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Firmament developer Cyan Worlds credits AI in development—but not actors

Update: Cyan Worlds published a statement clarifying the extent of its usage of AI technology in Firmament.

Justin Carter

June 8, 2023

3 Min Read
Screenshot from Cyan Worlds' 2023 game, Firmament.

Anger is growing at the revelation that developer Cyan Worlds' newest game, Firmament, had heavy use of AI generative technology throughout its development. More controversially, that technology received true recognition not given to other parts of the game, such as voice acting. 

In the game's credits (originally spotted by developer Gregory Avery-Weir), Cyan listed several in-game texts, such as newspapers and poems as "AI assisted content." Voice acting for various parts of the game also falls under this category as well. 

AI tech in games

Use of AI technology in games has been controversial in recent months, and for voice acting in particular. Previously, voice actors have expressed worry that studios will archive voices without explicit consent from an actor, or force newer talent into inadvertently signing away their voice. 

Further adding to the controversy surrounding Firmament specifically is that it's a Kickstarter-backed game. The credits note that AI was used to create "backer-exclusive content," which essentially means that users may have paid to have AI used in the game without even realizing it. 

AI-generated content is often talked about alongside plagiarism, which puts Firmament backers in an odd spot. But the technology's use also potentially diminishes the specialness of that content, and a buyer's choice to spend that advance money to begin with. 

Speaking to Kotaku, Cyan Worlds wrote that the aforementioned "assisted content" is as it sounds, but "not wholly created" by AI. "We can’t imagine what [the voice acting] would be like if wholly machine generated," it added.

It further revealed that all of its voice acting was done by a human voice actor "100 percent of the time," but said an actor's final performance, pitch, and timbre pitch were AI modified with their consent. However, that doesn't explain why actors aren't credited. 

Game Developer has reached out to Cyan Worlds regarding the lack of crediting and informing backers of AI in the game, and will update this when a response is given. 

Update: Cyan Worlds published a statement regarding the use of AI in Firmament, saying that its use of the technology was a choice voluntarily made by all involved. "Absolutely nothing in this small fraction of content...was generated and used outright from these services without extensive human oversight and revision," it said.

Regarding the technology's contribution to voice acting, the studio clarified that it was used with the actor's "full permission and control." It added that this voice actor chose not to be credited due to privacy concerns, and has done so in past Cyan work they've done. 

Similarly, Firmament's narrative and art teams used AI tools to either experiment with the presentation for what they wrote or for texture assets in "very specific scenarios." Beyond that, "no AI tools were used in any aspect of Cyan's world-building or art creation efforts." 

Speaking to its Kickstarter backers, Cyan acknowledged that it understood why they would be disappointed in the developer's AI usage. "None of these tools existed when we Kickstarted development. [...] These tools land in a gray area for many." 

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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