Retro games with modern graphics – using AI

Retro games with modern graphics – using AI

We’re already seeing a real revolutions in retro gaming via emulation. Preservation of old hardware is important, but it’s also seen as almost impossible task as devices mass produced to only last 5-10 years in the consumer market reach decades of age. Failure rates will eventually reach 100% over enough time (unless people re-create the hardware). But with modern emulators, you can still play all the different games on modern hardware.

On a separate development note, we’ve also seen graphics effects like anti-aliasing and upscaling get the AI treatment. Instead of hand-coded anti-aliasing kernels, they can be generated automatically by AI and the results are now included in all major hardware vendors.

But what about the very graphics content itself? Retro game art has it’s own charm, but what if we gave it the AI treatment too?

Jay Alammar wanted to see what he could achieve by pumping in some retro game graphics from the MSX game Nemesis 2 (Gradius) into Stable Diffusion, Dall-E, and Midjourney art generators. He presents a lot of interesting experiments and conclusions. He used various features like in-painting, out-painting, Dream Studio and all kinds of other ideas to see what he could come up with.

The hand-picked results were pretty great:

He even went so far as to convert the original opening sequence to use the new opening graphics here:

I think this opens up a whole new idea. What if you replaced the entire game graphics elements with updated AI graphics? The results would essentially just become a themed re-skinning with no gameplay (or even level changes), but this definitely brings up the idea of starting your re-theming for new levels (fire levels, ice levels, space levels, etc) by auto-generating the graphics.

Then it brings up the non-art idea of re-theming the gameplay itself – possibly using AI generated movement or gameplay rules. Friction, gravity, jump height, etc – could all be given different models (Mario style physics, Super Meat Boy physics, slidy ice-level physics) and then let the AI come up with the gravity, bounce, jump parameters.

Interesting times…

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