Valve softens its stance on AI-generated content, opening the floodgates to ‘the vast majority of games that use it’ on Steam

Steamworks logo on a blank blue background.
(Image credit: Valve)

Valve, the developer behind the popular digital game storefront Steam, has published some new guidelines about AI content on the platform.

In a Steamworks Development blog post released earlier today (January 10, 2024), the company reaffirmed its goal of “shipping as many games as possible on Steam” and announced a series of changes to their handling of titles that contain AI-generated material.

The most significant of these affect the platform’s Content Survey - a form that developers submit before a game can be released on Steam. The survey will now contain new questions and disclosures about AI content, broadly splitting AI usage into two distinct categories.

The first is what Valve refers to as “pre-generated” content. This includes anything that was created with AI assistance during development, like artwork, code, or sound. Developers will now have to “promise Valve” that any pre-generated material does not contain any “illegal or infringing content.”

This really seems like a bit of a cop-out if you ask me, especially given the apparent readiness with which the likes of AI image-generation software will spew out obviously copyright-infringing content. The number one priority here appears to be protecting Valve from legal liability, rather than ensuring that the titles on Steam will contain sufficiently high-quality assets.

The second category is “live-generated” content: material which is created “while the game is running”. This seems geared towards the likes of AI NPC technology, which will theoretically allow NPC characters to react more dynamically to their environments. 

In addition to disclosing the presence of any live-generated content, developers will need to outline the “guardrails” that will be in place to ensure that “it’s not generating illegal content.” 

Although it appears that this new guidance will open the floodgates to a slew of low-quality, cheaply developed games, there are some small wins for the consumer buried here. For starters, the Steam store page will now disclose which games contain AI-generated content so that you can avoid them if you wish.

There will also be a new reporting system, allowing players to report the generation of “illegal content” in games that use live-generated material.

The widespread impacts of the rise of AI generation on game development have yet to be seen, but the reliance on developer disclosure seems a little naïve. I’ve already spotted plenty of games filled to the brim with AI-generated assets on the platform. With no word on the kinds of penalties that will be applied to developers who fail to disclose it in the future, it's hard to imagine that there won't be some who try to cheat this new system.

For some great games that definitely don't contain any AI generated content, see our guides to the best single-player games or the best PC games.

Dashiell Wood
Hardware Writer

Dash is TechRadar Gaming's Hardware Writer. Before joining TechRadar, he was a print journalist writing articles for some of the UK's biggest gaming magazines including PLAY, Edge, PC Gamer, and SFX. Now, when he's not getting his greasy little mitts on the newest hardware or gaming gadget, he can be found feverishly devouring the latest Nintendo Switch otome.