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Blizzard Says World of Warcraft Isn't Using Generative AI to Make Content

Artificial intelligence and its uses in games remained a hot topic in the industry during the Game Developers Conference in March. And while some studios were
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, Warcraft franchise director John Hight was a bit more conservative.

We spoke with Hight following his GDC talk on the last 30 years of Warcraft, and he’s the one who brought it up. We asked him what he thought the most exciting thing going on in the industry outside of Blizzard was right now, and AI was his answer. But specifically, the kind of AI game developers have already been using for years, and which is gradually getting better and more effective at freeing up developers for creative work.

“We have used machine learning to help do things that people either can't do or it's very cumbersome to do,” he said. “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. That is just not particularly fun work for them. A few years ago, we said, ‘Can we use machine learning to help at least get it to a point where 90% of the work is being done for them and then they can fine tune it?’ And we went about that. It's actually worked out really well. It's allowed us to make a lot more different armor. The artists love it because it's like, ‘Oh, thank God you got rid of the grungy part of what we're doing.’”

That’s not all, of course. Hight talks about how improvements in NPC AI have led to the ability for WoW to support features like Exile’s Reach, a tutorial zone, where new players unfamiliar with how WoW dungeons work can try one out with NPC support. Blizzard is also working on a new feature called Delves for The War Within that uses similar technology. But critically, Hight says Blizzard is steering clear of anything generative.

“I am the son of an aeronautical engineer and a fine artist. My mom was the aeronautical engineer and my dad was a fine artist…So I have that appreciation for the creative process, what an artist goes through in their imagination. 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. 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.”

While generative AI has remained a hot topic within games, Hight’s caution is warranted. Generative AI thus far has
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from players and
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due to a mix of ethical issues, rights issues, and AI’s struggles to produce content audiences actually enjoy. For instance, Keywords Studios attempted to create an experimental game internally using entirely AI.
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, with Keywords citing to investors that AI was “unable to replace talent.”

We also spoke to Hight about the stage of the
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, including any potential plans for future Warcraft movies. Our conversation with Hight followed
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during which he revealed that the current expansion, Dragonflight, is seeing a surge in subscribers after a somewhat muted launch.

Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to [email protected].

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