It appears that Valve might be banning some games with AI-generated assets from being released on Steam. Several developers have already faced this issue, although the company has yet to update its policy.

Valve cites copyright uncertainty as reason for rejecting games with AI assets on Steam

AI Roguelite, one of the games with AI-generated assets that successfully sells on Steam

Why does Valve reject games with AI-generated assets?

Earlier this month, Reddit user potterharry97 wrote a post describing a problem with Valve not allowing games with AI-generated content on Steam (thanks, Simon Carless).

According to the developer, the plan was to submit a project with a “few assets that were fairly obviously AI generated” and then improve them prior to a full launch.

However, Valve rejected the submission, citing potential copyright issues as the main reason. When reviewing the game, the company found out that some assets may belong to one or more third parties — i.e. AI content may be based on copyrighted material.

“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 asked the developer to remove such content and resubmit the game. However, Potterharry97 noted that after improving those assets by hand, the title was rejected again, indicating that Steam might be flagging projects with AI-generated materials.

“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,” Valve explained, also offering the developer a refund.

On June 29, another developer under the nickname artoonu shared a similar experience on Reddit. They have already successfully released dozens of NSFW visual novels on Steam, but then used AI tools to create art for a new game. And it was rejected by Valve.

“All in all, I lost almost all interest in this technology,” artoonu wrote. “If I can’t use it directly commercially, there’s almost no use apart from the idea/reference generator.”

Indie developer Oleg Skutte, who recently released ragdoll physics simulation game Locomotorica, reported the same issue earlier this week. For his new project DREAMIO: AI-Powered Adventures, he used Stable Diffusion to create illustrations and ChatGPT to generate the story, and — surprise — Valve rejected the submission.

“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,” the company noted.

Skutte said he just plans to “probably open source the project and move on.”

Is AI content officially prohibited on Steam?

The short answer is no. According to Steam’s official guidelines, there are 13 types of content that developers are not allowed to publish on the platform. The list includes hate speech, sexually explicit images of real people, blockchain games, as well as content that violates the law or exploits children in any way.

However, there is a paragraph reading that “content you don’t own or have adequate rights to” is not allowed on Steam.

Given that Valve cited the inability to verify rights to certain content as the main reason for rejecting games with AI-generated assets, the company could well be guided by the aforementioned paragraph.

The thing is that it would still be better to update the Steam guidelines for more transparency. But perhaps Valve is now in the process of formulating official rules for AI-generated content on its platform.

Experienced indie developer Jake Birkett noted that Valve has also started banning games on suspicion of utilizing AI-generated texts. He also wondered how the company is assessing those assets and whether it cares about false positives.

So the lack of 100% transparent rules and guidelines could result in even more uncertainty and cases where even devs who don’t use AI tools could be falsely rejected.

“If you want to be safe, don’t use AI generated assets (yet), but even if your assets are 100% ‘clean’, you could still get caught up in this innocently due to false positives etc,” Birkett said.

Another issue is that there are already games on Steam that were successfully approved by Valve despite the use of AI tech. AI Roguelite, Traveler – The AI Story, This Girl Does Not Exist, just to name a few.

On top of that, plenty of indie developers have been experimenting with different AI tools for a while now. Some do this to test new technologies or find new ways to optimize production and reduce the cost of purchasing human-made assets.

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