It Begins: “Palworld,” First Viral Game of 2024, Accused of Using AI to Rip Off Pokemon

After its release Friday, “Palworld” became the first viral game of 2024, reaching 1,000,000 concurrent players on Steam, putting it in the top 5 of all time. But there is another first: this is the first time a popular entertainment media product has been accused of using AI in its design.

After initial advertisements, the Japanese crafting game from Pocket Pair was billed as “Pokemon with guns.” It was released on Steam and X-Box live. At time of writing, it is possibly passing more records, as I suspect a lot of people played it Sunday night, as it is intended to be played with friends, and adult gamers tend to get together on Sundays to play.

The game is a mishmash of various ripoffs. The crafting, which is the core gameplay, is a ripoff of Ark: Survival Evolved. Much of the aesthetics, including the look and feel of the map and the constant climbing, as well as fonts and sounds (and the “shrine unlock” system), are ripped off of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The combat elements seem to be intended to rip off Dark Souls (though it’s not tight like that, so it doesn’t really hit). It is, however, the titular “Pals” which are being viewed as crossing a line into “intellectual property theft,” given their absurd likeness to Pokemon.

The monsters that you catch are called “Pals” instead of “Pokemon.” You catch them with a “Pal Sphere” instead of a “Pokeball.” You check their status in your “Palidex” instead of your “Pokedex.” But the incredible thing is that different parts of the characters are rearranged to make new characters.

As the reader should recall, I coined the term “Hermeneutics of AI Suspicion,” and am presently working on a book of that name. My first article on the topic put forward my suspicion that the latest Blink-182 album was written and composed by AI trained on the band’s previous albums. In November, I posited that in the question of whether or not you are dealing with a human or AI would become the defining question of our time, and that this would begin with people asking questions about the origin of popular entertainment media.

When I saw the trailer for the game a few weeks ago, I immediately identified it as AI generated, and intended to write about it. I didn’t get around to it. However, I am quite pleased that it has become such a big hit and is forcing the issue.

I should note that a friend of mine described the people pushing the AI controversy as “haters,” and this is probably true for the most part. Some people are loyal to Pokemon, despite the fact that the developer, Game Freak, has been putting out bad products since I was a teenager (aside from the cellphone game Pokemon GO and the card game, the entire brand is virtually dead). I have no loyalty to Pokemon, I do not believe in “intellectual property” gibberish, and I do not care that these people used AI to rip off Pokemon. I think it’s a funny game. It’s been streamed all weekend by big streamers, and everyone is having a good time. Obviously, it’s not going to win Game of the Year, and is in some senses total janked-out garbage, but the point of games is to have fun and people are having fun. I want to make it clear that I am not against the devs using AI, and I think this whole thing is hilarious. However, it is very interesting to me.

If AI was used, then Pocket Pair violated the Steam terms of service by not marking it as having been created in part through the use of AI. Much more interestingly, the game could force the issue in the courts. Currently, the New York Times is suing OpenAI, claiming it is illegal for ChatGPT to be trained on their articles. A Pokemon vs. Palworld lawsuit would be a very interesting addition to the mix.

Although nothing has been proved, the basic claim is that the devs told an AI art generator to make new Pokemon based on copyrighted Pokemon. This was self-evident to me from seeing the trailer. But the evidence is actually ridiculous and hilarious. It’s the funniest “case presented for Asian criminal activities” that I’ve ever seen.

The Case Against Your Pals

To start with, the dev, Pocket Pair, previously made a piece of “abandonware” on Steam called “Craftopia.”

Note: “Abandonware” is a game that is abandoned by the devs before it is finished after having already sold copies. This is a form of fraud. When a game is sold in “early access,” it is sold as an unfinished product on the premise that the full product will be delivered to the purchaser. If the game is left unfinished, the dev should be forced to give back the money to purchasers. However, the fine print says that they don’t have to. 

It apparently didn’t sell very well. The game was primarily made up of assets that they bought at the asset store. Although the landscape visuals are similar to Palworld, they were composed of pre-made designs that you can purchase in a store. (This is similar to stock art. You can stick pieces together in a game engine to make a game.)

Nothing in the game looks original at all. They bought assets and then tried to make it look like Zelda.

Palworld has the same landscape. It’s all purchased assets, and at some points the textures devolve into something that looks like Minecraft.

But this time, they hired an artist. One artist designed 100 new “Pals.” The characters look indistinguishable from Pokemon. In fact, they bear many stylistic similarities to Pokemon, exactly of the sort you would expect to find if an AI had been trained on Pokemon and told “make more like this.”

These graphics are from @onion_mu on Twitter (he doesn’t keep a scheme as to which is a Pal and which is a Pokemon, but the Pals are 3D models and the Pokemon are the drawn images):

That’s more or less case closed, in my opinion. Every character is like this. Exactly what you would expect from AI prompts. (Update: there’s a comprehensive list here, going through all the characters one-by-one).

But it just keeps getting worse.

What was the team doing between Craftopia and Palworld?

Oh, they made a game called… “AI Art Imposter.”

In the game itself, you use AI to generate art.

The company’s CEO, Takuro Mizobe, posted about how it was difficult to make a profit because the AI was taxing their servers.

It turns out, the team is obsessed with AI art, and has even mused about how it could be used to avoid copyright infringement, before making this game that was openly marketed as “Pokemon with Guns.”

Here you have this genius musing that AI could be used to bypass copyright.

That’s from November of 2022. So you can see the idea brewing in his mind.

By April of last year, Mizobe claimed that “we might see true AI-powered games on GPT4 this year…!”

Note that Palworld was likely originally scheduled for release in November/December. (All games that don’t have a hard release date are late.) The release date was only announced on the 9th of this month.

And for my last piece of evidence, if we go back to December of 2021, when he would have been working on “AI Art Imposter,” we find him… making fake Pokemon with AI.

Wait, sorry. There’s more.

A 20-year-old female graduate student who works at the company is claimed to be the single designer of all 100 Pals.

Mizobe posted a blog three days before launch citing various “miracles” that took place during the game’s development. The fact that this woman all of a sudden began being able to draw Pokemon and then drew 100 of them in a row is known as “The Third Miracle.”

(Google Translate)

The blog says that she’d applied to 100 companies and they all refused to hire her. Finally she was hired for Palworld, and her 100 characters make $100 million over a weekend.

The first miracle is that most of the team didn’t have any experience, and that they were just pulling out convenience store clerks to come work on the game.

(Google Translate)

Imagine that the boss calls one of the workers and is like “we need more people working on this game – where are you right now?” and the man answers that they’re in a 7/11. The boss says: “is there anyone there?” The person explains it’s just him and the clerk. The boss says: “well, bring the clerk in! We’ve gotta make this video game, man!”

As it turns out… the clerk is an ace.

Through a miracle, a random 7/11 clerk turned out to be an ace at making video games.

We Can’t Say for Certain, But…

I’d say the case is relatively damning – if you believe in copyright and are against AI being used to supplant human artists. I check neither of those boxes, so I just think it’s funny.

Politically Incorrect Materials

It’s not the topic of this essay, but I should mention that there is also a lot of political implications in this game in the West. It may say something about its popularity. Instead of being friends with the Pokemon, like Ash, your character enslaves the Pals, and forces them to work in a slave factory. You can beat and abuse them and force them to work long hours and refuse to feed them until they starve to death. You can also slaughter and eat them. You can force-breed them for meat.

You can also enslave humans by using the Pokeballs.

Sorry, I mean you can enslave humans by using Pal Spheres.

Asmangold has been playing it, if you want to know more about the game. He talks a lot about the slavery. He really likes it. Here’s a YouTube edit of one of the streams from Sunday:

These Anti-Pals Make Me Sick

The anti-Pals are made up of both Pokemon stans who are mad their game was ripped off and digital artists who are whining they don’t have a job anymore.

I want to make it perfectly clear, again: I am not standing with these anti-Pals. I support the game.

Some of these tweets are crying in your soup.

This guy caused me to embarrassingly fail the “say that shit to me in real life, faggot, and see what happens” test:

As if all art wasn’t already shit. The fact that some dumbass Japanese guy who’s spent a decade putting out tripe everyone hated can blast out a top-selling game that everyone loves within a year’s time and sell 4 million copies should be celebrated as the dawn of a new golden age.

All of this anti-AI stuff feels to me, in its vibes, very close to “anti-racism.” When I see these people whining about how “we should support artists” and “I can’t believe the state of things,” it feels very similar to people whining about BLM. If you look at it that way, you will start to understand my meaning.

Palworld has 93% positive ratings on Steam. It has much better ratings and much better sales than anything Nintendo has put out since the turn of the millennium. The “artists” who are whining about their careers being taken away are just sour graping it.

I suppose the steel man here must be: “oh, but Anglin, you are against jobs being shipped out of the country – what about jobs being shipped to AI???”

The difference is, shipping jobs out of the country was a matter of government policy. The government wanted the jobs shipped out of the country. It was part of a globalist agenda, and it easily could have been prevented. There is no viable government policy to stop the development of computer software. As the situation proves, and is my point, you cannot even tell if something is AI art or not, and if it is, what difference does it make? Were digital artists pushing painters out of business?

Did Henry Ford push horse breeders out of business? Should he have been prosecuted for stealing the jobs of horse breeders?

I do not necessarily believe that the development of technology has been a good thing. Maybe I would have preferred to listen to Elvis on a record player, or to have tended goats in medieval times. However, technological development can’t be stopped.

Further: AI is a good technological development. It’s pro-freedom. It democratizes everything, which is why Joe Biden has said he’s considering making open source AI illegal. His explanation for that is that a person too stupid to look up how to build a pipe bomb could have AI explain to them how to build a pipe bomb. That’s literally the argument: someone too stupid to figure out how to commit a crime could have AI explain to them how to commit a crime. There are criminals everywhere, sitting around wanting to commit crime, but they don’t know how to do it. AI could explain it to them.

This is the exact argument for gun control. If people didn’t have guns then they couldn’t kill people. In countries with gun control, the theory goes, everyone is sitting around thinking about killing people but they don’t have any guns.

It’s paternalism. Should the government be paternal? Is the government my daddy?

You further have arguments relating to international policy. Several people have called for something like the international nuclear weapons system to be used to regulate AI. The Asians will not sign on to this, so you would just be restricting Western nations for no real purpose.

Furthermore: if the government banned AI, they would still be using it against you. The US government gave black people syphilis and kidnapped people from mental hospitals to do mind control experiments on them. Do you want this technology only in the hands of the government? It makes no sense.

If there is a case brought by Nintendo against Palworld in a US court (which is where they would file, because America is the place with the lunatic copyright laws), it will have a serious impact on the entire discussion surrounding AI. However, if there is no suit, the fact that there isn’t a suit is in itself a judgement. Asians don’t typically get all crazy about the copyright thing, so the suit would be thrown out in a Japanese court. In Japan, you are allowed to legally make and sell comic books featuring other people’s characters, outright. Of course, Nintendo is a for-profit company, so if they think they can do a suit in the US, they probably will.

Probably Not Just the Character Designs

I want to add here: it’s probably not just the Palworld characters that were designed with AI. Someone who is using AI to design characters is also going to be using it to do models, textures, and coding.

The game looks pretty great, overall. Surprisingly good. Although, Unreal Engine 4 has been doing that.

It’s artists that get all whiny. Computer coders are not whining. Their issue is less visible, of course, but you would still see them everywhere whining if they were whining and I only see digital artists whining.

At some point very soon, you are going to be able to use natural language to tell the Unreal Engine what you want your game to do, and it will do it.

You are also going to be able to type: “I want to watch a movie about Richard Nixon announcing on TV in the middle of the Watergate hearings in 1973 that he’s calling a plebiscite asking the public whether they want to surrender the sovereignty of the nation to Elvis Presley, making him King of America, and the people vote ‘yes,’ starring Elvis Presley as Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon as Richard Nixon, directing style of Wes Anderson, 115 minutes length, movie title: ‘This Time You Gave Me a Mountain.'” After you type that, you will watch the movie.

Of course, there are nightmare scenarios as well. Some of them are sure to happen. But what are the options? The AI is here.

You can find it regrettable. But no military goes to war with swords because they regret the invention of guns.

The Concept is What Matters

Here’s the point: “is this AI or a human?” is the defining question of our age.

If AI development was regulated or banned, the government and other bad actors would still be using it. So that would still be the defining question. It would simply be that people would not know that they should be asking it.

Given that AI is now a matter of which the public is highly aware, people are asking the question. The breakthrough indie hit game Palworld marks the dawn of a new age of AI suspicion.

Remember: today, you don’t know if Palworld is AI.

Soon, you won’t know if the person you’re talking to on the phone is AI.

Anyone with one minute of audio recording of the voice of one of your loved ones can call you and pretend to be that person. That’s actually possible now. I was recently taking note that it will soon be possible for my website to be taken offline, and me not know it. All of the emails and comments could be fake, the conversations with my staff could be fake. I’ve decided to start regularly checking on various phones that the site is online. (Only after covering the camera, which could identify me and then pull up the fake site. But of course, every phone in range of my voice could be programmed to temporarily pull up the site. Anyway, it’s a thought experiment.)

The Robots are Giving You Your Life Back

What all this means is that people are going to have to go back to real life.

You can’t know if an event you saw video of happened. Video is already worthless, they just haven’t told you yet. You remember when they faked that gas attack in Syria with actors? Imagine what they are already doing with AI.

Video recordings will no longer be admissible in court. All of that Jeffrey Epstein blackmail material is now worthless. Unless there is a chain of custody that can be established (virtually impossible), a video of some politician having sex with an underage hooker has no value. Nothing on a screen has any value.

The government could have every TV in New York broadcast that California has been nuked by China, while every TV in California claims that New York was nuked by Russia. They could have endless video, live on every channel, for as long as they wanted.

Entire cities can be secretly quarantined, while everyone in the city believes they are the only ones who survived a deadly bioweapon attack. If people try to drive into the city or buy a flight, they can be told the road is out. The flight is canceled. People in the city can be calling their loved ones, and talking to an AI.

The scenarios are endless. This was a key vision during the Illness Revelations. It was core to the revelation, which was otherwise mostly about God and death and suffering and all of the mistakes I’ve made in my life. The notes I have are… complicated. But this material will be published.

The most obvious thing, or perhaps the least obvious, is that I could die and this site could keep on existing. Or, I could be typing, thinking you are reading my words, and you could be reading something different. I don’t really know how to handle that. I would say: read it as long as it’s useful and as long as it’s in-line with the things I’ve said before. I do not plan to change any of my views, at least not in a significant way. I plan to primarily talk about the Jews and their crimes. If I stop talking about Jews, you should stop reading the site.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself if I’m real, because going forward, there’s a very real chance I’m not.

There is a very real chance going forward that nothing is real unless you see it with your own eyes, or are told by someone you trust that they saw it with their own eyes.

Always remember:

Stay Fresh.