Tim Cain on using AI in game development to "make more reactive and richer games with people" rather than replacing them
Tim Cain, co-creator of classic RPGs like Fallout and Arcanum, has opened up about AI and its role in game development. Here is what he thinks about how LLMs and other technologies can benefit humans rather than replace them.
Cain, who regularly shares gamedev stories and opinions on different topics on his YouTube channel, recently released a video about AI.
In 1989, he even received a graduate degree in AI. Although LLMs and neural networks have made a huge leap in those 30+ years — in terms of the sheer size and datasets used to train them — he still sees them as great tools.
“One issue with neural nets is you never know how they’re coming up with their answer,” Cain noted. “You just give it input and it gives you an output.”
Despite the widespread adoption of AI tools and concerns that some people have, he doesn’t think that real humans will or should be replaced by them. He prefers to view them as a “force multiplier.”
I think AI would be great to use in games to create more art, make one person make more art, or more detailed art, or make early concept art before you really have any clear idea what you want. I still think thoese things should be done by humans, who understand what they're trying to do, rather than LLMs that have just been trained in areas adjacent to what you want to do. Because if you do that, if you go to AI route, I don't think you're going to get originality, you're just going to get variations on whatever themes you fed them.
game developer, co-creator of Fallout
How can AI tools benefit game artists and narrative designers?
As mentioned above, Cain believes that LLMs can be a great tool in the hands of professional artists. Here are some potential use cases he mentioned in the video:
- Creating concept art at early stages — e.g. you’re making a sci-fi game and want to try out some visual styles like 50s novels or Atari VCS game covers;
- Working with 3D models — to generate initial versions or use LLMs to add more details to a model created by a human artist;
- Making variations — especially for modifying colors or generating new versions of your existing art/models.
According to Cain, narrative and level designers can also benefit from using AI tools:
- Procedural narrative — “One problem that large RPGs have is you have hunderds, if not thousands of side NPCs,” so it would be a great idea to let AI do that, while narrative designers focus on creating main characters;
- Procedural levels — training a model on making small spaces like instances, allowing studios with limited resources to create bigger games “Imagine every game being able to be like Skyrim with all the hundreds of locations you can explore, but being made by smaller teams”);
- Simple side quests — Cain thinks of this as Bethesda’s Radiant AI that “could be greatly expanded upon,” especially if such an AI tool got “sufficient guidelines from people.”
As a programmer himself, Cain thinks devs can leverage AI code generation for, say, sorting lists, finding values, storing data, and other stuff that can partially make their work easier.
The thing in all this is how can game development be made where we make bigger, more expansive, more reactive, more visually detailed, and richer games with people. I'm basically thinking of ways AI could be used to reduce the development time, bugs, and team size needed. Not so that you can hire fewer people, but so that indies can make more games that currently require a Blizzard, or a Bungie, or an Epic.
game developer, co-creator of Fallout
Cain agrees that AI can be used for many bad purposes like misinformation, or it can become another channel for advertising, just like it happened before with all new technologies penetrating our lives. However, he is still excited about this area, remaining “cautiously optimistic.”
For more details and Cain’s thoughts on AI, including its use in music streaming services, watch the full video.