StarCraft May Be the Next Game That AI Beats Us At

StarCraft players

"We've worked closely with the StarCraft II team to develop an API that supports something similar to previous bots written with a "scripted" interface, allowing programmatic control of individual units and access to the full game state (with some new options as well)", DeepMind said at the time. But so far, space is proving a hard frontier for the company's algorithms. The core of it all is a special machine learning API that was tailor-made by Blizzard, and can hook an AI into the game.

According to a blog post by DeepMind research scientist Oriol Vinyals, program manager Stephen Gaffney, and software engineer Timo Ewalds, testing AI in games that were not designed for such research and in which human players excel "is crucial to benchmark agent performance".

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DeepMind announced today that it is releasing the Starcraft II Learning Environment (SC2LE), a toolset that makes it easy for AI developers to use Starcraft II to test their AI. The algorithm that mastered the Atari games was unveiled in June 2016. DeepMind says that StarCraft II has a lot of elements that makes it flawless for training and testing AI agents.

Deepmind - a leading researcher into artificial intelligence and its potential for positive use - has just announced a partnership with Blizzard Entertainment, using classic strategy game StarCraft 2 as a basis for improved AI learning. AI matches, and those anonymized game replays from actual human players for training up agents, which is starting out at 65,000 complete matches, and will grow to over 500,000 over the course of the next few weeks. "Finally, the map is only partially observed, meaning agents must use a combination of memory and planning to succeed".

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The game also requires players to carry out sub-tasks, such as building structures and mining resources, while also conducting reconnaissance, mounting attacks and defending territory. In addition to a machine-learning API to allow both researchers and developers access to the game, Blizzard is also providing a dataset of anonymised game replays - now at 65,000, this will increase to "more than half a million" in the next few weeks.

"Our initial investigations show that our agents perform well on these mini games".

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"One technique that we know allows our agents to learn stronger policies is imitation learning", DeepMind said in its blog post. The first StarCraft game is actually already being used by AI researchers, but StarCraft II is far more complex thanks to its more modern engine which makes the possibilities for actions, goals, and game outcomes practically endless. The glut of players in both games competing online at high levels also gives researchers tons of replay data to use for training AI. It follows efforts by other companies, such as Facebook and Microsoft, to open game environments, including the original StarCraft game and the game Minecraft, to the entire AI research community.

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