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Making AI Your Dance Partner For Game-Based Work

Making AI Your Dance Partner For Game-Based Work

Pearlyn Lii on finding inspiration and tranquility in the machine

Generating new ideas is easy. Actually, making something visual is hard. It requires patience and often, the help of others. And if you’re working in game-based art and culture, the challenges grow exponentially. 

Artist and creative director Pearlyn Lii has been working with AI on her project  Infinite Mother  over the last year and attempting to bridge the gap. However, working with a machine only raises new questions: How do you maintain your unique style and approach? How do you communicate your work to partners? How much abstraction is too much abstraction? 

We had a great conversation with Pearlyn about using AI as a “dance partner,” how to make iteration work well, and how to get time back for yourself.

On finding AI

It came from a place of curiosity.

I wanted to find a way to visualize the basic plot structures that I was studying in my research. I was fascinated with ancient Chinese mythology and the divine feminine. I took those themes and looked at past lore and myths to arrive at a place where I could effectively pitch to collaborators.

Something like AI and visuals, visualizing these ideas in AI quickly, is compelling, mainly because I operate by myself or with a small team. It’s a potent way to storyboard. Yeah, that led me there: how can I rethink my workflow?

It’s even more powerful to pick a myth from your own culture.

On finding your story with AI tools for world-building

The first component is picking a character, who could be the main narrator or someone whose story you observe. The next step is to look at basic plot structures and then adopting myths from your culture or worldwide. Finally, you can choose a scene setting that fits the story, such as a desert wasteland or a futuristic metropolis.

This approach of compartmentalizing the story and weaving it together can be an exciting way to tell a story in a nonconventional way. By starting with these components, you can spark ideas and avoid the intimidation of a blank slate or a script.

It’s such a powerful way to bring myth and lore to life. That’s prevalent, especially in my work. But it’s essential for visualizing any animation or video game film idea.

The “character” does not have to be the main narrator. They can be someone whom you spectate,

I adopt different types of myths worldwide. It’s even more powerful to pick a myth from your own culture. Then, from there, I looked at a basic scene setting.

Where does this occur? Does it occur in this desert wasteland with a mirage in the center? Does it take place in a metropolis of the future? I can compartmentalize and tell a story in a nonconventional way because we usually start with a script and a blank slate. Looking at the screen or your demo might be intimidating, but if you work from components, it could spark some ideas.

Still from Infinite Mother

Practicing your routine with your AI dance partner

A lot of my work involves taking old myths and fantastically retelling them. AI started pulling various keywords I had written in my script to combine disparate ideas and concepts to encompass my imagination.

Seeing the concept art for a scene generated from my keywords allows me to test various worlds before I commit to one. There’s back-and-forth where I feel like what I see is very visually expansive, and then it also informs how I might rejigger the script.

And there’s this kind of back-and-forth relationship. It’s like having AI as someone to converse with and fill out all the details. In the world where you build, you need a team of 10 to 15 to contribute to every component. So, it is a potent visualization tool for concepting.

But when it comes to the final thing, it’s essential for a human, a creative, to take over the line because, ultimately, it is still a story about humans and human relationships.

AI accelerates and augments an age-old process; we still concept, storyboard, and look at character design, where what was generated in AI for the idea becomes the final model. You, as creative, are ultimately the one who bridges those two ends of the pipeline together.

Getting time back for the rest of your life

A lot of creatives have a nine-to-five or a nine-to-nine even. And that’s important because we need to live and be.

But then I hear a lot that after work, I want to work on my projects, but then I’m so tired and mentally exhausted from having a massive deadline at work. But being able to do something quite low-frequency, like being able to do it. When you generate something in AI, it’s similar to when you just have a pen in hand and you’re just writing or sketching out an idea, right?

Either as an author or an artist, it’s similar; you can start sketching in AI. You might have some concepts, tiny ideas that you’ve logged into your Moleskine or in different journals you’ve kept over the years. It’s nice to look at those, pull them from the archives, and create prompts.

You’ll get a simple visual visualization with AI. That gives you more motivation because you see the results of your concept being visualized, which usually might take three or four months with a few professionals.

It can become your kindling to pursue this more at night or even wake up early. It’s a significant return on your time, and it’s fun and motivating. It gives you fuel to keep going.