The brand and communications director of The Finals developer Embark Studios has addressed the backlash to the studio’s controversial choice of leaning on AI when developing the popular new FPS game, saying that the generative tools allow the team to “work better and faster, and do more with less.”
Speaking to Game Developer, Embark Studios brand and comms director Sven Grundberg says the choice to discuss the team’s use of generative AI tools on a podcast earlier this year was a deliberate one.
“We saw the discussion happening, and one of the reasons we discussed it from the onset [on the developer podcast] was because we have been super transparent about the use of AI-based TTS (text-to-speech) in the game,” he says. “One thing that we want to make really clear in terms of how we use those tools in The Finals is that we use a combination of recorded voice actors and AI-based TTS that is based on contracted voice actors, we don’t generate voice and video from thin air.”
As for the why, Grundberg says leaning on generative AI tools allows the team to “work better and faster, and do more with less.”
“That’s been throughout all levels of craft at Embark Studios, which includes procedural tools for environmental design, like photogrammetry, and other areas like animation as well,” he says.
“I think with these new tools, they’re not going to go away. The important thing for us is to be transparent about the way we use them. That’s the context we want to provide, going forward.”
As for concerns that the usage of AI in this manner takes work away from voice actors, Grundberg says that Embark Studios does “use a bunch of voice actors,” although “these new tools allow us to do things that we couldn’t do before outside of our means.”
While The Finals is enjoying a fine launch thanks to a fun TV Show-style premise and impressive destructive capabilities regarding environments, its use of AI has hung over it over the past few months.
As Grunderg alludes to, Embark Studios hosted a Meet the Markers podcast in July featuring two audio designers who confirm using “incredible” AI tools to create voiceovers in The Finals.
“We use AI with a few exceptions,” one developer said. “So all the contestant voices, like the barks and both our commentators are AI text-to-speech. For things we call vocalizations, like player breathing, vaulting, jumping, that’s something we use us in the studio to record, just grunting. We can’t really get the AI to perform those kind of tasks yet.”
It did not go down well. It’s not uncommon to see executives lick their lips at the thought of cutting labor costs by getting AI to do the job to a fraction of the quality in numerous fields, though worry about the unchecked potential of AI goes beyond writing professions to that of actors, too.
“I have actually played The Finals at multiple points – there was a very early VIP/Press playtest, then closed betas – I had my suspicions but I didn’t want to say anything in case I was wrong, or maybe it was at least just placeholder,” Evil West actor Gianni Matragrano said on Twitter before The Finals launched.
“But now at a big Open Beta with 150k concurrent players, this is definitely just their vision. And it doesn’t sound good. I hope they take player feedback into consideration and just cast someone.”
Genshin Impact and Dying Light voice actor Kit Harrison added: “What really sticks with me is that they needed to bring in real actors to get the grunting, effort, and breathing sounds because the AI can’t do it. It can’t replicate the noise that I make when I stand up from my chair, but it wants to take my job?! Don’t make me laugh.”
For now, though, Embark Studios is holding firm on its decision to use AI to assist development.
The Finals’ tanky Heavy class is steamrolling the competition, and it’s only taken 7 days for FPS fans to call for a nerf.