The recent artificial intelligence boom has led to the world of video game mods. AI fans discovered that machine learning is the perfect tool to upgrade classic video game graphics.
The technique is known as “AI upscaling,” in which you feed an algorithm a low-resolution image, resulting in a version that resembles that same but has more pixels in it. While upscaling as a general technique has been around for quite some time, the AI use has improved the speed and quality of results.
“It was like witchcraft,” says Daniel Trolie, a teacher and student from Norway. “[It] looked like I just downloaded a hi-res texture pack from [game developers] Bethesda themselves.”
Trolie is a moderator at the r/GameUpscale subreddit, as The Verge reports, in addition to specialist forums and chat apps like Discord. The modding process is definitely a job for skilled craftspeople. It requires patience and knowledge, as not every good is perfect for upscaling, nor will every upscaling algorithm produce similar results. Modders must use the right tool before tossing hundreds of hours of work into the final results.
Despite the hard work, it is way faster than methods of the past. Restoring the graphics of an old video game can now be done in just a few weeks by one dedicated modder, compared to a team that had to work for years.
There is now an abundance of new graphics for old games over the past six months or so thanks to AI. Titles include Doom, Half-Life 2, Metroid Prime 2, Final Fantasy VII, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. These are unsanctioned upgrades in each case, which means you may need some extra knowledge on how to install the new visuals.
“They’re not as low-res as pixel art, meaning there’s more information for the machine learning to do its magic, but it’s not a too high resolution that an upscale wouldn’t be needed,” Modder Stefan Rumen says. The results speak for themselves.