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Video Game Art and AI

The increasing prevalence of AI in the art world has been nothing short of controversial. From concerns about the role of human artists to questions about ownership and ethics, AI-generated art has sparked passionate debates across creative industries – and the video game industry is no exception. As AI tools become more sophisticated and accessible, game developers are grappling with how to leverage this technology in a way that is both innovative and responsible.

As a studio that creates everything in-house, we’re deeply engaged in this conversation. We believe that AI has the potential to change the way we create educational games, and we also recognize the importance of using it ethically and in a way that supports our artists. To explore these topics further, we talked to Brandon Korth, our Art Manager, to get his insights on the current state of AI in game art, the challenges and opportunities it presents, and how we’re navigating this new technology at our studio. 

via Giphy

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Current AI Usage in our Art Department

At present, we’re only using AI art in our pitching process for sales work. “Specifically, we’re using it for more rapid idea generation to inspire what we make in the future,” Brandon explains. “It’s most useful for 3D art, especially since those environments don’t have level design built in, and 3D concept art takes a long time.”

The traditional process of creating 3D concept art can be incredibly time-consuming, requiring artists to model, texture, and light entire environments from scratch. By leveraging AI tools to generate 3D scenes quickly, our team can get a sense of the overall look and feel of a space without investing countless hours in the early stages of the design process.

“These AI-generated scenes serve as a starting point for our 2D team,” Brandon elaborates. “They can use these 3D environments as a reference to create concept art, which helps them understand the scale, proportions, and layout of the space more effectively.”

He is quick to emphasize that AI is not being used by his team as a replacement for human artistry. “The extent of it is inspiration,” he clarifies. “We tag all of the AI art in our pitches, as we don’t want to seem like we’re trying to trick anyone. It’s important to us that our clients understand how we’re using this technology and that it’s not a substitute for the skill and creativity of our artists.”

In addition to its role in the pitching process, AI is also being used to help our artists expand their skill sets. As Brandon points out, “We’re incredible generalists, and we need to adapt to each project we take on.” This means that our artists often need to quickly acquire new skills and techniques to meet the unique demands of each game.

“AI allows a baseline expertise that we can build off of,” Brandon explains. “For example, if we’re working on a project that requires a specific art style or technique that our 2D team isn’t as familiar with, they can use AI tools to generate examples of that style. This gives them a foundation to work from and helps them rapidly become efficient in the skills they need for that particular project.”

By using AI in this way, our artists can focus on what they do best: bringing their creativity, expertise, and human touch to every project. Rather than spending hours trying to master a new technique from scratch, they can use AI-generated examples as a starting point and then refine and adapt those techniques to suit the project they’re working on.

Ethical Considerations and AI-Generated Art

As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, AI art raises many pressing ethical questions that go beyond just the technical capabilities of AI. One of the most pressing issues is the question of ownership and attribution. When AI is used to generate art based on existing works, who owns the resulting pieces? And how do we ensure that the original artists are properly credited and compensated for their contributions?

Brandon delves into this complex issue by proposing a hypothetical scenario: “Let’s say Filament created their own database of art, and we could generate AI art based off of that. To what extent would it require compensation for the people who contributed to the original database of work? How does art credit work in that case?”

These are not easy questions to answer, but they are crucial ones that the industry will need to grapple with as AI-generated art becomes more commonplace. On one hand, the artists whose work is used to train AI models have put in the time, effort, and creative energy to create those original pieces – therefore, they deserve to be compensated and credited for their contributions, even if the resulting AI-generated art is substantially different from their original works.

On the other hand, AI-generated art is often the result of complex algorithms and machine learning processes that can create entirely new and unique pieces. In some cases, the resulting art may be so far removed from the original works that it becomes difficult to attribute it to any one artist or source. Though we may not have all of the answers yet, we believe that the ethical use of AI in art requires a commitment to transparency, fairness, and respect for artists. 

The Future of AI in Video Game Art

As Brandon says, the future goal of using AI for art should never be to replace human artists, but rather to empower them and expand the range of what’s possible. “I don’t see AI as a way to make educational games cheaper, necessarily,” Brandon explains. “I don’t want AI to be a tool that results in the company not needing a human artist’s time. AI should be additive and expand our services, not reduce them.”

One area where Brandon sees particular potential for AI in the future is in the creation of character assets for educational games. “Take iCivics characters, for example,” he says. “To be able to have a database of those characters that we would be able to put into different styles and time periods would give us a good jumping off point.”

The idea here is that AI could be used to quickly generate variations of existing characters, allowing our artists to explore different visual styles and historical settings without having to start from scratch every time. This could be particularly useful for educational games that span multiple time periods or cultures, as it would allow us to create consistent, recognizable characters while still adapting them to fit the specific context of each game. However, Brandon also acknowledges that there are questions around ownership and rights that would need to be addressed in this scenario as well: “There are questions around ownership of these characters after the games are released, which would depend on the client.”

Ultimately, the use of AI in art will require ongoing dialogue and collaboration between artists, developers, and other stakeholders. We’re committed to being part of that conversation and working towards solutions that prioritize fairness, transparency, and respect for artists. We believe that by approaching AI with thoughtfulness and care, we can harness its potential to boost the creativity of human artists.

If you share our passion for innovation and our commitment to ethical game development, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us today, and let’s explore how we can use the power of AI to create unforgettable learning experiences!

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