Oct 30, 2023 - Technology

Human actors helped make new video game's AI voices, studio says

Video game screenshot of a person in a mask and a flak jacket standing in front of a yellow wall

The Finals. Screenshot: Embark Studios

Embark Studios' multiplayer shooter The Finals is generating buzz for its sudden popularity and its use of AI for in-game voices.

Driving the news: The game's weeklong free play test has surged on Steam, peaking at nearly 250,000 concurrent players today.

  • The Finals, now in beta on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, is the debut project from Embark, a subsidiary of Korean gaming giant Nexon and a team comprised of numerous veterans of EA's Battlefield franchise.

The intrigue: The game has been praised for its fast-based combat and for the ability to blow up parts of the levels realistically as you play.

  • But its use of AI voice acting for lines shouted midmatch by in-game announcers has drawn heat. Forbes' Paul Tassi, who enjoyed the game, said it sounded bad: "The cadence is off. There's weird breathing sometimes. It's just not good compared to the quality of the actual gameplay."
  • Throughout the year, professional voice actors have sounded alarms over the threat that AI could take their jobs, and those represented by SAG-AFTRA have made the issue central to talks over a new union contract (and a potential strike).

What they're saying: The Finals uses a mix of human-acted voicework and AI-generated text-to-speech (TTS) conversion, Embark's communications director Sven Grundberg tells Axios.

  • Real actors, recording their lines in the traditional way, allows "chemistry and conflict" and "adds depth to our game worlds that technology can't emulate," he says.
  • "Other times, especially when it relates to contextual in-game action call-outs, TTS allows us to have tailored VO where we otherwise wouldn't e.g. due to speed of implementation."
  • Both approaches use people, he says. Voices generated by AI for the Finals, Grunberg noted, are "based on a mix of professional voice actors and temp voices from Embark employees."

The bottom line: Discussion over AI is inextricably linked to how it'll impact people, including those whose work overlaps with what AI can do.

  • "Making games without actors isn't an end goal for Embark," says Grunberg.
  • "TTS technology has introduced new ways for us to work together."

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