Roblox is testing a tool that can speed up the process of creating and modifying game objects by forcing artificial intelligence to write code. The tool allows anyone who plays Roblox to create items such as buildings, terrain, and avatars; change the appearance and behavior of these things; and give them new interactive properties by typing what they want to achieve in natural language rather than complex code.
“Let’s say I need a shiny metal sword for an experience I’m creating,” says Daniel Sturman, CTO at Roblox. “It should be very easy to create.”
Sturman showed WIRED a new Roblox tool that generates the code needed to create objects and change their appearance and behavior. In the demo, typing “red pain, reflective metal trim” or “purple foil, crushed pattern, reflective” into the chat window changed the appearance of the sports car in the game. It was also possible to add new game behavior by introducing “Flash titles every time the user presses ‘B'” and “Make them float”.
The technology, dubbed generative AI, has attracted attention and investment over the past year, demonstrating that algorithms can create seemingly coherent text and aesthetically pleasing images when given a short text cue. This technology is based on AI models trained on a large amount of data in the form of text or images taken from the Internet, and is also used in the ChatGPT viral chatbot. Some AI researchers are experimenting with generative methods for creating video and 3D content, but this is mostly at an early stage.
The creation of computer code was one of the first practical applications of generative AI, and Microsoft and Amazon are already selling tools that can automatically write useful pieces of software. But the Roblox announcement shows how companies can tailor coding capabilities to create their own generative AI products aimed at people who may not be experienced programmers.
Sturman says this approach is promising for Roblox because many games on its platform are created by individuals or small teams. “Our platform has everything from studios to 12-year-olds who have an incredible idea from a summer camp,” says Sturman.
Roblox says the AI relies on a combination of internal technology and external capabilities to create the code it uses, although it doesn’t reveal where. Currently, the company trains its AI only using game content that is in the public domain. Sturman says Roblox will be careful that users don’t mind having their creations loaded into generative AI algorithms.
Microsoft was the first to use the latest generation of AI for coding, thanks to a deal with OpenAI that adapted a general-purpose language technology called GPT to run a code generator called Codex. Microsoft has expanded Codex’s coding capabilities by giving it more data from GitHub, a popular software development repository, and making it available through its Visual Studio programming app.
Visual Studio and other AI-enabled programming environments typically write code in response to a developer’s comment or when the user starts typing. Startup Repeatwhich makes a popular online programming tool, recently launched a chatbot-like interface that will not only write code, but also answer programming questions.