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Custom AI Programs Take on Top Ranked Humans in Starcraft


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A StarCraft: Brood War screenshot.

Artificial Intelligence programs playing against a human in StarCraft: Brood War showed programs are not yet serious threats to human players in real-time strategy games.

Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

The recent annual Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE) held a contest that pits computer programs against each other in playing StarCraft: Brood War.

This year saw 22 programs submitted, playing each other for two weeks straight on 12 virtual machines. At the contest's conclusion, three of the best AIs were matched against a Russian player.

Although the outcomes showed AIs have yet to seriously threaten professional human players in real-time strategy (RTS) games, the technology is advancing.

The winning AI, Tcsmoo, is designed to simultaneously attack multiple locations, and prioritize attacking workers or small groups of enemy units while also constantly rescheduling units by demand.

In many cases, the AI programs entered into the competition behave in ways that appear to be nonsensical, but are following sensible rules that may be inapplicable in some of the specific scenarios in which the games evolve. RTS games are challenging to AIs due to "hidden information, vast state and action spaces, and the requirement to act quickly," according to the AIIDE website.

The contest's organizers expect the open source nature of the competition and the growing skill of programs to lead to AIs that can beat amateur players within a few years.

From IEEE Spectrum
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