AI Art Generator Used to Make Bullet Hell Video Game

Shoon is a recently released side scrolling shmup that is fairly unremarkable, except for one quirk: it’s made entirely with art created by Midjourney, an AI system that generates images from text prompts written by users.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/88qxkv/ai-art-generator-used-to-make-bullet-hell-video-game
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It somehow looks less shitty and more shitty than I would have imagined at the exact same time.

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It would be more computationally expensive then any indie could realistically afford but I read the title and thought the art was generated on each playthrough.

As in at the start instead of picking your ship you instead get some words to pick from. Whatever you pick the generator spits out your unique ship for that run. Same for enemies and background art.

But my understanding is a lot of these generators are running on cloud tech that costs a good deal each month just to keep hosted.

I have a weird dilemma: I have deep concerns with how machine learning and the vague buzzword “AI” is often pitched as a replacement for labor force, but at the same time, I am often fascinated by the bizarre and surreal things these algorithms generate. There’s something uncanny about them that tickles some part of my brain.

That said, this project doesn’t really give me those vibes. On one hand, I think it’s cool if a small developer who can’t make art or music or whatever can kind of get something generated that works for them, but on the other hand, I think it’s probably not an ideal solution for most if not all projects.

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My 2c is that this technology should absolutely not be used for commercial products unless all artists scraped have given consent. I’ll avoid games or any form of media that uses it.

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A game that uses entirely AI to generate their art being bad or mediocre is just the cherry on top of the questionable ethics sundae.

I’m very much with Sputnik here, the methodology used makes the intellectual rights incredibly muddy.
Because it’s an opaque algorithm there’s - as far as I know - hardly a way to compile and credit the hundreds of artists this algorithm is fed to promptly warp and remix together, and largely bc of this I would not want to touch or encourage this application of this technology.

It’s soulless and cynical at best, a thieving grift with a dire disregard for art at worst…

PS: For any practical uses of this stuff I would want to relegate it to an unseen tool, something concept artists could use to photobash detailed images quickly and work off as a very loose reference to nail down original works, not something that should ever be used in actual production when artists works are being fed into it non-consensually.

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So what’s interesting and worth talking about is the copyright surrounding non-human generated art is something that has already been brought up in courts.

There’s the famous case of the British photographer who created a scenario that allowed a group of endangered monkeys in Indonesia to take selfies.

This led to the U.S. Copyright Office having to make clear what kind of entity can create something that falls under official U.S. copyright:

In determining whether a work is copyrightable, the Office analyzes questions such as:
• Is the work eligible for copyright protection in the United States?
• Has the work been fixed in a tangible medium of expression?
• Was the work created by a human author?
• Does the work constitute copyrightable subject matter?
• Is the work sufficiently original?
• Was the work independently created?
• Does the work possess at least some minimal degree of creativity?

If the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” the work is copyrightable and the claim
may be registered, as long as there are no other issues in the registration materials that
raise questions concerning the claim and as long as the other legal and formal
requirements have been met.

306 The Human Authorship Requirement
The U.S. Copyright Office will register an original work of authorship, provided that the
work was created by a human being.
The copyright law only protects “the fruits of intellectual labor” that “are founded in the
creative powers of the mind.” Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82, 94 (1879). Because
copyright law is limited to “original intellectual conceptions of the author,” the Office
will refuse to register a claim if it determines that a human being did not create the
work. Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 58 (1884). For representative
examples of works that do not satisfy this requirement, see Section 313.2 below.

313.2 Works That Lack Human Authorship
As discussed in Section 306, the Copyright Act protects “original works of authorship.”
17 U.S.C. § 102(a) (emphasis added). To qualify as a work of “authorship” a work must
be created by a human being. See Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co., 111 U.S. at 58. Works
that do not satisfy this requirement are not copyrightable.
The U.S. Copyright Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants.
Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or
supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or
the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.
Examples:
• A photograph taken by a monkey.
• A mural painted by an elephant.
• A claim based on the appearance of actual animal skin.
• A claim based on driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by
the ocean.
• A claim based on cut marks, defects, and other qualities found in
natural stone.
• An application for a song naming the Holy Spirit as the author of the
work.

Similarly, the Office will not register works produced by a machine or mere mechanical
process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author. The crucial question is “whether the ‘work’ is basically one of human authorship, with the computer [or other device] merely being an assisting instrument, or whether the traditional elements of authorship in the work (literary, artistic, or musical expression or elements of selection, arrangement, etc.)
were actually conceived and executed not by man but by a machine.” U.S. COPYRIGHT
OFFICE, REPORT TO THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS BY THE REGISTER OF COPYRIGHTS 5 (1966).

Examples:
• Reducing or enlarging the size of a preexisting work of authorship.
• Making changes to a preexisting work of authorship that are
dictated by manufacturing or materials requirements.
• Converting a work from analog to digital format, such as
transferring a motion picture from VHS to DVD.
• Declicking or reducing the noise in a preexisting sound recording or
converting a sound recording from monaural to stereo sound.
• Transposing a song from B major to C major.
• Medical imaging produced by x-rays, ultrasounds, magnetic
resonance imaging, or other diagnostic equipment.
• A claim based on a mechanical weaving process that randomly
produces irregular shapes in the fabric without any discernible
pattern.

With these guidelines I would be led to believe that any “AI” generated art is therefore public domain and has no authorship. Meaning yes you could use it in a product but it also means anyone else can as well which no company operation under capitalism wants and I’m going to wager would rather pay artists poverty wages to at least claim ownership of the art.

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The legal matters seem relatively settled here (though its possible use of these images has a license underneath it?), and even with that, the product in question is effectively impossible to identify with any authors from the scraping process. I think what other folks are expressing is more of a concern over how that scraping is acquired and how these giga-dataset systems essentially are working off of data taken without the author’s consent, which is ethically dubious.

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