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The Use of AI-generated Vocals in The Finals Sparks Actor Criticism

Summary

In a bold departure from traditional casting methods, developer Embark Studios is facing criticism for their use of AI-generated vocal voices in their latest game, The Finals. Despite the game gaining popularity on the Steam platform since its open beta […]

The Use of AI-generated Vocals in The Finals Sparks Actor Criticism

In a bold departure from traditional casting methods, developer Embark Studios is facing criticism for their use of AI-generated vocal voices in their latest game, The Finals. Despite the game gaining popularity on the Steam platform since its open beta release, actor Gianni Matragrano, known for his performances in Evil West and Vertigo 2, took to Twitter to express his disapproval of the studio’s decision to rely on AI-generated voices. Matragrano stated that the sound in The Finals “does not sound good,” emphasizing the impact that AI technology has on the acting profession and the controversies associated with its use.

Supporting his criticism, Matragrano referenced a podcast episode called “Meet the Makers,” released by Embark Studios in July 2023, where sound designers Andreas and Carl confirmed their use of “innovative” AI tools to create the vocal tracks in The Finals. Criticisms were echoed by Kit Harrison, known for his roles in Genshin Impact, Dying Light, and Ghostrunner 2, who tweeted, “What really bothers me is that they had to hire real actors to obtain sounds of effort and breathing, because AI cannot do that. It cannot mimic the sound I make when I get up from a chair but wants to take my job? Give me a break.” Elsie Lovelock, appearing in games like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Wargroove, also chimed in, stating on Twitter, “The worst part is it sounds bad no matter how realistic they think it sounds.”

Andreas from Embark Studios defended the use of AI-generated vocals in The Finals in a podcast episode, noting that “AI text-to-speech software has become extremely powerful.” He added, “It’s great that we’ve achieved a certain quality and that we’re able to quickly respond to new ideas and stay fresh.” However, Matragrano disputed Andreas’ claim of “achieving a certain quality” and challenged the idea that hiring actors required months of preparation. “We consistently record commissioned voiceovers in just one or two days. You can get top-quality vocal tracks at a relatively low cost, record a few sessions, and that’s it,” Matragrano argued.

Ironically, Embark Studios has a YouTube series called “Creating The Finals” featuring a dedicated episode on “capturing authentic sounds.” IGN reached out to Embark Studios for comment on the controversy.

The use of AI technology, not only in video games but across various industries, has become a topic of heated debate and controversy. This is evidenced by the strike initiated by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). In September 2023, the union voted in favor of a strike as part of negotiations regarding the Interactive Media Agreement, which governs the hiring of actors for video games and other interactive media. Although this does not mean an immediate strike will be enforced, members of the SAG-AFTRA negotiating team now have the authority to initiate it if negotiations remain at an impasse.

“We want to ensure that computers don’t replace humans,” said Zeke Alton from the negotiating team in a September 2023 interview with IGN. “It’s not about banning the use of this technology, but rather, we want to keep up with technological advancements and not be left behind.”

In the past, voice actors lending their talents to video games have expressed their objections to AI-generated mods, such as in the case of Skyrim. Victoria Atkin, the voice actress for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, referred to AI-generated mods as “invisible enemies we are currently facing” after discovering that her voice had been used in cloning software. Even Paul Eiding, the voice of Colonel Campbell in the Metal Gear Solid series, condemned the use of AI technology.

CD Projekt Red, the renowned developer, has notably used AI-generated voices as a replacement for deceased actors.

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