Xbox has announced a partnership with a company called Inworld AI in order to “empower game creators with the potential of generative AI” and no, you aren’t the only one who thinks that sounds incredibly ominous.
In a post to the Microsoft Developer blog, Xbox’s general manager of gaming AI Haiyan Zhang announced a “multi-year partnership” with Inworld aimed at building “AI game dialogue and narrative tools at scale.”
That’s all a little vague, but Zhang gives two examples of specific tools that will come out of this partnership: an “AI design copilot” that turns “prompts into detailed scripts, dialogue trees, quests and more,” as well as an “AI character runtime engine” that will allow for “dynamically-generated stories, quests, and dialogue for players to experience.”
The tools generated by the Xbox/Inworld AI partnership will be optional for devs to use, but it’s still a controversial topic. It was only in September that a months-long strike by Hollywood screenwriters secured protections against the use of AI writing in TV and cinema, which workers feared could lead to job losses and poorer, more generic writing across media.
So it’s quite a feat of timing for Xbox to announce this partnership now, and to focus so directly on its potential narrative applications as opposed to an aspect of game development that is (slightly) less of a third rail. Several recognisable names have already responded negatively to the news.
Elias Toufexis—who you know as Deus Ex’s Adam Jensen and Starfield’s Sam Coe—decried the announcement on Twitter. “If you want to start a voice-acting career, don’t bother,” he wrote, adding that “All those jobs of nameless background NPCs that gave us all our start in the industry… they’re all going away. I’m already bitter.”
“Another fucking strike is coming,” concluded the actor, in response to a tweet asking if videogame actors were unionised.
That was hardly an uncommon reaction. Other actors, including God of War and Genshin Impact’s Shelby Young and Xander Mobus—voice of Persona 5’s Joker—took to Twitter to register their discontent. “Seems like a massive waste of money and resources that could otherwise go to humans who actually craft the games we play?” wrote Mobus, noting that the quality of the content generated by AI writing bots is generally subpar compared to human-authored work.
It’s not just actors upset at the news, either. Developer Rami Ismail offered up a bleak summation of the direction of the games industry and AI with the words “Lots of people are going to get fired, games will get worse, and C-suite will get millions.” Jill Schar—lead narrative designer on The Lamplighters’ League—encouraged fellow devs to get caught up on the SAG-AFTRA strike and its relationship to AI, noting that “Actors are the front lines right now in the struggle against corporate greed and unethical uses of AI.”
So not a particularly positive reaction from the devs and actors that Xbox is ostensibly setting out to help with tools like this, which I have to say must have been very predictable a long, long time before the announcement went live on Microsoft’s site. Nevertheless, massive companies seem to be as committed as ever to introducing AI into game development. I suspect Toufexis is right and we all have a long fight, and several strikes, in our future.