Blizzard Clarifies "Controversial" AI patent; "Will Always Strive to Maintain Blizzard Quality"

Published: May 6, 2023 12:19 PM /


Diablo 4 Art by Blizzard

Over the past couple of days, multiple articles have popped up pointing to a patent filed by Blizzard Entertainment describing a process to use machine learning to aid with art.

The patent was was scrutinized with rather extensive levels of interpretation, leading to the idea that Blizzard would replace the work of human artists with AI. 


First of all, we should always remember an important factor when dealing with patents (which usually the press neglects to mention): not all patents make it into actual product or are actually applied. As a matter of fact, only a pretty small portion of the patents that are filed are ever used in practice, so when you read an article based on a patent that tells you that a company will do something or is planning something, that's an assumption that the simple existence of the patent does not actually support. 

That being said, Blizzard Entertainment President Mike Ybarra took to Twitter to clarify. 

Blizzard will always strive to maintain Blizzard quality. You’re trying to associate recent AI advances (generative AI) to something completely unrelated. 
@brendensewell says it well here. Our approach at Blizzard is to use machine learning and AI in ways that are additive, empathic, and allow our talented teams to spend more time on the highest quality creative thinking and tasks. 

Ybarra cites a further explanation by Hearthstone Design Manager Brenden Sewell, who criticized one of the headlines on the issue mentioning that it's "taking some leaps, to put it lightly" and adding that the patent was first filed in 2020.


He then added that what is described by the patent is not AI Art, but something comparable to the use of a Photoshop filter (which is already very widespread in the industry).

I suspect a lot of this would be cleared up had the patent the article was about actually been linked in the article. This isn't AI art. The ethics considerations of this are about the same as the ethics of a photoshop filter. It's a tool to save time creating variant textures.

Below you can see the text of the patent with relevant portions highlighted by Sewell himself. 

Blizzard Patent


Blizzard is currently preparing to release Diablo IV  for PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, and PlayStation 4 on June 6, 2023. The game has already gone gold and you can also check out a recent video about the gamea live-action trailer for the recent beta, set in a deconsecrated church in France.

If you're too eager to play and can't wait, luckily a "Server Slam" beta is coming this month month. 


Recently, Blizzard also shared more details on Diablo 4's endgame. You can take a look at what awaits at high levels in our dedicated article and read our interview with Associate Game Director Joseph Piepiora and Lead Game Producer Kayleigh Calder

On the topic of customization and balance, you can check out our interview with Lead Class Designer Adam Jackson and Lead Game Producer, Story and Narrative Melissa Corning.

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