Collaborating Authors


AI and Wargaming Artificial Intelligence

Recent progress in Game AI has demonstrated that given enough data from human gameplay, or experience gained via simulations, machines can rival or surpass the most skilled human players in classic games such as Go, or commercial computer games such as Starcraft. We review the current state-of-the-art through the lens of wargaming, and ask firstly what features of wargames distinguish them from the usual AI testbeds, and secondly which recent AI advances are best suited to address these wargame-specific features.

The Design Of "Stratega": A General Strategy Games Framework Artificial Intelligence

Stratega, a general strategy games framework, has been designed to foster research on computational intelligence for strategy games. In contrast to other strategy game frameworks, Stratega allows to create a wide variety of turn-based and real-time strategy games using a common API for agent development. While the current version supports the development of turn-based strategy games and agents, we will add support for real-time strategy games in future updates. Flexibility is achieved by utilising YAML-files to configure tiles, units, actions, and levels. Therefore, the user can design and run a variety of games to test developed agents without specifically adjusting it to the game being generated. The framework has been built with a focus of statistical forward planning (SFP) agents. For this purpose, agents can access and modify game-states and use the forward model to simulate the outcome of their actions. While SFP agents have shown great flexibility in general game-playing, their performance is limited in case of complex state and action-spaces. Finally, we hope that the development of this framework and its respective agents helps to better understand the complex decision-making process in strategy games. Stratega can be downloaded at:

Say "Sul Sul!" to SimSim, A Sims-Inspired Platform for Sandbox Game AI Artificial Intelligence

This paper proposes environment design in the life simulation game The Sims as a novel platform and challenge for testing divergent search algorithms. In this domain, which includes a minimal viability criterion, the goal is to furnish a house with objects that satisfy the physical needs of a simulated agent. Importantly, the large number of objects available to the player (whether human or automated) affords a wide variety of solutions to the underlying design problem. Empirical studies in a novel open source simulator called SimSim investigate the ability of novelty-based evolutionary algorithms to effectively generate viable environment designs.

A Survey of Algorithms for Black-Box Safety Validation Artificial Intelligence

Autonomous and semi-autonomous systems for safety-critical applications require rigorous testing before deployment. Due to the complexity of these systems, formal verification may be impossible and real-world testing may be dangerous during development. Therefore, simulation-based techniques have been developed that treat the system under test as a black box during testing. Safety validation tasks include finding disturbances to the system that cause it to fail (falsification), finding the most-likely failure, and estimating the probability that the system fails. Motivated by the prevalence of safety-critical artificial intelligence, this work provides a survey of state-of-the-art safety validation techniques with a focus on applied algorithms and their modifications for the safety validation problem. We present and discuss algorithms in the domains of optimization, path planning, reinforcement learning, and importance sampling. Problem decomposition techniques are presented to help scale algorithms to large state spaces, and a brief overview of safety-critical applications is given, including autonomous vehicles and aircraft collision avoidance systems. Finally, we present a survey of existing academic and commercially available safety validation tools.

Exploring Exploration: Comparing Children with RL Agents in Unified Environments Artificial Intelligence

Research in developmental psychology consistently shows that children explore the world thoroughly and efficiently and that this exploration allows them to learn. In turn, this early learning supports more robust generalization and intelligent behavior later in life. While much work has gone into developing methods for exploration in machine learning, artificial agents have not yet reached the high standard set by their human counterparts. In this work we propose using DeepMind Lab (Beattie et al., 2016) as a platform to directly compare child and agent behaviors and to develop new exploration techniques. We outline two ongoing experiments to demonstrate the effectiveness of a direct comparison, and outline a number of open research questions that we believe can be tested using this methodology.

Finding Game Levels with the Right Difficulty in a Few Trials through Intelligent Trial-and-Error Artificial Intelligence

Methods for dynamic difficulty adjustment allow games to be tailored to particular players to maximize their engagement. However, current methods often only modify a limited set of game features such as the difficulty of the opponents, or the availability of resources. Other approaches, such as experience-driven Procedural Content Generation (PCG), can generate complete levels with desired properties such as levels that are neither too hard nor too easy, but require many iterations. This paper presents a method that can generate and search for complete levels with a specific target difficulty in only a few trials. This advance is enabled by through an Intelligent Trial-and-Error algorithm, originally developed to allow robots to adapt quickly. Our algorithm first creates a large variety of different levels that vary across predefined dimensions such as leniency or map coverage. The performance of an AI playing agent on these maps gives a proxy for how difficult the level would be for another AI agent (e.g. one that employs Monte Carlo Tree Search instead of Greedy Tree Search); using this information, a Bayesian Optimization procedure is deployed, updating the difficulty of the prior map to reflect the ability of the agent. The approach can reliably find levels with a specific target difficulty for a variety of planning agents in only a few trials, while maintaining an understanding of their skill landscape.

On Effective Parallelization of Monte Carlo Tree Search Artificial Intelligence

Despite its groundbreaking success in Go and computer games, Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) is computationally expensive as it requires a substantial number of rollouts to construct the search tree, which calls for effective parallelization. However, how to design effective parallel MCTS algorithms has not been systematically studied and remains poorly understood. In this paper, we seek to lay its first theoretical foundations, by examining the potential performance loss caused by parallelization when achieving a desired speedup. In particular, we focus on studying the conditions under which the performance loss (measured in excess regret) vanishes over time. To this end, we propose a general parallel MCTS framework that can be specialized to major existing parallel MCTS algorithms. We derive two necessary conditions for the algorithms covered by the general framework to have vanishing excess regret (i.e. excess regret converges to zero as the total number of rollouts grows). We demonstrate the effectiveness of the necessary conditions by showing that, for depth-2 search trees, the recently developed WU-UCT algorithm satisfies both necessary conditions and has provable vanishing excess regret. Finally, we perform empirical studies to closely examine the necessary conditions under the general tree search setting (with arbitrary tree depth). It shows that the topological discrepancy between the search trees constructed by the parallel and the sequential MCTS algorithms is the main reason for the performance loss.

StarCraft II Build Order Optimization using Deep Reinforcement Learning and Monte-Carlo Tree Search Artificial Intelligence

The real-time strategy game of StarCraft II has been posed as a challenge for reinforcement learning by Google's DeepMind. This study examines the use of an agent based on the Monte-Carlo Tree Search algorithm for optimizing the build order in StarCraft II, and discusses how its performance can be improved even further by combining it with a deep reinforcement learning neural network. The experimental results accomplished using Monte-Carlo Tree Search achieves a score similar to a novice human player by only using very limited time and computational resources, which paves the way to achieving scores comparable to those of a human expert by combining it with the use of deep reinforcement learning.

Using Tabu Search Algorithm for Map Generation in the Terra Mystica Tabletop Game Artificial Intelligence

Tabu Search (TS) metaheuristic improves simple local search algorithms (e.g. steepest ascend hill-climbing) by enabling the algorithm to escape local optima points. It has shown to be useful for addressing several combinatorial optimization problems. This paper investigates the performance of TS and considers the effects of the size of the Tabu list and the size of the neighbourhood for a procedural content generation, specifically the generation of maps for a popular tabletop game called Terra Mystica. The results validate the feasibility of the proposed method and how it can be used to generate maps that improve existing maps for the game.

Single-Agent Optimization Through Policy Iteration Using Monte-Carlo Tree Search Artificial Intelligence

The combination of Monte-Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) and deep reinforcement learning is state-of-the-art in two-player perfect-information games. In this paper, we describe a search algorithm that uses a variant of MCTS which we enhanced by 1) a novel action value normalization mechanism for games with potentially unbounded rewards (which is the case in many optimization problems), 2) defining a virtual loss function that enables effective search parallelization, and 3) a policy network, trained by generations of self-play, to guide the search. We gauge the effectiveness of our method in "SameGame"---a popular single-player test domain. Our experimental results indicate that our method outperforms baseline algorithms on several board sizes. Additionally, it is competitive with state-of-the-art search algorithms on a public set of positions.