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Stellaris' new AI characters are powered by AI voices

Paradox says human actors are receiving royalties in exchange for lending their voices to their voice generation tools.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

May 14, 2024

3 Min Read
A robotic four-armed Queen glares at the camera.
Image via Paradox Interactive.

At a Glance

  • Stellaris' new DLC The Machine Age uses AI-powered voices for two new characters.
  • Those audio assets were generated thanks in part to actors who agreed to provide their voices as training samples.
  • The actors are being paid royalties, says Stellaris director Stephen 'Eladrin' Muray.

Paradox Interactive subsidiary Paradox Development Studio is the next major developer to roll out generative AI content in their game. As spotted by the folks at Rock Paper Shotgun, the newest DLC for Stellaris, titled The Machine Age, launched with a disclaimer on its Steam page indicating it makes use of content made by generative AI.

How is it being used? In a limited fashion. Game director Stephen 'Eladrin' Muray took to the Steam forums and Reddit to explain that the tech was used to create voice lines for two characters: the Synthetic Queen Cetana and a new player advisor. Both characters are themselves artificially intelligent machines.

Muray stressed to players that Paradox did not use this technology to avoid hiring actors. "The AI voice generation tools we use on Stellaris ensure that the voice actors that signed up and built the models receive royalties for every line we create," he said. "Ethical use of AI technology is very important to us— we're pretty good at exploring dystopian sci-fi and don't want to end up there ourselves."

Stellaris' AI voices seem to not hurt voice actors

Worries over how generative AI technology could impact opportunities for voice actors have caused stress for performers and developers alike. A chief cause for concern is that developers will choose to use such technology instead of hiring actors whose voices may have been sampled in datasets used to train them.

Related:Ex-Steam Labs dev claims 1,000 Steam games use generative AI

Additionally, developers have worried that audio AI tools may violate the copyright of any actor who didn't sign their voice away to be used in the training data. Actor's union SAG-AFTRA recently struck a deal with one company to allow them to work with union voice actors and ensure they are properly compensated.

Some companies, like Embark Studios, have stated they use the technology to incorporate voice performances in their games that would otherwise have been unaffordable. Meanwhile voice actors are also stressed over how their voices are being co-opted by modders to rewrite their existing performances.

Muray wrote that Paradox has "strict guidelines" in place so the studio uses AI tools "legally and ethically." He said that some team members (including himself) use image and text generators to brainstorm concepts, but that no assets from said tools make it into Stellaris.

This seems like a fairly humdrum use of generative AI technology—in theory the performers who provided their voices are receiving equal (or greater) compensation as if they'd hopped in the booth themselves, and can have their voices featured without straining their larynxes. Meanwhile Paradox can generate and implement the lines faster than if they needed a regular recording session.

It's use cases like this that add nuance to conversations about generative AI. With nearly half of game developers reporting that said tools are being used in the workplace, seeing how tools can benefit actors and developers alike is important.

That said, Muray didn't address one major concern about generative AI technology: the immense amount of power it takes to respond to each prompt.

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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