Apex Legends and EA are in the crosshair from artists after appearing to use AI art to promote the Final Fantasy VII collaboration.
Apex Legends has found itself at the center of an AI art controversy on Twitter alongside a few other big brands. The controversy began when several promo images for the upcoming skins in the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth even in Apex Legends seemed to have very AI-like flaws.
Although the use of AI art can be incredibly cost-effective and time-saving, the use if it by high profile gaming companies remains frowned upon by the gaming community at large.
Why do people think the promo art is AI?
While there has been no official response by EA to the promo art being AI generated, the flaws in the artwork are very typical of AI. Hands are notoriously difficult for AI tools to replicate, predominately because there is less reference photos and datasets for the AI to draw from.
In the promo art for Valkyrie posing as Yuffie from FF7, we can see both of her fingers are warped, as highlighted below. Her right hand has a melting-like aesthetic, a very common problem for AI art as it tries to blend together its reference material. This melting can also be seen on the two belts across her chest.
We can see the same issues with the hands on the promo art for Wraith's Tifa skin.
The second promo art image from EA to draw scrutiny was the alternate Yuffie costume. We see a costume for Apex Legends' Wattson this time, which seems to very clearly draw inspiration from Final Fantasy Yuffie.
Yuffie is a playable character in the DLC for Final Fantasy Remake. For the first hour or so of the game, she is wearing a rather obscure Mog-themed cloak (pictured below). Long-time Final Fantasy fans will be very familiar with Mogs as they appear throughout the franchise. However, an AI could be forgiven for being thrown off by the reference when it came to recreating it.
After completing the tutorial section of the DLC, Yuffie discards the mantle to reveal her iconic green crop top and shorts she wears in the original Final Fantasy 7. This means that for an AI there is a very limited source material to use and the hood design of Yuffie's cloak is rather obscure.
In addition, the "Mog" on her sleeve doesn't look human-made but more a bout of confusion from the AI. Plus, Wattson's Final Fantasy themed backpack for some reason has USB ports and the typical melting AI aesthetic we mentioned earlier.
Apex Legends AI Art callout part of a bigger trend
The reaction to the potential use of AI to create the promo art for Apex is not new. The callout is part of a bigger trend wherein large brands face accusations of using AI art in their marketing campaigns.
Alongside Apex Legends, Wacom and Wizards of the Coast's Magic: The Gathering have also attracted attention. While Wizards of the Coast did initially reply denying it was AI on January 4:
"We understand confusion by fans given the style being different than card art, but we stand by our previous statement. This art was created by humans and not AI."
They later issued a statement saying they had made a mistake and did in fact have "AI components":
"Well, we made a mistake earlier when we said that a marketing image we posted was not created using AI. As you, our diligent community pointed out, it looks like some AI components that are now popping up in industry standard tools like Photoshop crept into our marketing creative, even if a human did the work to create the overall image.
While the art came from a vendor, it’s on us to make sure that we are living up to our promise to support the amazing human ingenuity that makes Magic great. We already made clear that we require artists, writers, and creatives contributing to the Magic TCG to refrain from using AI generative tools to create final Magic products."
Square Enix CEO's comments on AI in game development
While the incidents aren't necessarily connected, Apex Legends got caught using AI right after the Square Enix CEO announced his intent to go "aggressive" with AI in game development. Coincidentally, some of the images Apex Legends used to promote the upcoming Final Fantasy collaboration are causing the accusations.
Final Fantasy is a series developed by Square Enix and some users are bound to connect the dots here. Neither developers nor players have taken kindly to Takashi Kiryu's comments. It appears even the players appreciate the human element of art in video games.
It appears the artist who originally called out Apex Legends for using AI has deleted their post. It also appears Apex Legends has deleted the incriminating media because it doesn't appear anywhere on their official properties.
More and more video game developers are facing criticism for using AI art to promote their products. Recently Ubisoft also faced flak from players for using AI art to promote Assassin's Creed Mirage. Neither players nor artists appreciate this new wave of AI art, and they've made their emotions clear on the subject. This discourse has also emerged amidst a series of industry-wide mass layoffs as part of which many artists and designers lost their jobs as game developers.
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