In recent years, there’s been no escaping the ever-growing influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Nowadays, it seems that every company under the sun is jumping on this bandwagon that’s only becoming more influential. Despite this, corporate popularity, however, the use of AI is still a deeply controversial topic. This is especially true when it comes to AI art, even more so within the world of MTG.
As we’ve written about previously, multiple AI programs are more than capable of making rather impressive artworks. Due to this, it’s easy to think that the profit-hungry behemoth of Hasbro may utilize the technology for MTG. Potentially taking jobs away from MTG’s beloved roster of artists, this prospect has consistently angered and concerned MTG players.
Unfortunately, however, the fears of players seem to have finally been realized. Across social media, Wizards of the Coast is being called out for seemingly using AI art for MTG, and players aren’t happy, to say the least.
Deleted, But Not Forgotten
Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast revealed a brand new crossover with the Tomb Raider franchise. Despite the relentless pace of Universes Beyond releases, somewhat unsurprisingly, this has been very well received by players. Not only does the art and flavor look good, but the value of the upcoming Secret Lair looks great too!
By ticking all the boxes, this upcoming collaboration seems like a slam dunk, however, not everyone is happy. This is thanks to an advertisement for the Secret Lair, which was released by Wizards on Twitter. As seen above, thanks to a speedy screenshot, the image used looked somewhat off, causing alarm bells to ring.
Scrutinizing the image, MTG players on Reddit and Twitter soon realized the problem, Wizards appears to have used AI art. Specifically, AI seemed to have been used to create the background room, rather than the Secret Lair artwork itself. Despite this being a rather minor detail, MTG players were nonetheless displayed, not hesitating to call Wizards out.
Miraculously, shortly after being called out, Wizards took action, deleting the post rather quickly. In its place, there is now a new promotional image, which is more typical for Secret Lair releases. While this change had been made, the damage was already done and MTG players weren’t just going to forgive and forget.
“The art sucks and the ad is bad as a result. AI in a nutshell.”u/deadwings112
“A brand known for its art already using AI this recklessly is very telling of the future. Corp greed is gonna level everything at the lowest level.”@GuiTome
Continuing to call Wizards out, MTG players haven’t let up in their criticism. Hopefully, through this, Wizards will have learned their lesson and won’t repeat this mistake in the future. While this is the hope, unfortunately, Wizards should already have known their lesson. Miraculously, this isn’t even the first time WIzards has landed itself in AI-induced hot water.
Should Have Known Better
Back in August, Wizards of the Coast previewed the Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants. In theory, this should have delighted players and built plenty of hype, however, one detail stood out. It appeared that the sourcebook featured AI-generated artwork.
Produced by longstanding D&D artist Ilya Shkipin, this detail immediately kicked off what would become a major controversy. Much like MTG, the art in Dungeons & Dragons is held in incredibly high regard, so players didn’t take this lightly. Lambasting the artwork and its telltale AI-generated signs, players understandably wanted it changed.
Thankfully, less than a week later, Wizards would respond to concerned players, issuing an apology. Stating they are “revising our process and updating our artist guidelines,” Wizards was emphatic in their dismissal of AI art. Due to this, you would think that Wizards would never cross paths with AI art in the future.
Obviously, despite their past apology and lessons learned, Wizards has utilized AI art themselves. Even if it’s just in marketing material, this is nonetheless a major step in the wrong direction, as Wizards did this themselves. That being said, however, without a format statement from Wizards, we don’t know exactly why this happened.
On social media, many MTG fans are presuming this AI art was simply created by an intern who didn’t know any better. Hopefully, this is the case, as one alternative is that Wizards have consciously changed their attitude towards AI art. Considering the recent and ongoing backlash, this possibility won’t be the case, however, we don’t know for sure.
Whatever the reason behind using this AI artwork to promote the Secret Lair, Wizards has not yet issued a statement or apology.
How Can You Tell?
Since first exploding onto the scene, AI-generated art has definitely gotten a lot better. That being said, however, there are still some telltale signs that give away in involvement of AI. Previously, a glaring fault of AI was its remarkable inability to create realistic hands and skin texture. For better or worse, however, most AI programs have evolved multiple generations since then.
Despite the improvements that have been made, the recent Secret Lair promotional image still has several glaring, easily identifiable faults. For starters, the perspective of the entire image is slightly off, making it immediately stand out. Similarly, the colors are inconsistent, which you wouldn’t expect from authentic human art.
As if these glaring faults weren’t enough already, there are several individual elements that look decidedly wonky. The game controllers, for example, look completely out of place and weirdly melty. Alongside this, smaller details like the table legs stand out for being mismatched or simply missing. While AI generation can be good initially, it can often evidently fall down with the more obscure details.
Technically, without confirmation from Wizards about how this image was made, we don’t know for sure that this is AI-generated. That being said, however, there are a lot of telltale signs, and the fact the post was removed speaks volumes. Thanks to this, MTG players across social media remain convinced this was indeed AI art. Hopefully, this is something we won’t see again in the future, however, we’ll just have to wait and see for that.