In Foamstars, Square Enix’s forthcoming Splatoon-esque multiplayer game, some of the art you’ll see will be AI-generated.
In an interview with VGC, Kosuke Okatani, producer on Foamstars, said that the development team used AI generation tool Midjourney to create in-game art for album covers for the game’s soundtracks but explained that the majority of the game was still made by humans.
“All of the core elements in Foamstars — the core gameplay, and the things that make the game enjoyable — those are all made by hand,” Okatani told VGC. “However, we did want to experiment with AI as well.”
Earlier this year, Square Enix president Takashi Kiryu said in his New Year’s Day letter that Square Enix intends to be “aggressive” in its use of AI in development and publishing.
“In the short term, our goal will be to enhance our development productivity and achieve greater sophistication in our marketing efforts. In the longer term, we hope to leverage those technologies to create new forms of content for consumers, as we believe that technological innovation represents business opportunities,” the letter read.
AI technology has been seeping into game development to mixed reception. Xbox has partnered with Inworld AI to develop tools for developers to generate AI NPCs, quests, and stories. The Finals, a free-to-play multiplayer shooter, was criticized by voice actors for its use of text-to-speech programs to generate voices. Despite the backlash, the game has a mostly positive rating on Steam and is in the top 20 of most played games on the platform.
Earlier this month, SAG-AFTRA signed a deal with Replica Studios, an AI voice software company, that would allow performers to license their voice exclusively with the company for use in video game projects.
While Foamstars’ use of AI is centered on images and not voices, Square Enix’s use of Midjourney to generate the images introduces thorny questions regarding copyright infringement. Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, another popular AI generation tool, are being sued by artists claiming the tools infringe on artists’ rights because the data the tools are trained on is taken from artists without their consent. There’s also additional concern that widespread adoption of AI could exacerbate the ongoing video game labor crisis, as it could put humans out of work.
A Square Enix PR representative further elaborated on Foamstars’ use of AI to VGC: “In this instance, we experimented with Midjourney using simple prompts to produce abstract images. We loved what was created and used them as the final album covers players will see in the game. Everything else was created entirely by our development team.”