The issue first took off when Polygon released the full transcript of its interview with Travis Worthington, one of the creative leads for the new expansion and the president of Stronghold owner Indie Game Studios. Stronghold games is running the “More Terraforming Mars Kickstarter,” which is nearly at the $2 million mark.
In the Facebook video, Fryxelius iterated that his brother, Isaac Fryxelius, has been generating the artwork using AI and that nobody has lost their job or is being replaced by AI. He did state that “illustrators will lose jobs… and there’s no way to turn back time on this [technology].” The Fryxelius family is very much a huge part of FryxGames, and you can see the numerous brothers and sisters involved on its Story page.
According to Polygon’s update, Fryxelius seems to be mostly repeating what Worthington said. He doesn’t attempt to deal with the ethics of using AI, nor does he consider the long-term impact beyond “some illustrators will lose their jobs,” which feels like an incredibly limited view on what AI generators might be capable of in a few years. The problem is never whether or not a tool is capable of quality; the problem is that AI is an ethical and copyright nightmare, and companies need to focus on providing time and money to artists to allow them to work sustainably.
Fryxelius mentioned that the next game, “a co-operative Viking game called Fates,” has art by a “Western illustrator,” emphasizing that the company spared no expense in making sure it was paying a living wage to the people in charge of those drawings: “We have paid tens of thousands of dollars to have those illustrations made. And not even by some East European illustrator or Asian illustrator, but actually by Western—someone living in the Western world will be doing all the illustrations. That is crazy expensive.” (The way he mentions Asian and Eastern European artists feels very odd, and would not have been my choice of words.) This illustrator is also his sister, so that might have impacted why he was encouraged to pay her a decent rate.
But again, the next product is “100% human-made graphics.” No sign of changing his mind, but at least they aren’t repeating the process.
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