April Fools’ Joke led to complete character art overhaul

Two days ago crew in ΔV: Rings of Saturn were programmer art that looked like this.

Today, they are still programmer art, but now they look like this.

…and it all happened because of an April Fools’ joke.

How could that happen?

Two days ago I thought of a small joke – I figured I can easily replace crew portraits with some AI-generated fury characters. I figured that rather than using GIMP to try to emulate all the shaders and post-processing game uses, it would be much simpler to just replace textures. I did, and it actually turn out pretty decent:

For a five-minute work it turned out really well.

It was good looking and pretty decent, and we had a good laugh – but then I thought – why not check how human, AI-generated portraits would look like?

I fired up Artbreeder and began playing with settings. You have a lot of options, but one that I found really useful is to take a “parent” image and base all the changes on it. You can tell the system to use the style of the image you picked, while changing the content. You pick “genes” to get the kind of portrait you need:

All the images you see in this post are descendants of a single portrait.

After a bit of fiddling I was astonished. AI can be told to make a single-color background – and while it’s far from perfect, couple of hours later I had 256 portraits:

It required some human moderation, but the results were astonishing. With every 3 images AI made, at least two were in publishable quality. With a single color background it was pretty easy to add an alpha channel and plug it into the game. Some models required minor adjustments, but after just 15 hours I had a complete overhaul ready.

None of the persons on photos actually exists – these are all AI generated images, all under Public Domain and can be freely used in any type of project.

This is how the game looks today.

There was an unexpected bonus: all generated images have eyes and nose in exactly the same coordinates, making in-game composition a breeze.

What did that teach me?

  • Do events! Nothing would happen if I didn’t do this April Fools’ joke.
  • Experiment with new technology – you can find unexpected workflows.
  • AI is terrifyingly effective in drawing portraits in all kinds of styles.

Leave a Reply