DnD and MTG publisher Wizards of the Coast has apologized for using AI art just two weeks after it made fresh pledges not to touch the technology. AI tools were used to create marketing materials for the upcoming Magic set Ravnica Remastered which went up on December 4. At first the company denied the use of AI, but after enduring a lot of skepticism, including from its own freelance artists, Wizards admitted its mistake.
Previously, Wizards put out a policy, stating that artists and writers working on ‘finished Magic products’ would have to refrain from using AI. It’s now published an addendum saying that it’s rethinking how it works with vendors for its marketing materials too. The company stated that while the marketing material art came from a vendor, it was its own responsibility to catch the use of AI art before it went out. Wizards’ statement says: “Our aim is to always come down on the side of human made art and artists”.
Last week, Wizards of the Coast put out promotional material for its next MTG set Ravnica Remastered. Fans took one look at the background art for this advert and immediately smelled a rat. But unlike a couple of recent false alarms, this time artists who’d worked with Wizards of the Coast – RJ Palmer, Jason Rainville, and Dave Rapoza – were among those who called this out as the work of AI.
The main image under scrutiny was the one posted by the main Magic: The Gathering account. Fans pointed to reflections, nonsensical metal pipes, and (most telling of all) a dial which had bizarre artifacting over the numbers, as signs that AI was used. But there were a number of different pictures created to advertise the cards, and all were in the same style. Overall, this looked very similar to a recent case where AI appears to have been used to advertise the Tomb Raider Secret Lair.
At first, Wizards of the Coast was confidently wrong, rejecting the accusations. “We understand confusion by fans given the style being different than card art, but we stand by our previous statement. This art was created by humans and not AI,” said the official Twitter on Thursday. The statement referred to here is the one that Wizards put out on December 19, 2023, after a job advert made fans think the company planned to use AI art on the regular.
Most were not swayed by this reassurance, and that includes the artists mentioned above. In fact, Dave Rapoza announced he would no longer be working with Wizards of the Coast and Rainville said he’d not be taking on DnD or MTG art until the situation was sorted out.
Then on Sunday, January 7 the saga was wrapped up quite neatly, as Wizards admitted it had got it wrong. Its apology praises the diligence of the Magic community for spotting how “AI components that are now popping up in industry standard tools like Photoshop crept into our marketing creative”.
The tweet adds that “while the art came from a vendor, it’s on us to make sure that we are living up to our promise to support the amazing human ingenuity that makes Magic great.”
As mentioned, Wizards of the Coast also published a new statement about its AI policy. “We need to update the way we work with vendors on creative beyond our products—like marketing images we use on social media—to make sure that we’re supporting the amazing human ingenuity that is so important to Magic,” it explains.
It adds: “We can’t promise to be perfect in such a fast-evolving space, especially with generative AI becoming standard in tools such as Photoshop, but our aim is to always come down on the side of human made art and artists.”
Fans’ response to this situation has been mixed. Many were incredulous that Wizards would contradict its own promises by defending AI art and while some are satisfied by its apology, others fear the company would not have backed down if the backlash had been less strong.
As for the quitting artists, Rainville has said he’s now happy with how the situation was resolved, but Rapoza has said he’s not returning for work yet, tweeting: “Let’s see how this all pans out over time”.
Just as the DnD OGL dominated January 2023, it seems AI art is the hot button issue to kick off the year, as numerous AI stories have dominated the tabletop news cycle in the last month. It’s clear that fans are scrupulously watching Wizards of the Coast for any slip-ups, and there’s pressure on Wizards to be as transparent as possible in its AI policy.
It seems like Wizards needs to get much better at spotting this technology, however, as right now the fanbase is operating as a sort of retroactive quality control. That’s obviously an imperfect system. As well as instances where genuine use of AI art was spotted and removed, there have been some misfires – cases where genuine artists were wrongly accused of using AI.