Google’s DeepMind AI to take on StarCraft II players

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Blizzard has announced that it is backing an experiment in which Google’s DeepMind AI will play against human gamers in StarCraft II.

Blizzard said on its website: “Experimental versions of DeepMind’s StarCraft II agent, AlphaStar, will soon play a small number of games on the competitive ladder in Europe as part of ongoing research into AI. If you would like the chance to help DeepMind with its research by matching against AlphaStar, you can opt in by clicking the “opt-in” button on the in-game popup window. You can alter your opt-in selection at any time by using the “DeepMind opt-in” button on the 1v1 Versus menu.

“For scientific test purposes, DeepMind will be benchmarking AlphaStar’s performance by playing anonymously during a series of blind trial matches. This means the StarCraft community will not know which matches AlphaStar is playing, to help ensure that all games are played under the same conditions. AlphaStar plays with built-in restrictions that the DeepMind team has defined in consultation with pro players. A win or a loss against AlphaStar will affect your MMR as normal.”

So, StarCraft II players can opt in to participate in the pioneering game-playing AI’s latest step forward in its quest to emulate (and beat) human players. An FAQ below the StarCraft II announcement revealed that: “DeepMind will be benchmarking the performance of a number of experimental versions of AlphaStar to enable DeepMind to gather a broad set of results during the testing period,” and that it won’t see any more information than human players: “Like human players, AlphaStar perceives the game using a camera-like view. This means that AlphaStar doesn’t receive information about its opponent unless it is within the camera’s field of view, and it can only move units to locations within its view. All limits on AlphaStar’s performance were designed in consultation with pro players.”

DeepMind was founded by Demis Hassabis who, after working on games at Bullfrog and Lionhead, formed bis own developer, Elixir Studios, which created Republic: The Revolution and Evil Genius (Rebellion recently announced that it is working on Evil Genius 2). Hassabis, a game-playing prodigy who once won the Mind Sports Olympiad, subsequently pursued a PhD and research in neuroscience, before establishing DeepMind and selling it to Google in 2014.

DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI, designed to play the ancient board game Go, has notched up an ever-increasing roster of successes against human players. For more information about AlphaStar’s foray into playing real-life StarCraft II players, and to find the results of and conclusions from the experiment, keep an eye on DeepMind’s website.