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Antler Interactive CEO says AI is to “Usher in an Era of Game Experimentalism”

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

No matter how you feel about it, AI is now a mainstay in just about all aspects of gaming. Huge companies like Xbox, Bandai Namco and Tencent are all experimenting with AI, and investments in AI gaming have increase by 50% in Q3 2023 alone. Things are only set to get bigger as there’s no slowing down.

Lenny Pettersson is the CEO of Antler Interactive, the team behind My Neighbor Alice and Krystopia. He’s recently shared some of his personal insight into AI gaming and how he anticipates the space is going to change in the next few years.

Adaptive storytelling

Pettersson believes that procedural gaming will play a key role throughout 2024 and beyond. Procedural gaming relates to how gameplay changes depending on a player’s actions. In other words, something in the player’s world may change if the player makes a certain action, leading to adaptive and dynamic storylines and video game worlds. He says that Antler Interactive are “definitely embracing” such technology in the future.

Pettersson also went on to add how “AI is entering basically all aspects of game development”. He believes AI is “democratising” the game development process, giving smaller studios the means to “punch above their weight”. But that’s something that brings its own challenges. Pettersson goes on to say that “with all of these tools being out there… it will make discovery of good quality games even harder”.

Too many games?

He’s not wrong: in 2023, over 14,000 games were published on Steam alone, That’s an astounding number, and with AI technology that number could get even higher. Pettersson envisions game development could end up comparable to content creation: “just look at YouTube and the millions and pieces of content being uploaded there…It will be the same with games”. 

He goes on to say: “We all read the story about these legendary games being made by one person for seven years, and there’s a really strong story behind that… Will the story be as strong with the one person using AI and creating it in a week?”

Like many of us, then, Pettersson has concerns about where AI technology could take gaming in the coming months. But he’s still excited about the so-called new age of gaming that it might bring. He believes that combining human creativity with advancements in technology is the very thing that makes game development so special in comparison to other industries.

Game experimentalism

Pettersson is particularly interested in examining smaller studios and seeing how they may become more experimental towards game design. “We will see a lot of experimental games that we haven’t seen before,” he says, and that will be a direct result of AI being implemented in all elements of the experience.

Many elements we’ve already seen, such as procedurally-generated worlds, but there’s likely elements of AI we’re yet to fully realise and it’s those that will lead to true experimentalism. Pettersson believes that many studios will “push the goal post as far as they can”, and the result could be something unlike anything we’ve seen yet.

Humans are irreplaceable

But regardless of how far AI develops in the coming years, it must be said that the human element remains irreplaceable, and that’s something Pettersson staunchly believes, too. “AI games will be bland and soulless without human touch,” he says. No matter how advanced AI may become, it will never be able to replaced the creativity and craftsmanship that a human being can bring on board.

Pettersson says, “To be successful with AI you need someone to use AI as a paintbrush to create great and unique things”. In other words, people need to work alongside AI, and that AI can enhance the work of narrative designers and writers – but their roles are foundational to creating a great game.

What about stories?

“AI really can enhance the storytelling,” Pettersson says, “[by] building more meaningful relationships with the characters in a game world.” He believes that AI’s ability to create dynamic interactions can offer players a personal gaming experience.

Arguments have been made that AI has the ability to provide a sense of autonomy to players over their experience, leaving the quality of the game essentially down to their imaginations. Pettersson says a balance is important: yes, AI can be used in this area to great effect, but a great story is important.

What’s next?

Pettersson and the entire Antler Interactive team are big believes in procedural and dynamic gameplay. The company has been making use of technology to create great player experiences that will leave players wanting more. Antler Interactive is just one company of many using AI in such ways, who believe that a “perfect harmony” between AI and human craftsmanship can be found and utilised to great effect.

For more information Antler Interactive and its upcoming developments, follow their Twitter/X account.