I really have enjoyed The Finals, an innovative FPS currently in open testing, using unique verticality and heavily destructible environments to its advantage. At least it’s fun when the servers are working.
But as I wrote about it, kept hearing people chime in “but have you heard about the AI?” Uh oh.
No, this is not referring to enemy AI, rather generative AI, the technology transforming and/or ruining a bunch of industries right now, and video games are not immune. As it turns out, developer Embark Studios is using AI for essentially all the voicework in The Finals. And they are not making it a big secret, as you can hear them talking about the use in a podcast.
They say that the technology is “far enough in terms of quality,” that it saves them supposed months of voicework to be able to record lines for new additions to the game within hours (and of course, they save money not paying actual voice actors). They also say that if there’s any sort of glitchiness or weirdness to it, well that plays into their weird game show world they’ve made.
But it’s…bad. Once you know it’s AI you really cannot un-hear it. You can listen to the announcers in the game and they just don’t sound right. The cadence is off. There’s weird breathing sometimes. It’s just not good compared to the quality of the actual gameplay. And that’s a shame, because the shoutcasting gameshow idea is actually a good one, but they couldn’t hire two actors to record actual lines for this? It’s not like some sort of 3,000 page Baldur’s Gate script. This is just corner-cutting, plain and simple, and the game will suffer for it.
How much will it suffer, though?
The thing with AI is that we might mock the “good enough” nature of it, but the majority of the public is probably not going to notice this in any meaningful capacity. Nor will the “this game uses AI? I’m not playing” crowd be terribly large. This is not good mind you, as it contributes to the normalization of this tech in places like this, but it does seem like the game would pay a small price for this, if any.
Currently, video game voice actors are pushing back heavily on the concept of people or companies using their voices in apps like Respeecher to make them perform lines they never recorded. But the opposite, using programs to replace voice actors from the start is different, and in many ways worse. And right now it’s hard to see protections against that any time soon, short of players, en masse, refusing to buy or play games that use AI like this. I mean, maybe that can happen, but in a case like this, I doubt it’s enough to make a difference.
I hope that The Finals will indeed take feedback and use actual actors to record actual lines for the otherwise great game, but we’ll have to see.