Broken Sword designer says AI was necessary for remake to exist

Controversial as AI use in video games is, creator Charles Cecil says it was the only way to help make Broken Sword's remake feel like the original 1996 PC game.

The upcoming remake of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars uses AI, and according to designer Charles Cecil, that technology is the only reason for the game's existence.

Talking to Polygon, Cecil was frank in saying that Revolution Software "couldn't afford" to make the title any other way. Any other method would've been "impossible," he said, and the technology has been particularly helpful with the in-game sprites. 

For much of the game industry in recent years, AI usage has become synonymous with theft, and concerns about it occurring across various departments such as art and voice acting. But some studios believe the technology can be used in conjunction with human developers as a way to help finalize polished assets.

The original Shadow of the Templars had 30,000 hand-drawn sprites on animated, hand-painted backgrounds. As such, Cecil knew it would be costly to have a human employee (or more) do all of that work, even as the game's original line drawings were intact and provided for human artists to use as a reference point. 

"A few hundred" sprites were produced by Revolution. It was after a trip to an AI research team and advice from an NVIDIA engineer that led the team to figuring out how AI could interpolate frames between hand-drawn key frames. Outlines and body detail were given attention, and hands and faces were manually drawn on afterwards. 

Cecil told Polygon he has similar reservations that other creatives have about AI. Even so, he called using the technology on Shadow's sprites an "absolute game changer," and believes the game is better for it. "Instead of taking an hour to do each one," he said, "it takes between 5 and 10 minutes to do each one."

"In the case of sprites...allowing really talented character artists and animators to take the original and mold it into something really special, rather than having to go through the drudgery of redrawing everything again.”

Polygon's full story goes into Cecil's return to the larger Broken Sword franchise and its upcoming sixth installment, Broken Sword — Parzival’s Stone. It can be read here.

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