to amend some HTML to style our upcoming help centre. Donna from the Marketing and Support Team would not have been able to do this task without ChatGPT, as she has limited coding knowledge. She explains:
"At first, AI explained how to implement the code. But as a beginner seeking a quicker solution, I needed more. By providing the existing code and asking it to add the style changes, all I had to do was copy and paste the provided code."
Simple tasks like the style change free up our developers for more complex work and allow other teams to take on more multifunctional roles.
Usually, creating a copyright for mobile ads and longer materials, such as press releases, takes a lot of time. ChatGPT assisted in checking the content and creating ideas, which were used as a basis for these tasks. Donna says:
"As I was writing the press release, I would run my paragraphs through ChatGPT to check for grammatical errors and edit for clarity. The tool also helped provide prompts for ad text, which needed to fit a word limit."
She also comments on how AI was useful in establishing support services for players,
"ChatGPT was excellent at generating template emails and review responses, as well as evaluating the professionalism of a response."
She goes on to explain how the tool reassures her when responding to players' specific issues.
"I like to use the tool to check any emails I'm unsure about, and I make small edits to make them sound more professional. Additionally, there may be things I haven't thought to add, and ChatGPT reminds me of them. I also feel secure getting a second grammar check. It speeds up the process because, instead of spending valuable time rewriting an email that doesn't sound right, ChatGPT helps me refine it quickly. As an autistic employee, it certainly improves my confidence and reassures me that I'm doing well."
Our Community Manager, Walter, has been utilizing ChatGPT as well, and he greatly appreciates the efficiency it brings in handling repetitive tasks. Walter says
"It's amazing how much time I can save on manual tasks with the help of AI, not to mention how much it helps with finding inspiration for new ideas. What a time to be alive!"
The example above can showcase how an AI generated image can serve as inspiration and a basis for our artists work.
Chat GPT has additionally demonstrated its usefulness for our Lore Writer, Melissa, who has employed it to effectively brainstorm ideas.
“I use AI to help brainstorm for the bios. Mostly I lay out a set of general guidelines for the character's situation and my initial thoughts of what they might be like, and then have it generate a long list of personality traits and quirks. Then, I select a few I think to go together and would be fun to work with. It tends to try to give every "pilot" the same five or so personality traits phrased differently, but if you push far enough, eventually it will start throwing out some more interesting options you might not think of by yourself.”
Due to our positive experience with ChatGPT 3, we employed ChatGPT 4, a more advanced model said to have improved conciseness and reasoning. Walter says of ChatGPT-4, "The improvements over the 3.5 model are very noticeable."
He goes on to say, "I recently used it, and it's fascinating to me how much variation it can provide when I ask for it. For example, I was generating messages for push notifications and asked it to give me 10 different versions. It created 10 very distinct ones, used a bunch of emojis, and produced content that was just pure fire. I don't even have to write complicated instructions. Much like with a Google search, I just need to know how to tell it what I want concisely, and what I get in return is pure magic."
Solid Clouds has been utilizing AI tools to great effect, with Github Copilot being the latest addition to the development team's arsenal. However, the impact of this new tool has yet to be observed. This paves the way for AI tools to be utilized throughout our entire organization, enhancing various aspects of game development and the services we offer.
AI art generators are continually enhancing their photorealism and the quality of human images they create, with notable improvements in limb representation. These advances in clarity and realism provide an increasingly valuable foundation for our art team, particularly in terms of generating more accurate human characters with proper limb positioning.
Additionally, AI-driven voice synthesis technology, such as Google's WaveNet, OpenAI's WaveGlow, and Amazon's Polly, is already making strides in producing realistic and emotive voiceovers. This progress could revolutionize the way we produce game trailers and voice-acted content.
Stefán Gunnarsson, Solid Clouds’ CEO, shares his global vision:
"We're excited about the future of AI and the opportunities it will create. By being on the forefront of this technological shift, we aim to adapt and employ these tools as soon as possible to provide the best gaming experience for our players."
In conclusion, as AI technologies continue to evolve and become more integrated into our workflows, Solid Clouds remains committed to harnessing their potential to foster a more productive process. We believe this will help us deliver innovative gaming and services to our customers.