80 Level Digest: AI Upcaling Tools for Video Games

In this week's 80 Level Digest, we've collected some robust tools and software that will help you upgrade visuals in your games.

Hello everyone! Last week, we published an 80 Level Digest on some incredible AI-powered applications designed primarily to upscale your images and videos. Today, to expand on the topic of producing crisp, high-resolution visuals out of low-quality images, let's have a look at some powerful and robust tools and software that will help you drastically increase the quality of your in-game textures. Whether it is an existing game or something you work on yourself, we hope that these powerful programs will help you bring your graphics to the next level.

First, let's have a look at NVIDIA's awesome recently-released RTX Remix, a powerful modding platform that enables modders to create stunning RTX remasters of classic games. Powered by NVIDIA Omniverse, the company's USD-based platform that enables developers and artists to build custom 3D pipelines, RTX Remix allows game developers to quickly enhance game assets with AI tools and provides a simple way to give old games ray tracing and DLSS, pushing their graphics to the next level.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the application, NVIDIA shared a look at the remastered version of Bethesda's timeless classic TES III: Morrowind, showing the Ald'ruhn Mages Guild interior with improved graphics and lighting:

Another use case for the software is the upgraded version of Valve's Portal – Portal RTX, which was revealed alongside RTX Remix itself. The game is coming as a free DLC for all owners of the original Portal and is set to release later this month. You can check out the remaster's Steam page to learn more.

Up next, we've got a renowned Gigapixel AI, a tried and tested software by Topaz Labs that can be used for all things upscaling. Utilizing neural networks trained on millions of images, Gigapixel AI is fully capable of improving an image's resolution and quality, enabling one to improve images of different types of subjects. Here are some examples of what this versatile application can do:

As for Gigapixel AI's game texture-improving capabilities, several years ago, YouTuber 3kliksphilip, known for his Counter-Strike-related content, utilized the software in question to upscale Counter-Strike 1.6 Dust 2's textures up to higher resolutions, making them look like CS:GO's textures. Here's 3kliksphilip's video featuring some comparison shots:

Another great use case for Gigapixel AI is the well-known Remako HD Field Mod, a mod for Final Fantasy VII that improves the resolution of the game's backgrounds by up to 400%. Back in 2019, YouTuber The Night Sky Prince provided a great video overview of how the application was used, you can check it out down below:

The next software you should check out is the flexible Deep Image AI photo enhancer, a convolutional network based on biological processes modeled on human neurons. While originally designed to upscale regular images, the software is perfectly capable of producing high-resolution versions of your game textures, making it a great program for Game Developers looking for a way to enhance textures in their projects. All you need to do is to upload your textures into the tool and its AI algorithms will automatically produce enhanced versions of them.

Several months ago, Natalia Butrym from the Deep Image AI team published a great and comprehensive article reviewing the program's capabilities regarding game texture upscaling, providing some facts about the tool, and sharing the examples you can see attached above and below. If Deep Image AI is the exact software you are looking for, we highly recommend checking out the article to learn more about it.

Of course, today's list would not be complete without ESRGAN, a legendary algorithm utilized by multiple gaming enthusiasts to remaster textures in old video games. Trained with pure synthetic data, the algorithm was specifically designed to restore low-quality images and remove artifacts from compressed images, enabling one to upscale any visuals. So, whether you are looking for a way to improve the graphics of your childhood game or those of a game you are developing, ESRGAN will not leave you disappointed.

Here are some amazing videos that demonstrate ESRGAN in action:

And finally, we've got a well-known waifu2x, a convolutional neural networks-based algorithm trained on anime-style imagery. Much like ESRGAN, this model was used by tons of gaming enthusiasts over the last several years, however, unlike ESRGAN, waifu2x is best suited for cartoonish stylized visuals due to the dataset it was trained on. You can check out the full version of the algorithm by clicking the link above, and try out its demo version over here.

A great example of how this model can be used to improve the game's looks is badboyzay's HD Vanilla Textures mod for Morrowind, which de-blurs the game's textures and upscales them from 256x256 to 512x512 resolution. Here are some example shots shared by the mod's developer:

These were our picks for this week's 80 Level Digest, what software and tools did we miss? What would you have added here? What programs have you used to upscale game textures? Share your thoughts in the comments and don't forget to join our Reddit page and our Telegram channel, follow us on Instagram and Twitter, where we share breakdowns, the latest news, awesome artworks, and more. 

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