'Our artists draw thousands of sketches': Palworld's CEO, seemingly exhausted by AI art accusations, once more tries to put them to bed

Palworld early access
(Image credit: Pocketpair)

It's been a while since Palworld was taking, well, the world by storm. A rip-roaring 2 million concurrent players has simmered down to a humble-but-hearty 30,000 on average, with a recent leap to 90,000 at the time of writing owing to its recent major update. A continued success by any metric.

Still, part of that initial hullabaloo involved anger over Palworld's pals—who were, if you listened to the peanut gallery, either direct rip-offs of Pokémon or AI-generated slop. As I mentioned back in January, though, these were mostly based on sheer vibes and Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe being really excited about AI pokemon back in 2021 (which, in fairness, is pretty suspicious—but raised eyebrows aren't evidence).

As you might have noticed, though, it's 2024 now—and Mizobe seems to have a dimmer attitude towards the tech writ large, as hinted by a recent tweet (translated and spotted by Automaton).

"Palworld is often accused of using generative AI, but in reality, we do not use it. Our artists draw thousands of sketches. (The feature) introduces part of our Pal creation process, so anyone interested should have a look!"

As if to point and say 'look, we do concept art, promise!' Mizobe also shared a link to a snippet from the latest issue of CGWORLD magazine, which goes into the development of the pals featured in the base game. In it, several work-in-progress sketches are shared, as seen below.

(Image credit: CGWORLD Magazine / Pocketpair)

Yeah, fair play. That's definitely concept art.

I was always of the mind that, while it certainly mattered if Palworld used AI or not (in the same way that it matters to verify whether your mate nicked the Mona Lisa), there wasn't much in the way of proof. The sentence 'was this made by AI?' when pointing at something that is merely bad is a genuine source of existential dread for me, especially as someone who liked to critique stuff even before I started writing for PC Gamer.

In other words, sometimes the curtains are just blue—and sometimes a human concept artist just looked at Mega Mewtwo Y and said "yeah, I bet if I just change a few things, that'll be fine". All art is derivative, sometimes very derivative, and it's fair to criticise that when it goes too far. But muddying the pool based on a gut feeling is only going to make it harder to spot genuinely crummy uses of the tech. At least Palworld never told me to drink my own wee.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.