Terraforming Mars Publisher Calls AI “Too Powerful” Not to Use

Throughout the year, there’s been ongoing concerns about the use of generative AI across various forms of entertainment such as film and TV. Every industry has their own stance on the matter, and in the case of tabletop games, it’s quite divisive: some in the industry have put restrictions on AI-made products, while others have ended up using it, either intentionally or seemingly on accident.

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But in the case of Stronghold Games, their usage of the technology was completely intentional. The licensor of the Terraforming Mars board game has a Kickstarter for its upcoming More Terraforming Mars expansion which features art made by generative AI alongside the artwork from it and developer FryxGames. Speaking to Polygon, Travis Worthington (president of Stronghold owner Indie Game Studios) defended the use of AI in Mars, saying it was “too powerful a technology” to be ignored. “ I don’t think this is going to go back in the bag. […] It’s something that I think is more widespread than people realize.”

As of late August, Kickstarter created a new policy that required creators to disclose if their campaigns use AI. Beyond the illustrations, Worthington explained that Stronghold used the technology to “generate ideas,” and that FryxGames’ artists were involved in the choice to employ AI. While he admitted to not being sure of the full extent of the technology’s usage (he isn’t involved with Mars’ expansion), he admitted that the art was made using a database of uncredited artists. At the same time, he acknowledged that he’d love to see a consent-based model that offers “some compensation” to human artists) in the future.

Worthington speaks about generative AI as if it’s a necessary evil, or at the very least, an inevitability not worth fighting. Citing Wizards of the Coast’s more explicit enforcement against AI art in their products, he said it would be “impossible to enforce.” Due to the speed of the technology being so iterative, he figures it’s “almost impossible for us to contract with outside artists and have any degree of certainty that they’re not using AI themselves. […] I think it’s gonna be very, very difficult for anyone to determine that AI was not used in any part of the process in developing art.”

Both backers of Mars’ Kickstarter and other tabletop developers have criticized Stronghold and FryxGames use of AI. Until the United States government comes together to create a specific set of rules for how AI can be used and compensate the artists it pulls from, this won’t be the last time a developer uses it and doesn’t pivot their stance on the matter. By Worthington’s admission, the technology is a “cost saver,” and one that the company may end up using again for its future projects.

More Terraforming Mars is expected to release in July 2024. Polygon’s full interview with Travis Worthington can be read here.

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