Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt used AI to replace a deceased voice actor after gaining permission from the family.
Miłogost Reczek was a Polish voice actor best known as the Polish dub for Homer Simpson in The Simpsons Movie, as well as Vesemir and Thaler in The Witcher games and doctor Viktor Vektor in Cyberpunk 2077. He died in December 2021 aged 60.
Bloomberg reported Reczek’s family gave CD Projekt permission to recreate his voice using AI for the recently released expansion, Phantom Liberty. CD Projekt localization director Mikołaj Szwed is quoted as saying the developer didn’t want to find a replacement for the late actor and re-record his lines. “We didn’t like this approach,” Szwed explained, as Reczek “was one of the best Polish voice talents” and his performance “was stellar”.
CD Projekt instead hired a different voice actor who performed new lines for Vik, then used voice-cloning software Respeecher to change the dialogue so it sounded like Reczek. Szwed said: “This way we could keep his performance in the game and pay tribute to his wonderful performance as Viktor Vektor,” Szwed said.
The use of AI in video game development is one of the hottest topics in the industry, with voice actors in particular expressing concern about the future of their profession. Last month, members of Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) voted to authorise a strike as a part of the resumption of bargaining over the guild’s Interactive Media Agreement, which governs voice, motion capture, and other actors working in video games. While this doesn’t mean a strike is currently happening, it does mean that SAG-AFTRA negotiators have the power to call one if negotiations continue to stagnate.
One of the key issues is the need for protection against the encroachment of AI technology. “We want to ensure that they don’t replace all the humans with computers,” Interactive Negotiating Committee member Zeke Alton told IGN. “Not a prohibition on it, but just as we move forward with the technology, how do we move with it and not get left behind.”
“We’re having the argument now specifically about these AI algorithms and they are wiping out large portions of the workforce,” Alton continued. “And so if we lose that and set the precedent for corporations to remove the lower levels of their workforce using algorithms, that then proliferates into every workforce on the planet, and that can have disastrous results for the economy and for society as a whole. That’s why this is an existential fight, not just for us, but to anybody else out there watching: you’re next. And would you like to have the precedent of being protected or the precedent of being removed?”
In the summer, voice actors called out AI-generated explicit Skyrim mods, and in July, Victoria Atkin — who played Evie Frye in 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate — called AI-generated mods the “invisible enemy we’re fighting right now” after discovering her voice was used by cloning software.
Despite these concerns and amid strike action, the use of generative AI in the entertainment industry has been rapid. Disney has used AI to replace deceased actors such as Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher, and recreate a younger Mark Hamill, in the Star Wars franchise. AI was also used to de-age Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
In April, as part of an investigation into the rise of AI, Pawel Sasko, CD Projekt Lead Quest Designer, told IGN: “I really believe that AI, and AI tools, are going to be just the same as when Photoshop was invented. You can see it throughout the history of animation. From drawing by hand to drawing on a computer, people had to adapt and use the tools, and I think AI is going to be exactly that. It’s just going to be another tool that we’ll use for productivity and game development.”