Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown launches next week. While we really dug the game (you can check out our review for more on that), there’s one odd detail that stuck out we can’t help but give its own article: one of the game’s minor NPCs will be voiced by a text-to-speech program at launch, seemingly because someone — probably Ubisoft — forgot to record and add a human being’s voice for the role.
While in discussions with fellow early reviewers during the review period for The Lost Crown, it was pointed out to us that the voice of a tree spirit character, Kalux, sounded remarkably like either an AI or text-to-speech (TTS) program. Specifically, a TTS program that’s available online for free for use by streamers. You can compare some of the lines we recorded (embedded below) to those same lines processed through the TTS program right here.
Notably, the character in question does not seem to be credited with a voice actor in the game’s credits, despite — as far as IGN can tell — every other voiced character appearing there with a named human credit. None of the other characters in the game sound like AI or TTS programs, including multiple other tree spirits like Kalux. All in all, it’s a weird situation; Kalux only has a handful of lines, and some of Prince of Persia’s actors voice multiple characters, so it seems that it would have been easy enough to cast a voice actor to do these as well.
IGN reached out to production studio Side UK, which is credited as having handled the game’s voicework, for comment, and received the following:
SIDE London provides casting, production management, voice direction, voice recording and post-production in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, for which we work with a talented cast of professional actors. As a production company, we did not have visibility of any other voice design plans, TTS or otherwise, Ubisoft had for the game.
So SIDE UK didn’t put the TTS in, which leaves Ubisoft the culprit. Ubisoft in fact confirmed it was their doing, but the explanation the developer gave is a bit bizarre:
During the development process of a game, some teams use multiple placeholder assets, including text to speech voiceover, until final dubbing is delivered. The English version of these 8 lines of text for this character were not properly implemented but will be swapped out and updated with an upcoming patch. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is fully voice-overed in English, French, Spanish, German and Farsi with more than 12,000 lines in total. It is also subtitled in Italian, Portuguese-Brazilian, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Polish and Japanese.
Ubisoft is correct to point out that placeholder assets are common in development, and early builds will often use TTS programs, AI voices, or even just have random developers around the office record lines so they have something to work with until scripts are finalized and professional actors can be brought in and paid to record the dialogue. While it’s a silly but understandably mistake if someone just forgot to stick the human-recorded dialogue into the game, the whole scenario gets weirder when you look at the credits and notice that Kalux doesn’t have an English voice listed at all, despite apparently having cast and credited humans for all other voiced languages.
Additionally, while the game has a day one patch noted in a guide sent out to reviewers, Kalux’s voice won’t be fixed in that – Ubisoft told us to expect late January or early February. Ubisoft did not provide an answer when we asked why Kalux wasn’t listed in the credits. And we followed up with SIDE UK to ask if the company recorded any English voice lines for Kalux to begin with, but have yet to receive a response. Given all this, all signs point to Ubisoft having simply forgotten to record a real person (or ask SIDE UK to record a real person) for this very specific character in one language, and now scrambling to get it done the week of launch.
It’s an extremely odd situation, but there’s some relief to be taken that at minimum, this doesn’t seem to be a situation exemplifying AI encroachment on human jobs. But it’s possible that Ubisoft may be headed in this direction sooner than we’d like. At CES earlier this week, both Ubisoft and Genshin Impact developer HoYoverse were revealed as among the first studios using Nvidia’s Avatar Cloud Engine, an AI-driven tech platform that creates “lifelike” game characters. Among other things, this includes allowing players to “speak” to NPCs using their microphone, and having the NPCs speak back using AI-generated dialogue responses and text-to-speech voiceovers.
And they’re not alone. Recently, The Finals was criticized for its use of AI-generated voices, and Cyberpunk 2077 used AI to replace the voice of a deceased voice actor, Miłogost Reczek, in the DLC with the blessing of his family. Concerns about AI replacing human actors in games have grown to the point where just this week, actor union SAG-AFTRA announced a controversial new deal with generative AI voice company Replica Studios on a set of standards for creating AI voices off real voice actor profiles. Outside of video games, we’ve seen other companies in recent weeks such as Duolingo and Wizards of the Coast criticized for reliance on AI in situations where human jobs stand to be impacted.
Kalux’s voice issue may have been, as all evidence indicates, unintentional. But it is nonetheless a glimpse of a possible future we may see emerge in more and more games as companies increasingly look to AI solutions at all stages of development, including the final product.
Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to [email protected].
Article amended post-publication to lightly correct unintentional phrasing.