Is Ubisoft’s Ghostwriter AI Going To Conquer The World?

A few weeks back, Ubisoft announced that they were using a new tool called Ghostwriter to produce dialogue for NPCs. Needless to say, reactions to this were mixed, both from the general public and from game developers. The topic is an interesting one, so I wanted to take a few minutes to delve into it, what it might mean for the future, what it is and how I feel about it.

First, we need to address the reality of what Ghostwriter is. Ubisoft is very clear in its desire to describe Ghostwriter as an AI tool, but so far it doesn’t actually appear to be one. Rather, Ghostwriters seems to be closer to procedural generation which is something game developers have been using for years in numerous different ways. For example, large open worlds are often created using procedural generation tools so that developers don’t have to painstakingly plop down every tree and bush. Procedural generation is also used in animation to help speed up the process, saving the developers from creating every new frame. None of these things replaces real humans because real humans still have to go in and check everything out, refine the process or even redesign a chunk of the map so that it works with a mission idea and so on. Of course, that doesn’t mean these tools can’t take on these roles – plenty of solo developers have used them to generate huge chunks of a game that they can’t code themselves, but in instances like that, they could never afford to hire humans anyway, so no job was lost.

But according to a breakdown of GDC 2023 talk from Ubisoft La Forge researcher Ben Swanson, it is mentioned that Ghostwriter will need to be trained so that it doesn’t begin to pump out repetitive sentences. Swanson also described Ghostwriter as essentially rolling a 3000-sided die, with each number corresponding to a word, and then rolling it again and again to produce sentences. Sample sets are used to put the words together in the correct order to form something coherent, and then a writer can choose whether to use and alter what Ghostwriter churns out or ignore it entirely.

In other words, it’s hard to judge whether Ghostwriter could or should be defined as an AI in the same way other programs such as GhatGPT are. Although, I think it’s fair to say that agreeing on exactly what defines AI technology is a little tricky. The word is being thrown around so much right now, after all.

The kneejerk reaction is one of concern, but I wanted to give the idea the benefit of the doubt for a moment. On paper, the idea of Ghostwriter is actually kind of cool and could be incredibly helpful to the writing team at Ubisoft. Its intended usage is as a tool to help reduce the amount of time writers have to spend on menial tasks. With Ghostwriter they can input a few prompts and the AI will start firing out random lines of dialogue or partial conversations for NPCs to use, typically referred to as barks.

“Ghostwriter isn’t replacing the video game writer, but instead, alleviating one of the video game writer’s most laborious tasks: writing barks.  Ghostwriter effectively generates first drafts of barks – phrases or sounds made by NPCs during a triggered event – which gives scriptwriters more time to polish the narrative elsewhere”


You can see the appeal, right? As a writer, the idea of spending hours upon hours penning a dozen variations of the phrase “I’m reloading!” and hundreds of random things NPCs could say is probably a boring prospect. And it takes time away from working on plots for side-quests or refining story beats in the main narrative. As a hobbyist writer, it’s the little details I get bogged down in because I want to create grand worlds and crazy plots, not try to figure out what a random crowd member might say when my heroes amble past.

But using Ghostwriter in this manner is undoubtedly a slippery slope, especially in large companies that will prioritise cutting costs and corners where possible. The rate at which AI technology is advancing is staggering, and with that advance has come to the realisation that even those with creative jobs could find themselves being replaced. Hell, here on WordPress, where my site is hosted, I have access to a new AI Paragraph tool that promises to generate a whole new block of text based on what I’ve already written. Want to see it? Okay, here we go, the next paragraph is entirely written by AI:

However, as tempting as it may be to rely on AI to handle the minutiae of writing, it’s important to remember the value of human creativity and passion. Writing is an art form, not a formula, and it’s the unique voice and perspective of each individual writer that makes their work stand out. While AI may be able to generate content quickly and efficiently, it can never truly replace the personal touch of a dedicated writer. So, while it’s okay to use AI tools as a helpful supplement to your writing process, don’t forget to nurture your own creativity and always strive to bring your unique perspective to the page.

Crazy, right?

Imagine being a writer at Ubisoft. For now, Ghostwriter is probably an exciting new tool that could alleviate some of the most time-consuming and boring aspects of the job, and yet I wouldn’t be surprised if a hint of fear sat in the back of your mind. For now, it generates random NPC barks, but next year it could be generating the outlines for side-quests. Another year down the line, maybe it’s handling a lot of the dialogue. Skip forward a year again and it could be spitting out entire quest lines with just one or two writers guiding the process or polishing the script. The closer AI push it to becoming a “real” AI like ChatGPT, the more nerve-racking it will become.

Suggest reading: Far Cry 5 Review.

Ubisoft, especially, is the type of company that would push these boundaries because their modern titles tend to be massive, bloated beasts with a hundred hours or more of content. You can probably see the appeal of being able to use Ghostwriter to generate heaps of this content rather than using a team of writers. On the one hand, that could be great for the writing team who would could have more time to work on the more important story beats. On the other hand, might Ubisoft be tempted to reduce its writing team as a result? Or could the use of Ghostwriter spell bad news for new writers attempting to break into the industry, for whom writing barks is often a first step?

With that said, you’re always going to need some humans to keep an eye on whatever Ghostwriter might spit out. One thing we’ve learned from Chatbots and other similar technology is that given access to the Internet it can come out with some truly absurd things. Just picture walking down a street in Watch Dogs: Legion, only to hear some old lady yell a string of racist remarks. Personally, I think that would be hilarious and could even add some texture to the world because there are all sorts of people out there, but I doubt the more politically correct folk out there would be impressed. Humans will still be needed to ensure that everything is above board, makes sense and isn’t some weird, political rant about the importance of genetically modified cat girls.

I’d also imagine that Ubisoft will attempt to combine Ghostwriter with other forms of tech, such as the new AI tools for generating voices. With this, Ghostwriter and some animation tools working in tandem, you could theoretically populate a world with heaps of NPCs uttering hundreds of different lines of dialogue, all voiced. Part of me thinks that’s amazing and could open up whole new genres for smaller developers, while another part of me thinks the last thing Ubisoft games need to feel is even more generic than they already are.

Maybe that’s my biggest problem about this whole Ghostwriter thing – Ubisoft. There’s no denying the huge success the company has had, and many of its games do incredibly well, but they are also a publisher/developer who make games using a very defined template. Heaps of content in massive worlds with loads of NPCs, with forgettable dialogue and stories that fail to entrench themselves in your mind. They are the equivalent of the big, dumb summer blockbusters. You know the ones: they are a good time in the cinema, but as soon as you step outside you can’t actually remember much about them. That’s not a bad thing, but tools like Ghostwriter seem tailor-made to push Ubisoft even farther down the path of soulless feeling games.

It’s not like Ubisoft is the first company to integrate all this new technology into its work, mind you. There are people out there using ChatGPT to help them write code, opening doors for them to make their long-imagined games. Netease has promised to include ChatGPT in an upcoming MMO in order to allow players to freely talk to NPCs, which could be either amazing or a complete disaster.

There is another little thing to consider, mind you, and that’s the nebulous area of who owns content produced by an AI. Problems are already arising based on whether or not a person who uses AI to create artwork owns the rights to that artwork, and in the same vein if somebody uses ChatGPT to create some code, would they own the rights to that code? All of this is a tricksy legal muddle that will probably keep lawyers rolling in money for years to come.


I think we are quite a long way away from AI being able to build games on its own. For one thing, they still need prompts and parameters from a human to get them going. For now, I think AI tools could be hugely beneficial provided they are used as exactly that – tools. They should be used to aid in design, to help make the process of game design a little cheaper and easier in a world where spiralling development costs are leading to creative stagnation.

You can’t ignore the very legitimate concerns of writers, though. Alanah Pearce, a writer for Sony Santa Monica, Tweeted out:

While Ed Coates Tweeted:

As a self-professed nerd, the explosion of AI technology is utterly fascinating, and I have no doubt we’re teetering on the edge of another massive societal change. But it’s also one of the more worrying technological advancements because of how much chaos could be caused by companies entering into an AI arms race, developing faster and faster without stopping to consider the broader implications. It seems to me that governments will need to step in sooner rather than later to establish a multitude of rules, including protecting workforces. Perhaps in some distant future, we can achieve a Star Trek-like society where we don’t have to work for any other reason than satisfaction and progress, but that’s a dream. The reality is that companies constantly want to find new ways to achieve the impossible goal of infinite growth and AI represents the next big way to chase that goal.

In terms of video games, we are undoubtedly entering an exciting era where publishers and developers proudly announce that they are using the latest in AI tech to create their games. Indie developers will have new tools with which to bring their ideas to life. And all while other developers boast of how their own games are made entirely by humans without the help of any AI. In the middle of all this, will companies lose sight of the fact that an AI is not creative in the truest sense? That an AI can only create something based entirely off of what humans have already made? Let’s not forget, though, that we humans are also the sum of our experiences and learning. Like an AI we need an input in order to create.

For now, Ghostwriter isn’t going to conquer Ubisoft and become the de facto writer of all its games. Although, let’s be honest, if an AI wrote all of the next Assassin’s Creed game’s side-quests, would you really be able to tell the difference between it and Ubisoft’s regular writing? But a decade from now, who knows what could be done?


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