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Valve appear to be banning games with AI art on Steam (updated)

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Update 01/07/2023 - Valve sent over a statement here's what they said:

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. Our priority, as always, is to try to ship as many of the titles we receive as we can. The introduction of AI can sometimes make it harder to show a developer has sufficient rights in using AI to create assets, including images, text, and music. In particular, there is some legal uncertainty relating to data used to train AI models. It is the developer's responsibility to make sure they have the appropriate rights to ship their game.

We know it is a constantly evolving tech, and our goal is not to discourage the use of it on Steam; instead, we're working through how to integrate it into our already-existing review policies. Stated plainly, our review process is a reflection of current copyright law and policies, not an added layer of our opinion.  As these laws and policies evolve over time, so will our process.

We welcome and encourage innovation, and AI technology is bound to create new and exciting experiences in gaming. While developers can use these AI technologies in their work with appropriate commercial licenses, they can not infringe on existing copyrights.

Lastly, while App-submission credits are usually non-refundable, we're more than happy to offer them in these cases as we continue to work on our review process.

Original article below:

Here's an interesting one on Steam publishing for you. Valve appear to be clamping down on AI art used in games due to the murky legal waters. AI art is such a huge topic of discussion everywhere right now, as is other forms of "AI" like ChatGPT and it's just — everywhere. I can't seem to get away from talk on it from people for and against it.

In a post on Reddit, a developer who tried to release their game on Steam got word back from Valve that they have denied listing it. Here's what they sent the developer:


While we strive to ship most titles submitted to us, we cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights.

After reviewing, we have identified intellectual property in [Game Name Here] which appears to belongs to one or more third parties. 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.

We are failing your build and will give you one (1) opportunity to remove all content that you do not have the rights to from your build.

If you fail to remove all such content, we will not be able to ship your game on Steam, and this app will be banned.

That developer mentioned they tweaked the artwork, so it wasn't so obviously AI generated and spoke to Valve again but Valve once again rejected it noting:


Thank you for your patience as we reviewed [Game Name Here] and took our time to better understand the AI tech used to create it. Again, while we strive to ship most titles submitted to us, we cannot ship games for which the developer does not have all of the necessary rights. 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.

App credits are usually non-refundable, but we’d like to make an exception here and offer you a refund. Please confirm and we’ll proceed.


Given the current issues with AI art and how it's generated, this really seems like a no-brainer for Valve to deny publishing games that have AI art unless the developers of the games can prove fully they own the full rights. Their own guidelines are pretty clear on it, developers cannot publish games on Steam they don't have "adequate rights" to.

That said, this is a difficult topic to fully address. With the tools Valve will be using to flag these games, how will they be dealing with false positives? It's not likely Valve will be individually personally going over every game with a human checking it, and algorithms can be problematic. It's going to be interesting to see how this develops over time. Seems like more developers will need to have everything they need ready to ensure they can prove ownership of all artwork.

I've reached out to Valve to see if they have any comments on it to share.

What do you think about this? Let me know in the comments.

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elmapul Jun 30, 2023
i have mixed feelings about AI Art, but yeah i agree with that ban.

in general i dont like not from the asthetic point of view (its almost always an inferior uncanny version of another art) and of course from the ethical point of view (most artists didnt agree with their art being used).

if an AI Could solve those 2 problems, then im all for it, we arent there yet, so its a nono.

one of the exceptions that i give is for things like AI-Upscaling, i dont like when people throw an anime OP in an AI to upscale it, it usually destroy the animation even if its not obvious , but for individual images and a bit of curation it can work fine, or for gaming or other stuff.

i think the plagiarism is the main argument to be against AI in game development

Last edited by elmapul on 30 June 2023 at 8:42 am UTC
StoneColdSpider Jun 30, 2023
Are Steam really going to put Kryten out of a job???......
ssj17vegeta Jun 30, 2023
This is going to be really troublesome.

As opposed as I am to using AI to replace artists (especially for big companies who can definitely afford hiring them), how do they check ?

Tomorrow, if I publish a game on Steam, what prevents them from banning me ? Do I have to show them the PSDs of the bitmap assets ? Do I have to record myself drawing it ?

Also, seing the size of the Steam library, how will they check all the games that come out ? Do they manually play all of them, looking at ALL the assets ? Will they require a special build just for them, showing all the non-encrypted assets ?

Or, as I suspect, will they use bots (oh, the irony) or other unreliable programs such as the ones that check if a text was written by Chat-GPT.

I see the (good) intention behind this, but I see no positive outcome for them or the devs.
artixbtw Jun 30, 2023
Good! As long as it only gets rid of shovelware games that 100% rely on generated art (that literally anyone can create for their own enjoyment for free!), I find this to be a great change. Edit: After re-reading it, that game sounded to be more promising than that...

Of course, as long as the policy isn't going to be super nitpicky and bring down indie games 10+ years in the making just because a part of the landscape or something was confirmed to be AI-generated.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against AI-generated art, but relying on it to this extent kind of implies that the project is most likely a lazy cash grab.

Still, many training models are based on nothing but copyrighted art, and at the same time, the ruling was decided to make AI-generated art public domain... what a crazy and quickly evolving world we live in.

Edit: Yeah, too excessive. Why not combat endless adult games with no original art whatsoever instead?

Last edited by artixbtw on 30 June 2023 at 9:55 am UTC
Koopacabras Jun 30, 2023
it has to be proved yet in court if AI is plagiarism or not.. but there's some hints about it
Ehvis 8 years Jun 30, 2023
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Quoting: ssj17vegetaI see the (good) intention behind this, but I see no positive outcome for them or the devs.

I don't think there is much of an "intention" here. The whole AI and "rights" thing seems to be in legal limbo right now and I can imagine that Valve just doesn't want to get burned by it until it's resolved.
Klaas Jun 30, 2023
It's the right thing to do. All things that AI (in the sense of machine learning) can do is derivative. Nothing original can be produced if external training data is used.

If the AI was trained only with data produced by the the game's creator, then it would be only derivative of the developer and therefore okay to publish, but that would be a huge amount of work.
hardpenguin Jun 30, 2023
Yes, this is good. Gotta get rid of the AI generated images (it is difficult to call it art).
Pengling Jun 30, 2023
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Quoting: StoneColdSpiderAre Steam really going to put Kryten out of a job???......
Top marks for a perfect Red Dwarf reference! (Kryten is, of course, part of Pengling's Robot Army. )

Quoting: hardpenguin(it is difficult to call it art)
It sure can be funny, though!
Eike Jun 30, 2023
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Quoting: hardpenguinYes, this is good. Gotta get rid of the AI generated images (it is difficult to call it art).

It's obvious that this will not happen, right?

I do understand - and share - such feelings, but in the end, it's like trying to get rid of photos in the early stages of photography because they're "not art".
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