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Een bericht gedeeld door Semi Co-op (@semicoop)

If you missed the hubbub this weekend on social media, the current Kickstarter campaign for more Terraforming Mars expansions uses AI art. While it aesthetically might be better than the old stock photos, it caused a whole list of board game industry people (and content creators) to let the world know they are very much against this sort of thing. A Polgyon interview with Travis Worthington of Indie Game Studios shows how the studio will continue to use AI, so it seems the last word about this topic hasn’t been said yet.

The most interesting take we saw was the one of Kyle Ferrin, illustrator of Root, on BlueSky that since game rules and AI art cannot be copyrighted you might be able to steal and publish large parts of the expansion. In practice, it wouldn’t be that easy since Indie Game Studio mentions none of the artwork will be fully generated by AI but we thought it would be exactly the sort of thing Lion would think of. So with permission, we copied Kyle’s take and added more talking animals!

Speaking of talking animals, we played the full-production version of Almost Innocent this week. We really enjoyed our time with a preproduction copy last year and we’re glad to say it’s still a lot of fun. The first scenario is nice and easy, which was perfect for a low-energy game night and the reveal at the end is still kind of a magic trick when you pull it off. We did get the feeling the difficulty between scenarios ramps less in the final version than in the prototype but there are a lot of extra little additions that might make us eat those words once we get to those scenarios.

We were also invited to the 999 Games VIP evening. For those who don’t know, 999 Games is the Dutch market leader of board games, and also has the scariest logo of all time, and publishes mostly family-oriented games like Catan, Carcassonne, and Wingspan. We got to meet a lot of Dutch and Belgian board game media people, which is nice because we have more contacts on the English/U.S. side of things. We got to play games with Board Game Brothers, Rood met Witte Stippen, Alles Over Speelgoed, Move the Robber, Bordspelmania, Nox en Bord voor je Kop. We ended up playing Inside Job, a fun semi-co-operative trick-taking game, Exoplanet, a ‘racing’ game about harvesting minerals on an exoplanet, and The White Castle, a dice placer from the team that also did Red Cathedral. Rachel also watched some rounds of Atiwa and said it looked like a classic Uwe worker placement game.

This week we have someone staying over, so we have to see how much game time we’ll have, if we don’t have time we can at least get excited about SPIEL which is coming in just two weeks!

What do you think of AI art in games?

If you’re talking about DIYing your own version of the expansion for personal use, that’s always been allowed.

If you’re talking about trying to undercut them by creating and selling copies of the expansion, you still have some major issues: Games are only really profitable due to economies of scale, you’d likely take a loss unless you can sell a TON of them. Further, the name “terraforming mars” is still trademarked so you couldn’t use that anywhere on your box or marketing. Given that this product is exclusively for people who already own the base game of TM, its going to be hard to sell and communicate that without using those words.

Further, no artists have been sidelined here. TM is created by a bunch of multitalented people at a family-owned game studio. All of the art for all the TM games in the past has been made by this studio, and the decision to use AI art was made by the artists at that studio, and presumably their pay or profit share within the company is completely unaffected by this decision.

But keep talking about stuff you don’t understand at all, its actually really entertaining

I have yet to see AI art that looks great when taking a second look. It might get better in the years to come but right now it doesn’t satisfy me. Art is an important part of a board game to me. It creates atmosphere. AI art feels more like a placeholder.

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