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Scaled-up sliths: AI-generated sliths, based on Exile's sprites

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Let me begin with a caveat. AI-generated art is a controversial topic at the moment, based on understandable concerns about the use and misuse of the technology. This topic features AI-generated art that I have produced and modified. I want to stress that this is for my own interest in the state of the technology, and as a way of learning what current generators are and are not currently capable of producing. I have made these images for my own curiosity, and have made no profit from them. And, as I am doing here, I make a point of flagging up that they are generated, to make sure no-one is confused by what I am doing with these pieces.


I am also an artist myself. Most of these images have been modified by me, in big or small ways, to correct or adapt oddities and misinterpretations introduced by the AI generator. This art does not and will not replace my traditional art. This is simply an area I am looking into briefly at the moment, for my own curiosity!


Recently, I’ve been working on a project related to Exile’s slitherikai. AI generators are at the stage where pre-existing images can be used as a basis for producing new images, which opens up some interesting possibilities. I was curious to see whether an AI generator could process small pieces of pixel art, and convert them into larger, more modern pieces of digital art. In other words, making a ‘realistic’ analogue of pixel art!


There are a number of inherent problems with this, of course. Pixel art is fundamentally designed to convey a lot of information in a very small space. Like a caricature, some features may be exaggerated, or not presented at scale, since that may make things look clearer on a smaller scale. When ‘scaled up’, these features could become odd, or grotesque. I wanted to see if a generator could get around this problem.


So I tried an experiment. I generated a series of digital images based on the slith sprites from Exile I and Exile II. I included all of the original slith sprites made by Shirley, in versions 1.x, including both PC and NPC sprites. The result are sliths with the same proportions as the Shirley sprites, but in a modern, ‘realistic’ style. I think the results are quite interesting, and I wanted to share them here!


I have made some slight allowances for more recent depictions of sliths. I have allowed sliths to have a variety of head embellishments, including frills, hard crests, and even crests of hair or fur. Shirley’s art does not include these. I have given the option to the generator to include jewellery not explicitly included in the spritework. And I have added loincloths to all these characters, in the spirit of the depiction of sliths in the Avernum games. It’s interesting to note that Shirley’s sliths are all mostly naked – the clothing needs of reptiles are markedly different from those of mammals!


Note also that these images are not perfect. I’ve cleaned up some oddities, but it’s possible I’ve missed one or two along the way. AI art seem to do well at tricking the eye into missing obvious errors!


All that being said, let me show you the results! To avoid cluttering up this post too much, I’ll place most of the images in spoiler tags. Click on these one by one if you’d like to see more. See if you can figure out which slith corresponds to which original sprite!


Slith A :




Slith B :





Slith C :





Slith D :





Slith E :





Slith F :





Slith G :





Slith H :





Slith I – Note that this image includes a trident, rather than the sliths’ characteristic two-tined spear. I let this slide because, strictly speaking, the Blades of Exile art includes a sprite for a slith trident. But if I was generating this again, I would probably try to encourage the production of a more traditional, two-tined spear!





Here are a few examples of Shirley sliths against some suitable backgrounds:


Slith Background A :




Slith Background B :





Slith Background C :





Slith Background D :





For fun, here are some sliths *not* based on Shirley’s sliths, but made only using text describing them. These are more ‘freeform’ sliths.


Freeform Slith A :




Freeform Slith B :





Freeform Slith C :





And to finish this off, here’s an AI generator’s interpretation of me! It looks like I’m experimenting with some human clothing in this one, haha.



Edited by Ess-Eschas
Correcting list/emoji conflicts!
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This is impressive.  I was surprised at how much each of these images immediately conjured up for me the corersponding original pixel sprite, despite not having looked at them in a look time.  Honestly pretty cool.


Also, I appreciate the quantity of references to Shirley as original artist.  Ha.                                                                                                                                          

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20 hours ago, Thaluikhain said:

Huh...that pic of you isn't exactly weedy, but compared to the rest of the sliths you seem rather under-muscled.


Hey, I’ve been living among the humans for a while now. I don’t have as many opportunities to bulk up as some of my fellow sliths!


But you’re quite right to spot that difference. The reason for that is that I am based on the sliths from the later installments of the Averum series. My feeling is that these later sliths – as presented both in-game, and in the games’ artwork – a little taller and slimmer in general than their Exile counterparts. So in a direct comparison, they’ll look slightly less muscled than the Shirley sliths. And so will I!


20 hours ago, Thaluikhain said:

What program did you use for these, and how much work did you do yourself to tidy them up?


So, this will require a little explanation. The generator I used is ‘Eris’, a Telegram-based generator that specialises in furry art, mostly of a more risqué nature. It was recommended to me by the partner of a friend of mine, who is a furry himself, and uses it as part of his fiction-writing.


At first glance, that might sound like an odd generator to use for this! However, my thinking was that a generator trained on furry art would actually be quite a good match for what I was trying to do. It’s been trained primarily on *characters*, on a whole host of non-human characters of all shapes and sizes. And that will include very many examples of lizardfolk in a broad sense, from Argonians to Draconians, from the Sakkra to Skink Priests. Given the interests of the community that art is drawn from, there should be many examples where lizardfolk are drawn with attention to detail, with care and accuracy. Also, while much of the art in the generator’s training set is more adult, it seems that there’s enough safe art in the set for it to produce safe pieces reliably.


So, if I wanted to generate images of a particular type of lizardfolk in a RPG-like context, I had a hunch this generator might just work out well. And indeed it did!


The amount of tidying needed varied quite a bit between these sliths. The generator was much more comfortable with certain designs, and less sure with others. Pretty much every one of these sliths needed small amounts of tidying. The most common change was to remove navels and nipples, which the generator would almost always produce. I believe these are not compatible with slith biology, being reptilian rather than mammalian, and art from the Avernum games would seem to bear this out.


Hands and feet usually also needed some adjusting, either in small ways, or in larger ones. The generator would usually struggle when a character was holding something – particularly hafts of spears – so those sliths holding weapons tended to require more work. Minor changes included dealing with fingers that weren’t of the right length compared to the rest of the hands, or removing a finger if the generator produced one two many, or to remove a backwards-facing toe placed near the heel. That last one is debatable, but I tend not to think of sliths having feet with that sort of design.


More major changes included actively changing the placement of the hand and fingers when there were major inconsistencies. Sometimes hands would be placed in strange positions or poses, or have real issues with proportions. If the slith was holding a weapon, there would usually be problems, and I’d often have to adapt the hand positions to a more sensible (or even physically possible) pose. One a few occasions, I had to remove extra hands and limbs, when the generator got really confused. Generators can struggle a bit with tails sometimes too, so I did have to remove an extraneous bit of tail for one of these. And, oddly, on one occasion I had to remove an Escher-like inconsistency in the background, where a wall suddenly turned into a corridor!


Of all these sliths, Slith H – the slith holding the ‘red star’ – required the most work. The generator had real problems interpreting what the red star meant, and would tend to fudge something. For instance, it would have the slith awkwardly holding candles, or a big stone bowl of fire, or just default to something like an orb. Such results would have worked, but they weren’t quite what I’d envisioned for this particular slith. The final result is a combination of two different generated outputs, which I’ve meshed together and cleaned up to look, I hope, relatively seamless.


11 hours ago, Dry Peak, Soggy Bottom said:

This is impressive.  I was surprised at how much each of these images immediately conjured up for me the corersponding original pixel sprite, despite not having looked at them in a look time.  Honestly pretty cool.


Also, I appreciate the quantity of references to Shirley as original artist.  Ha.                                                                                                                                          


Thanks! I really appreciate that! When making things like this, I think it’s hard to really gauge how effective they are yourself. Because I’ve worked on these pieces, it’s hard to separate myself from that process, and see them with fresh eyes. I *know* which slith is based on which sprite, after all. But if these pieces immediately conjure up the sprite-art for you – particularly if you’ve not looked at the originals for a while – then that’s a real success for this project. Thanks for saying so!


And of course I made sure to reference Shirley! I love her art. And I suspect, without her great work, I might not be on these forums today!


6 hours ago, Edgwyn said:

I found it interesting that the Freeforms had substantially more scales/rougher skin than the non-freeforms


I think that might be due to the process I used. The non-freeforms were based on Shirley’s sprites which, because they’re pixel art, involve large chunks of uniform colours. I think this tended to discourage fine details in the scales. My feeling is that large regions of uniformity imply lack of detail and structure to the generator, so it tried to keep these regions relatively plain. The freeform sliths don’t have this restriction, so they have much more detail in the scale-work as a result. They also have more colour variation overall, which I think heightens that detail a little as well.

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14 hours ago, Ess-Eschas said:


The most common change was to remove navels and nipples, which the generator would almost always produce. I believe these are not compatible with slith biology, being reptilian rather than mammalian, and art from the Avernum games would seem to bear this out.

The descriptions of slith lairs definitely seem to reinforce a reptilian not mammalian cycle.  An argument could be made for some fish aspects but I think that something along the lines of turtles would be closest breeding wise, definitely not any biological reason for nipples or navels.  It does make sense that a AI with a lot of furry art is going to have a mammalian bias.

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