At its E3 press conference this weekend, EA announced a new experimental division, SEED, but offered little clarity about what it was working towards. Now, in a new interview, CEO Andrew Wilson has placed neural networks and machine learning at the centre of what the company wants to achieve in its games over the next five years.
Speaking to Glixel, Wilson explained that EA's recent strategy to place Frostbite at the core of all of its major franchises has opened up new possibilities for its future product strategy - similar to comments Patrick Soderlund made to GamesIndustry.biz at Gamescom last year.
However, Wilson went further still. "When you have a digital platform and you have constant connection with every player in the network, once you have an engine that can push content to every device you have now or in the future, once you have the best creative minds on the planet building new and interesting designs that can manifest in that world - then you start to ask 'well, what else is there?'"
According to Wilson, EA is researching the application of neural networks and machine learning in the way games are developed. A computer can now be fed every Emily Dickinson poem ever written, and then produce a poem close enough in form and tone to convince, as Wilson put it, "a layman like me." The same is possible with Monet's painting style, he continued, and EA wants to apply that to start applying that to its franchises within the next five years.
"What if you wanted to build a new Battlefield experience and you fed it every war story ever written?" he said. "Could it tell you new and interesting and personal stories on a realtime basis every time you engage?"
Wilson didn't explicitly mention the SEED division, which was announced but scarcely explained at the EA press conference on Saturday. However, as we reported at the time, "the basic idea is to identify concepts and advances in game design and AI that will form the future of games development." Referring to SEED, Patrick Söderlund said that, "as game makers, we know awesome graphics and effects are just the beginning."
In his interview with Glixel, Wilson was quite clear that, not only is EA currently researching these techniques, it also expects them to inform the direction of its products a lot sooner than one might assume. "We have lab groups across the company working on this stuff," he said. "That, over the next five years, is going to change the way that games are made and experienced more than anything that happened in the last 45.
Wilson concluded: "I think you'll start to see this manifesting in our gaming life in the next five years. I truly believe that's the case."