With AI technology increasingly in the news, more and more game developers have been examining how much, if at all, they want to integrate artificial intelligence into their development pipelines. And while much of this discussion is taking place amid real fears that AI will replace real human beings in developer jobs, World of Warcraft game director Ion Hazzikostas isn’t concerned about that happening to him after a recent encounter with ChatGPT.
Speaking to IGN ahead of the launch of the latest major patch, Embers of Neltharion, Hazzikostas says that one of the first things he did when he first gained access to AI chatbot ChatGPT was ask it what the next World of Warcraft expansion should be. And its answer was uniquely terrible on multiple levels:
“I kid you not, the number one prompt it returned to me…was ‘Return to the Shadowlands.’ So I feel like I have pretty good job security, not too worried about ChatGPT replacing me anytime soon.”
While Hazzikostas is possibly aiming his quip at the fact that Shadowlands was the expansion that directly preceded the current one, thus making it a poor candidate to immediately turn around and go back to, Shadowlands was also quite unpopular with the WoW community. Players disliked the slow cadence of content rollout, multiple time-gated endgame grinds, and above all, its deeply controversial treatment of one of its most beloved characters: Sylvanas Windrunner. So it feels doubly silly that ChatGPT would suggest going back to one of World of Warcraft’s least-loved expansions in recent memory, even though it’s possible it’s only doing so because the internet it’s trained on is stuffed with recent mentions of Shadowlands.
Goofy as that is, Hazzikostas and World of Warcraft executive producer Holly Longdale also offered a more serious explanation of the team’s thoughts on AI. Hazzikostas confirmed that some parts of WoW’s art pipeline use machine learning, but they’ve been doing that for years. It’s “just automating really arduous, painful tasks like fitting helms around Blood Elf ears and so forth, where it’s more just, let’s free up some time so that our really talented artists can make more amazing creative art instead of doing that fiddly work.” It’s nothing new.
Longdale, meanwhile, is looking ahead:
“When we’re talking about living in a world that we want to feel alive, there’s a lot of opportunity there. We are so focused on excellence in the craft in our design that we want to make sure that everything has our human touch. But I do think there’s a lot of opportunity in an interactive space to see what the opportunities are. And we have for quite some time now. AI is…not new to us in our day-to-day. And evolution in AI is certainly going to help us, but it’s always been here.”
We also spoke to Hazzikostas and Longdale about the current World of Warcraft content cadence and future content roadmaps, and threw in some questions about player toxicity and group loot while we were at it – check out our full interview tomorrow. In the meantime, we recently wrapped up a week of articles and video content about AI and how it will impact games, entertainment, and more.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.