Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope says he would consider using AI for his next game

Lucas Pope

Lucas Pope suggests that his next game might incorporate AI: “I feel like if I don’t maybe start using AI, then I’ll regret it.”

In the latest episode of the podcast My Perfect Console, Lucas Pope – the creator of Papers, Please and Return of the Obra Dinn – has said he would consider using AI in his next project.

“I think I need to figure out a way to incorporate AI, maybe, in my development,” he told host Simon Parkin. “Working as a solo developer, I’m always looking kind of looking for efficiencies in the way I design or the way I program, or something, somewhere in the tools I make, and I feel like if I don’t maybe start using AI, then I’ll regret it, basically.”

“But at the same time, right now I don’t know how I could use it,” he continues, suggesting that it could perhaps come into the programming aspect. He goes on to say that the fact that the creation process would use AI could somehow be incorporated as an element of the game itself. “I really thought VR was going to be the thing that changed it for all of us, but it turns out it was AI,” he concludes.

Lucas Pope released the acclaimed Return of the Obra Dinn in 2018.

Pope isn’t the first indie developer to think about embracing AI. I recently spoke to half a dozen indie developers about AI in a feature for CreativeBloq, many of whom saw the technology as a potential means to speed up programming, just as Pope suggests.

For example, Leo Dasso of Moonloop Games, the studio behind the upcoming Hauntii, has been using Github Co-pilot, an AI tool for autocompleting code. “I started using it about six months ago, and since I’m the only programmer on this project, it does save time and help to give me a bit of a sanity check on the code I’ve written,” he said.

However, the developers I spoke to drew a clear line between AI programs for things like programming and procedural generation – which they broadly welcome – and those for generating art, which they see as riddled with problems and ethical dilemmas. Overall, the consensus seems to be that AI could be a boon for small studios or solo developers like Lucas Pope, enabling them to do much more in a smaller amount of time.

But when it comes to large studios, AI has the potential to replace many junior-level positions. “It could remove the need for some more mundane jobs and create a workforce closer to outsource management, or akin to one person manning 20 self-service tills at the supermarket, only having to occasionally intervene to fix small problems,” said Alastair Low of Lowtek Games.

Lucas Pope recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of his breakout hit Papers, Please with a charming Game & Watch-style demake, and he is currently working on Mars After Midnight for the Playdate handheld console.

Read more: Papers, Please at 10, and how it inspired one writer to get back into gaming

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