Former World of Warcraft lead says AI is fine for the MMO "grunt work," but not the creative tasks that "thousands of talented people" are dying to do

(Image credit: Fantastic Pixel Castle)

An industry veteran with time on World of Warcraft, a League of Legends spin-off, and an upcoming MMO currently codenamed Ghost reckons AI does have a place in game development, but only when it comes to the "grunt work."

Fantastic Pixel Castle studio head and game director Greg Street – who served as WoW's lead systems designer and a producer on a League of Legends MMO before founding his current studio – has taken to Twitter to share his thoughts on AI. For Street, AI can be useful to the game development process when it takes the inconsequential tedium out of it, but not when it's allowed to take the lead. 

"In WoW, there was this kind of crappy task that a level designer would have to do (and often the lead would take the hit) of making the cliffs where the continent sloped into the ocean. Typically there was no gameplay or often even spawns here," he says.

"But players could swim and would still see it, and it just felt wrong to leave the cliffs all jaggy and stupid-looking (though I'm sure some of that slipped through). So a level designer would spend time making these cliffs not look awful even though we didn't think players would be looking at them much at all." 

Street says that's the type of "grunt work" that AI is suited for, along with draining tasks like alphabetizing lists or calculating logarithms by hand.

"I don't think the machines should be creating art for new monsters or writing quests or telling stories," he says. "That's the fun part and there are thousands of talented people dying to do that work. That's the work you don't want to be cloned from all the work that came before it.

"I don't remember the wise person who said it, but let AI go do my laundry so I can go paint, not the other way around." 

The topic of AI in game development has arisen many times over the past few years. However, the most recent round of discourse comes as EA's boss doubled down on the company's commitment to it, saying "more than 50% of our development process" will be impacted and that "there is a real hunger amongst our developers to get to this as quickly as possible." 

To put that mildly, not everyone agrees, though there's clearly a case for the responsible use of AI that aids developers by taking away the tedium rather than their jobs to appease investors. 

The new MMO from Greg Street got the earliest first look I've ever seen, and it's the kind of ugly I want every game dev to feel comfortable sharing.

Deputy News Editor

Iain joins the GamesRadar team as Deputy News Editor following stints at PCGamesN and PocketGamer.Biz, with some freelance for Kotaku UK, RockPaperShotgun, and VG24/7 thrown in for good measure. When not helping Ali run the news team, he can be found digging into communities for stories – the sillier the better. When he isn’t pillaging the depths of Final Fantasy 14 for a swanky new hat, you’ll find him amassing an army of Pokemon plushies.