Last night, a Reddit user named frigis9 posted a series of six images detailing graphical upgrades for classic MS-DOS computer games such as: Commander Sharp 6 and The Mystery of Monkey Island. The most interesting part is how they did it: by using an image synthesis technique called “img2img” (image to image) that takes an input image, applies a written text prompt, and generates a similar output image as a result. It’s a feature of the Stable Diffusion imaging model released last week.
In response to a question from another Reddit user, frigis9 provided more details on how he created the image using a front-end program called Visions of Chaos – a versatile app that gives access to many different styles of generative computer art: At simple For portraits like this, I set the init image strength to 0.25. For darker, less detailed images it may need to be increased to 0.35 or 0.4. You just have to play around with the image strength value, and once you’ve got that figured out (i.e. checking that your output image looks more or less like your init image), work on the prompt to add or remove details. Adjust, rinse, and repeat about a hundred times until you get the perfect (or meh, good enough) picture.”
Over the past week, users of Stable Diffusion’s img2img feature have been updating children’s drawings, turning doodles into shiny knights in the desert, updated their profile pictures and more. For now, running img2img on your own computer is still a somewhat technical process, but by using graphical front-ends like Visions of Chaos and models on Hugging Face, you can experiment with it yourself. Development is moving fast, so better ways to take advantage of it are probably just around the corner.
The state of the art in image synthesis currently requires a lot of trial and error with prompts and cherry picking to achieve the kind of results that frigis9 has published – probably hours of work. But with some incremental advances in image synthesis techniques and GPU power, we could imagine an emulator updating old game graphics in real-time within a few years.