In less than a year, AI has gone from being something most people don’t think much about to the subject of near-daily headlines. Generative AI is already revolutionizing creativity, and it will lead to a giant step forward in video games, too. In fact, our latest closed beta releases are taking steps toward that reality already.
AI brings the promise of making real-time creation accessible to more people, simplifying some development tasks to let you focus on being creative while helping you to achieve more with less. And generative AI is just the latest in a long line of technological breakthroughs that have revolutionized video games.
In 1952, a research product called OXO became the world’s first video game: tic-tac-toe programmed on a massive mainframe computer the size of a room. Atari engineers used an understanding of transistor-transistor logic (TTL) chips to create Pong in 1972, and its simplicity enabled domestic distribution, making it the first commercially successful video game. Space Invaders integrated a microprocessor and a multi-chip barrel shifter circuit into the first-ever fixed shooter, giving the 1978 classic incredibly smooth animations that set the table for this new genre.
The introduction of PCs like Apple II and C64 introduced a broad spectrum of new possibilities – the modular setup with adaptable gravity and physics in games like Pinball Construction Set; the fluid rotoscoped animation of the first Prince of Persia adventure; and the widely ported Lemmings, which saw the game’s simple puzzles released on pretty much every gaming system out there at the time. Consoles really came into their own with 8-bit home systems, which offered unprecedented control, the 16-bit Sega and games like Sonic the Hedgehog, and the console-agnostic sports hits of Electronic Arts, which harnessed that control and realism to bring players inside their favorite sports.
DVD consoles increased visual and speed bandwidth again in games like Road Rash and Need for Speed. The advent and broad adoption of the internet made MMOs possible, bringing gamers from around the world together to play things like Ultima and World of Warcraft. The 32-bit Sony GPU opened up new dimensions of creativity – literally – which brought new popularity to FPS shooters like Quake II that made stalking, shooting, and dodging more thrilling in 3D.
Each of these technical shifts produced a revolution in creativity that reframed how players game. Generative AI, however, could potentially drive the greatest advancements in video games since transistors made the idea of playing tic-tac-toe on a computer possible.
We’re at the hyper-fertile start of a new age with AI. Each week brings a staggering number of fresh ideas, demos, and services that simultaneously spark our imaginations and raise new concerns. And while those concerns are very real and will have to be recognized and addressed ethically throughout the ecosystem, the possibilities for generative AI in video game development are impossible to deny.
AI has played a role in game development far longer than ChatGPT has been on the scene. It’s already widely used to accelerate elements of graphics production, train simulations through machine learning, and automate testing and repetitive tasks. The future is limitless, but we can already start to see some applications take shape.
Every single aspect of game creation has the potential to be impacted, accelerated, and possibly improved by AI.
But this potential doesn’t end with creation – every aspect of the interactive runtime can be impacted and solved with a mix of compiled code and ML-trained AI solutions.
Generative AI will change our world in profound ways, known and unknown, but it will certainly empower teams to create entirely new game genres that will surprise and entertain us as never before. I am looking forward to the next few years to see what new genres are going to appear.
At Unity, we believe the world is a better place with more creators in it, and AI will be a powerful tool to help creators of all kinds unlock new dimensions of productivity and creativity. We can’t wait to see where you take us next.