What seems to be an ambitious course in graphics development, is now a reality thanks to the gaming community. Game modders across the globe recently found a good use to the so-called AI upscaling, where low-resolution images were converted to much higher resolution images. Although the results weren’t near the quality of the more modern games, it is an achievement that could help game developers in ways that could improve graphics in a speedy manner.
Image upscaling is not a newly found technology or method, mind you. The method has been around for a very long time now. In fact, it’s been used over a plethora of graphic mediums, including televisions, web browsers, and a lot of more graphic-oriented platforms or applications. It wasn’t until recently that AI has been efficiently integrated to the method ‘upscaling’.
That being said, image upscaling before took a lot of time and effort to get decent results. Even restoring the simplest graphics of a game was no joke. It still required a team, rather than a single individual to finish the job on time. Thanks to AI upscaling, it may only take a few weeks by a single dedicated individual to finish the job.
A good example on how hard it is to work on improving visuals is the old-timey but goody ‘Doom’ modded game. Hidfan, a game modder, said that improving the game’s visual took him around 200 hours of work. Impressive as it is, it still took him a good amount of time, even with an AI upscaling. According to Hidfan, he still had to put on manual labor to smoothen the textures since the AI upscaling tends to produce a lot of noise. An indication that there’s always room for improvement.
If you’re familiar with what the modders in the gaming community, then you may already have an idea on how upscaling means to a certain game. They are usually the ones that use upscaling to improve a gamer’s experience with already published games. Aside from improving the game’s user interface or adding their own game mechanism, they improve graphic textures and resolutions. This is where the upscaling usually takes place.
What it means to the gaming community
For some people, improved textures may not have that much effect to their experience, but for others like me, we live for that full immersion experience. We can’t really help it to be honest. There’s nothing wrong in asking for a better graphics in games you really care about. (Click here if you want to take a look at a side-by-side comparison of a modded and non-modded texture)
Now that AI upscaling is out there for people to use, you can expect a lot of old games resurfacing the industry. In fact, there are already a bunch of low-res games that were improved. To name a few, you can check on Final Fantasy VII, Doom, Half-life 2, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. These however were modded by the gaming community, and will require a little bit of know-how’s and know-what’s to install the visuals.
How does it work
According to the Albert Yang, CTO of Tobpax Labs that is famous for their upscaling service, upscaling works by using an algorithm. An algorithm where millions of both low-res images and high-res images are being identified by the program, and AI would then do its part by recognizing what a certain image would look like in both types of resolutions.
Coming from Yang himself,
“After it’s seen these millions of photos many, many times it starts to learn what a high-resolution image looks like when it sees a low-resolution image,”
It may sound pretty straightforward, but it’s not that simple. Aside from recognizing these images, it also tries to re-creates the low-res transition to high-res. It also goes back to the training data and compare results if it should reject it or not. The basis would mostly fall on the differences of both images.
Although it is a proven breakthrough in visual development, there have been reports that it has its side effects. Some results were far from the original piece where character hands were out of place, unnecessary visual additions, and anatomically-corrected characters.
Considering the advantages that it brings to the table, AI upscaling still is a huge news to the gaming community. Let us not forget, it still is in its early stage and is likely to evolve in the near future.