Could artificial intelligence put games artists out of a job? While advancements in the field have been rapid over recent years, according to former Naughty Dog technical art director Andrew Maximov, it will more likely help us define what is and isn't art.
Speaking during a panel discussion at Digital Dragons in Krakow this week, Maximov was joined by Bungie world art director Jason Sussman in making the case for artificial intelligence providing tools to enable artists, rather than replace them.
"Technology in a big way is going to help us define what is art because all the things we will not be able to automate, by definition will have to be art. All the things we are able to let go of and say 'take this away, I don't care'... I guess that wasn't art," said Maximov.
"And in every artists' pipeline, every day, there is probably of millions of little things like that you don't notice because you're so close to it… That's the fascinating part is that technology will be able to define art for us."
Maximov, who recently started his own company around building artificial intelligence tools for artists, said that "artistry is absolutely not going anywhere and is not going to be replaced by anything", but that "technology is actually going to make us better artists".
Sussman agreed, saying he didn't think artists were going to be disposable anytime soon.
"Every single time a new console comes out that's pushing the limits, that means that artists and the team has to push the limits which means we need more people, a bigger budget, more time, it just keeps growing and growing and growing, and at some point something's got to give," said Sussman.
"Having technology and tools that help alleviate a lot of the pain points, especially with a game like Destiny, if there's something that gives me automation in between the key points of what I'm trying to build, I'll take it. Because that means we can give you more content for the same amount or money."
Suggesting that AI tools will help cut down artists' workload by handling smaller, more technical tasks like modelling and 2D layouts, Maximov said they will have more time to ask themselves, "why are people wanting to buy the thing I have made?"
"The true value in what you do is in the colour, is the lighting, is in the composition, and how you approach that, how do you infuse that with meaning, how you pick your subject," he said.
AI tools should, Maximov suggested, let artists stop worrying about all the distractions that come with creating art which, while important, don't require the human touch.
"No one is ever going to buy a thing because you made the most perfect 2D layout," he said. "No one is going to buy a thing because your character face has the most badass topology. Fundamentally nobody should care, and eventually you shouldn't care too.
"What you should care about, is what you're communicating and what the tools are going to empower you to do... Because when everyone can make everything photorealistic, then the fun part starts. How do you stand out? How do you make something beautiful? How do we make something interesting?"