The extremely sticky wicket of AI art generation and its impact on multiple creative industries has now hit the higher echelons of Blizzard’s executive tower-dwellers, as company president Mike Ybarra took to Twitter to defend a newly noticed patent filing by Blizzard for an AI art generator of its own.
The patent filing in question was first publicized by GameRant and shared by former Blizzard dev Eric Covington. According to the filing details, the generator takes examples of Blizzard’s signature art style in order to create game textures and then combine them with “a moderate amount of detail,” with the filing providing several visual examples of how the AI generator is intended to work.
The major issue, of course, is that art generators of this kind are very often drawing from wider samples across the internet in order to produce their images, effectively creating an amalgam of stolen artwork. In addition, Covington argues that the Blizzard style turning into something generated by machines goes against its hand-crafted form of polish. “My artist colleagues deserve better. Players deserve better,” wrote Covington. “This is depressing.”
Ybarra argued that this tech is intended to make the lives of Blizzard artists easier, and design manager Brenden Sewell suggested that the generator is no less unethical than a Photoshop filter. “Our approach at Blizzard is to use machine learning and AI in ways that are additive, empathic, and allow our talented teams to spend more time on the highest quality creative thinking and tasks,” Ybarra claims.
However, multiple replies to Ybarra’s tweet raise several issues with his line of thinking, pointing out that the studio could help lighten artist workload by hiring more human artists, calling out the audacity of the company’s demand for workers to return to the in-person work while also replacing those workers with AI, reminding Ybarra of Blizzard’s multiple examples of other anti-worker practices (including Ybarra’s own recent debacle), and further noting that machine learning isn’t actually “learning” anything.
My artist colleagues deserve better. Players deserve better. “Blizzard quality” has always been championed as hand-crafted.
This is depressing. https://t.co/z9kflFyqnf
— Eric Covington (@covingtown) May 4, 2023