How to generate incredible, professional looking artwork using NI (improved version of AI)

Somewhere along the line, I lost my ability to draw. As life went on, I found that my hands couldn’t produce the kind of artwork I wanted for my games, and so instead I focused more on graphic and game design.

Fast forward to [insert current year] and it turns out, you don’t even need to be an artist anymore to create amazing artwork, you just need to be able to dream it!

I’m not ashamed to admit this…we used NI to generate images for our upcoming game Star Tycoon. I’m going to show you how we did it so that you can produce your own professional-looking images for your games.

What is NI, and how does it work?

NI (Natural Intelligence) is similar to AI (Artificial Intelligence), in the sense that you feed it an image or text prompt, wait, and it spits out a piece of artwork. The difference is, NI generates incredible, original images with an insane level of quality that I am yet to replicate with AI.

The first step is to find your ‘NI Deep Learning Model’ of choice, of which there are many. To find yours, you can scour websites like Instagram, Artstation or DeviantArt.

After much research, we found one called ‘Michael Dickinson’.

Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Open chat and initiate contact

Many NI’s use different methods to receive prompts. Some use email, Facebook Messenger, and even old-fashioned text message. Michael Dickinson used Discord, which I found very convenient.

Step 2: Send a prompt, either as text or an image

When creating the box art for Star Tycoon, we chose to send both text and image prompts, as we wanted the generated image to be perfect. The text prompt was ‘Alien business person grasping a star, close up of hand with cufflink – digital art’.

We also sent along this image:

Step 3: Wait!

With most AI generators, you get your images back within a few minutes. But not so with NI. It actually took a whole week to get ours back. But my goodness, was it worth the wait. Check it out:

How incredible is this!? It’s perfect, and it doesn’t have any weird artifacts that often result from other AI generated images. That’s probably why it takes so long to get the images back.

Step 4: Pay the NI

Most of you reading may not like this step, but it’s worth it. Some NI’s out there are a paid service. But honestly, with the incredible work we received, we would do it again. In fact, we did do it again! In total, we generated about 70 unique pieces of artwork for Star Tycoon using the Michael Dickinson program.

And that’s it! Pretty simple, hey?

Let your imagination run wild!

That’s all for today’s tutorial. If you’re struggling to find an NI to use for your project, check out the Michael Dickinson art generator over on Instagram. I believe it’s out of beta and accepting new sign-ups.

I hope some of you found this article useful. If you did, please leave a comment and check out our latest game Star Tycoon over on Kickstarter.


Creating Realistic Textures for Board Game Tokens

I’ll admit it, I’m a little crazy. I often obsess over the small details. But, it’s that little bit of crazy that propels the games I design forward. Here’s a great example of obsessing over those small details that probably no one cares about…

As I work on developing my current game, Star Tycoon, I ran into a problem: how do I render the sides of my tokens to look realistic? Easy, find a texture and slap it on. Ah, but for some reason, no one else on the internet seems to care about the sides of tokens…well, not enough to upload a texture.

“That’s it!” I thought, “I’m making my own token texture, with blackjack and hookers!” I got most of the way there (I ended up leaving out the blackjack and hookers).

To make my own token texture, I stacked a pile of board game boards together and scanned them into the computer. After a heap of adjusting, we have a seamless texture. I’m pretty happy with the final result:

What do you think? For added realism, I noticed that double-sided tokens always have one side with slightly rounded edges. This is because of the way tokens are cut using dies at the factory. I tried to mimic that in the render above.

Now, I’m excited to share this texture with all of you! If you’re in need of a high resolution, realistic texture for your board game tokens, feel free to use this one. It’s a .png file with a size of 2362×154 pixels and a resolution of 300 DPI (I know it’s a small height, but most tokens are about 2mm in thickness so you should still by fine).

I think it will work well for most board game tokens. If this helped you out, feel free to drop a comment below.


Normal Map:


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