The Palworld AI art controversy sparked when artists and Pokemon fans noticed resemblance between the Pals in the game and Pokemon. Fans claim the Pals look like artificially created designs
Pocketpair's latest game, Palworld, has taken the gaming world by storm, securing the top spot as the most played game on Steam. Despite being in its early access phase, the game has already surpassed some significant titles, including Baldur's Gate 3 and Counter Strike 2, to become the most sought-after game amongst players. However, the game's incredible success has also led to some criticism, with a few artists and Pokemon enthusiasts questioning its ethics and originality.
Palworld is a monster collector game. The game was dubbed “Pokemon with Guns,” and that alone brought forward a lot of curious players. The game itself boasts graphics that outshine some of Pokemon’s recent entries. In Palworld, your character is stranded on an island where you can catch the critters living on the land. You can put these Pals to work, battle with them, battle using them and even eat them.
The game was a fresh take on a monster collector and some much needed competition for Pokemon. However, this competition has stirred up some massive controversy in both the gaming and art community. Palworld has been accused of stealing concepts of their critters and environment from Pokemon. The developers have also been charged with using AI art to create their models or create Fakemons (Fake Pokemon). We will be looking into all that we know about this controversy in this article.
The Similarities to Pokemon
The moment Palworld was announced, it was immediately compared to Pokemon. The game’s launch resurfaced these opinions. Being a monster collector, the game is understandably similar to Pokemon gameplay-wise. It even added multiple new mechanics that the Pokemon games never had, separating the game from the mega-franchise.
However, this time, the game was not just compared to Pokemon games, but the Pals of Palworld were directly accused of being rip-offs of iconic Pokemon.
The developers of the game are being accused of stealing Pokemon designs and tweaking them slightly to make them look different.
since I'm bored as hell, I'm gonna be making a thread of this i think… Palworld design analysis trying to spot every pokemon they jumbled together pic.twitter.com/Ch9jcx5hCI
— onion_mu (@onion_mu) January 18, 2024
Twitter (now X) user @onion_mu took it upon themselves to point out multiple Pals sharing features with Pokemon. They have also pointed out how some of the designs are reminiscent of fan art from the Pokemon community.
The game also has a few areas that look exactly like areas in Pokemon. Twitter user @cactusrolling points out such an area in their post.
They aint even hiding it pic.twitter.com/aNLUPITgR0
— Rolling Cactus (@CactusRolling) January 19, 2024
Palworld and AI Art
The significant similarities between Pals and Pokemon has led fans to believe that these Pals are AI (artificial intelligence) generated. The claims come not just because of the similarities in design but also because of Pocketpair’s past works.
Pocketpair had previously released an “Art Imposter” game where multiple AI art pieces were created. Players had to figure out which piece of artwork was made by a person and what was made using AI.
Pocketpair’s lead developer is also a massive enthusiast of AI art, regularly posting different AI art pieces on their Twitter account. He had even posted about creating AI-generated Pokemon and stated there are no differences between actual Pokemon designs and AI designs.
→右 本物のポケモン（イルミーゼ、ミノマダム、ハリーセン、カリキリ） pic.twitter.com/PL6ikWhlFU
— Takuro Mizobe | Craftopia, Palworld (@urokuta_ja) December 15, 2021
The AI accusations are also very believable among the community, as there are many designs that look eerily similar to AI-generated Pokemon.
AI-generated Pokemon usually take the features of one Pokemon and mix them with the features of another Pokemon. The accusations also extend further than just Pokemon. The game is also accused of stealing other forms of media like anime. One of the poster Pals of Palworld is Grizzbolt, who Twitter users have claimed looks eerily similar to My Neighbor Totoro but with Gengar’s face slapped on him.
here's the CEO of Pocketpair talking about using AI to bypass copyright, generating fakemons with it, calling AI: Art Imposter a real-time image generation game, and being excited for games powered by GPT-4 pic.twitter.com/79xwZr0yEI
— Zaytri 🍉 #StrikeForPalestine (@imZaytri) January 19, 2024
Twitter user @Zaytri delves further into this topic, pointing out multiple issues with Pocketpair.
According to Pocketpair's CEO, a recent graduate managed to create approximately one hundred distinct Pal designs in a remarkably short period of time. The CEO further claimed that this talented individual produced an extraordinary number of unique characters at an astonishing pace, resulting in a significant body of work. However, this impressive feat has been met with skepticism from some Fakemon artists on Twitter, who find it hard to believe that so many original designs could be created in such a short amount of time.
The Problem with Using AI Art
AI art has been viewed as a problem since it started becoming mainstream. This is because AI art does not generate art out of nowhere. The generators usually scour the internet for multiple art pieces that fit into the prompt it is provided with—the generator then splices an artist’s work. It then adds details from another piece from another creator to create the final image.
The generator, therefore, does not create its own form of art but rather plagiarizes other media to create its piece. The artists are not even referred to in the final product, let alone compensated for their hard work. Multiple creators have said their piece on how some random AI art generator site stole their artwork without permission.
AI art, therefore, creates an issue among aspiring artists. Not only are their pieces being stolen, but they are not being hired for doing work. Artists are losing jobs to AI art generators as people can receive similar works of art for free or a fraction of the price.
This is why Palworld’s accusations have reached such heights. Artists claim that the development team just prompted AI generators to do their work instead of hiring actual game artists. Not only that, but the designs that the game already has look like straight up copies of Pokemon instead of original designs. AI generators are notorious for doing the same thing when they are asked to create a Pokemon—the generators create a result that is close to the original but not exactly it.
Palworld is a video game that has gained immense popularity among gaming enthusiasts. However, it has also been plagued with controversy due to its alleged use of artificially generated content. While some players argue that the game is enjoyable and that the source of the content is irrelevant, others believe that using AI to create models is unethical and have called for a boycott of the game. The debate surrounding the ethics of AI-generated content in video games is ongoing, with both sides presenting valid arguments and perspectives.