Why the Duke Nukem AI art fiasco is the most Duke Nukem thing ever

Duke Nukem AI art; man shoots guns
(Image credit: Blaze Entertainment / Gearbox)

When it turned out the surprise new Duke Nukem remasters for the Evercade retro console had key art created using an generative AI, I couldn't help but think this controversy is the most Duke Nukem thing ever. It's very on-brand for a retro game series that has always made headlines for the wrong reasons.

So what happened? Publisher Blaze Entertainment held its online showcase and revealed an impressive roster of retro game collections, including two Duke Nukem carts, one featuring the classics Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes, Duke Nukem Advance and Duke Nukem 3D, and one to feature remasters of the rare Duke Nukem 1 and 2 platformers. (If you're a fan, read our guide to the best retro game consoles.)

Selling the event was a new piece of key art created by 'professional hybrid concept artist' Oskar Manuel, and it didn't take long for the retro gaming community to raise an eyebrow and spot there was something off about this new art work – it was created using generative AI. In a Tweet artist Hanyuu_central pulled apart the art (below). 

Duke Nukem generative AI art; a sketch made using AI

Artist Hanyuu_central didn't hold back in his critique of the Duke Nukem art (Image credit: Hanyuu Central / Blaze Entertainment)

In a statement, as reported by Eurogamer, CEO Andrew Byatt said it had "fallen below the expectation and standards demanded by fans" because of the commissioned artist's "use of AI in the process". 

The formal statement from Byatt went into detail about how, "It is abundantly clear from the response on social media that the work on this commission has fallen below the expectation and standards demanded by fans due to the artists’ use of AI in the process".

The art has been removed and Byatt apologised to the Evercade community, but the Blaze statement didn't make clear if they knew the art was AI-generated or if "hybrid" artist Manuel was hired because they used AI. 

Now, I'm old enough to remember when the Duke Nukem Forever TV campaign was banned for "overly explicit" sexual scenes. This series has always courted controversy, whether in its use of sexualised content or misjudged marketing. I'm not saying Blaze's key art error is anywhere near what used to surround this series' launches, but it's very on-brand for a Duke Nukem game to be announced in a red mist of controversy.

This use of AI art without knowing does raise questions over whether we can actually trust the images we see everyday online. The rise in the use of AI to generate art and photos for use in ad campaigns is more concerning than yet another Duke Nukem controversy. In a study published by Tidio, "87% of respondents mistook an AI-generated image for a real photo of a person". This is the biggest concern.

Duke Nukem AI art; a retro games console in grey and yellow

The new Duke Nukem inspired Evercade VS retro console (Image credit: Blaze Entertainment)

Putting aside the furore around the game's AI-generated key art, the two packages Blaze Entertainment has put together look fantastic. It's rare to be able to play Duke Nukem 1 and 2, especially with upscaled graphics and new ratios, and the bumper collection of all the 32-bit era Duke Nukem games is a real gem. There's even a special edition of the Evervcade VS, called the Atomic Edition.

If you want to find out more about Blaze's retro consoles, read my Evercade EXP review. Want to make your own AI art and cause havoc? Then read our our guide to how to use Adobe Firefly and a look at a game being made with AI.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Ian Dean
Editor, Art & Design

Ian Dean is Editor, Art & Design at Creativebloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his experiences to bring the latest news on AI, digital art and video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Procreate, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.