In a Reddit post spotted by games industry veteran Simon Carless, a developer recounted submitting an early version of a game to Steam with a few “fairly obviously AI generated” assets which they said they planned to improve by hand in a later build.
In response, they were told the game could not be approved unless the developer could prove to Valve that they owned all the necessary rights.
Valve has moved to clarify its stance on games with AI-created content.
Responding to last week’s incident, Valve has issued a statement to VGC claiming that its “goal is not to discourage the use of [games built with AI] on Steam” and that any action it’s taken was “a reflection of current copyright law and policies, not an added layer of our opinion.”
“We are continuing to learn about AI, the ways it can be used in game development, and how to factor it in to our process for reviewing games submitted for distribution on Steam,” it wrote. “Our priority, as always, is to try to ship as many of the titles we receive as we can.”
“After reviewing, we have identified intellectual property in [Game Name Here] which appears to belongs to one or more third parties,” Valve said. “In particular, [Game Name Here] contains art assets generated by artificial intelligence that appears to be relying on copyrighted material owned by third parties.
“As the legal ownership of such AI-generated art is unclear, we cannot ship your game while it contains these AI-generated assets, unless you can affirmatively confirm that you own the rights to all of the IP used in the data set that trained the AI to create the assets in your game.”
Valve said it was failing the build and would give the developer a single opportunity to remove all content they didn’t own the rights to before resubmitting it.
The developer said they then improved the assets in question by hand “so there were no longer any obvious signs of AI”, but after resubmitting the game it was again rejected.
“We cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights,” Valve said. “At this time, we are declining to distribute your game since it’s unclear if the underlying AI tech used to create the assets has sufficient rights to the training data.”
Like professionals in other creative fields, an increasing number of developers are using AI to help create their games. But the rapid uptake of generative AI tools trained on human-made art scraped from the web has raised copyright issues that didn’t previously exist.
While it remains a grey area in much of the world, with governments, artists and companies deliberating how best to move forward, Japan recently declared that using datasets for training AI models doesn’t violate copyright law. As reported by Decrypt, the decision means that model trainers can use publicly available data without having to secure permission from the data owners.
The Steam developer said they were confused by Valve’s decision to reject their game, especially given the availability of some titles on the PC marketplace which clearly use AI generated assets.
One such title is This Girl Does Not Exist (pictured above), which was released last September by Cute Pen Games, which bills it as “the first game of its kind” due to its complete reliance on AI. “Everything you will see here, including art, story, characters, and even voice-over, was generated by machine learning AI,” reads the product description.
“So it seems like Valve doesn’t really have a standard approach to AI generated games yet, and I’ve seen several games up that even explicitly mention the use of AI,” the developer said.
“But at the moment at least, they seem wary, and not willing to publish AI generated content, so I guess for any other devs on here, be wary of that.”
VGC has contacted Valve to request more information about its policies on Steam games featuring AI generated content.