The Robots Are Taking Over, Everything is Fine

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Layoffs! Layoffs! Layoffs!

2024 has started off strong with two major rounds of layoffs and we’re not even halfway through January! The first comes from beleaguered middleware development behemoth Unity, who this week announced that they no longer needed a whole 25% of its workforce. That’s 1,800 people who are now competing for an ever-decreasing pool of jobs in the games industry. It’s not all bad news though, because Unity’s share price rose 4% after the layoffs were announced.

Not to be outdone, Amazon just announced they were laying off 35% of Twitch’s employees, estimated to be around 500 people.

AI Voices Are AI-OK

Mere weeks after SAG-AFTRA ended their strikes over issues such as AI being used to replace human actors, the guild has struck a new deal that says that the process is good, actually. On Tuesday, SAG-AFTRA entered into an agreement with Australian-based Replica Studios, an AI voiceover studio, to establish guidelines for the use of artificial intelligence in video games.

The union made the announcement at CES in Las Vegas, with Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the executive director, highlighting the inclusion of informed consent provisions for the creation of AI-generated voice replicas and the implementation of secure storage protocols for digital assets.

Some prominent voice over artists have come out against the move. Erika Ishii, who voices Valkyrie in Apex Legends, wrote: “Approved by… WHO exactly?? Was any one of the ‘affected members’ who signed off on this a working voice actor?” Elias Toufexis, who has games such as Starfield, Deus Ex and Death Stranding in their credits, added: “I would humbly consider myself one of the top voice actors working in games. No one asked me about this. No one reached out for my opinion.”

Steam heats up its AI terms

Speaking of AI, this week Valve issued new guidelines for how they handle AI content in games released on Steam. From now on, developers will need to describe how they use AI in the development and execution of new releases.

Basically, they’re putting AI into two categories: Pre-Generated, which means that the game uses content made through an AI tool, and Live-generated. In either case, developers have to pinky swear that AI content that is already in the game does not infringe any copyrights, but in Live-generated games they also have to cross their hearts and hope to die that the game won’t generate any illegal content.

Players will be able to alert Valve to games that they believe are infringing these rules through a new button in the Steam overlay.

Last of Us Gets Its Abby

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what any of this means, but it’s big news this week that actress Kaitlyn Dever is joining the second season of the TV adaptation of The Last of Us. She’ll be playing the role of Abby, who was one of the playable characters in The Last Of Us Part 2 who gets tangled up in…I don’t know, I started reading her Wikipedia page and got lost. But apparently Abby is a big deal and Kaitlyn Dever was really good in Unbelievable so here we are.

Series co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann said that “Nothing matters more than talent, and we’re thrilled to have an acclaimed performer like Kaitlyn join Pedro, Bella and the rest of our family.”

New Game Releases!

That horrible dry season where we were all forced to stop buying new games for a few weeks and go through our backlog is over, so now we can go back to buying games in a futile attempt to fill the empty space in our hearts. Here’s some of the notable games coming out this week!

Today sees the release of
Devil May Cry: Peak of Combat (iOS, Android)
Unstoppable (PC)
Radiance (PC)
Dig Dug (C64)

I need a lie down. Back to the gang in the studio!