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StarCraft AI Competition Announced 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the here-comes-the-reaperzerg dept.
bgweber writes "The 2010 conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE 2010) will be hosting a StarCraft AI competition as part of the conference program. This competition enables academic researchers to evaluate their AI systems in a robust, commercial RTS environment. The competition will be held in the weeks leading up to the conference. The final matches will be held live at the conference with commentary. Exhibition matches will also be held between skilled human players and the top-performing bots."
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StarCraft AI Competition Announced

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  • by webdog314 (960286) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:35PM (#30076380)
    Let's teach our AI systems how to do battle... against humans. Skynet anyone?
  • Brood War (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Itninja (937614)
    So they are using the old StarCraft and not the new upcoming StarCraft? I love the old StarCraft. I was really looking forward to the new one until they gutted it by removing LAN play. I would rather play the old version is all its 640x480 glory then play a LAN game over the WAN. Sure I have the bandwidth, but it's the principle. Won't someone think of the Zerglings?
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:27PM (#30077308) Homepage Journal

      Instead of an AI that can win at Starcraft, maybe they ought to try to build an AI that can finish Starcraft 2.

      Apparently, that's a much greater challenge.

    • It needs an AI that can handle the following.

      Island maps. Against a Protost with cannons bordering the island 3 rows deep. Most human players can get past that. For the computer it always kept me safe. Of course there was one time I played stricly defensive and have the entire island filled with cannons. It took a good player 45 minutes to get to me. (and killed a medium level player) who was helping.

      An other blood bath was a map No Gas. Where there was a river and a small bridge to cross. All with a

      • 3 rows deep? You wasted money. Island maps in SC are a piece of piss, even up against several AI. Not only do you not need anywhere near as much cannon as you said, you don't have to build them until later in the game, giving you cash to get production ramped up quickly. Plus, it's all air battles, so you save even more cash not having to build any (or almost any) land units.
      • by Sigma 7 (266129)

        Island maps. Against a Protost with cannons bordering the island 3 rows deep

        A human can get past that simply by using heavy airborne artillery, armed with an escort. It would basically need to hit the supply limit as well.

        The reason standard Starcraft AI players can't crack that is because they don't normally last long enough to break through that. They usually take out inexperienced players by early rushes, and keep persistent patten attacks throughout the game.

    • ... I would rather play the old version is all its 640x480 glory then play a LAN game over the WAN. Sure I have the bandwidth, but it's the principle...

      So your objection is that you would rather play over a network than over a network.

  • by ChowRiit (939581) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:39PM (#30076474)

    Perhaps a game not so dominated by rushing tactics would be a better choice of base game? It definitely seems an interesting idea, but there must be games better suited to an AI contest like this...

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:45PM (#30076570) Journal

      How would you rather it be setup? I have not found a single RTS that isn't dominated by Rushing Tactics. I still play Age of Empires 2 for the whole walling off thing but it still doesn't beat a well developed rush.

      • by Sprotch (832431) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:14PM (#30077084)
        A good player can defend against a rush in Starcraft. It's all about micro-managing peons until your first combat unit arrives. Then you go head straight for their economically challenged base.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What about Total Annihilation? There is quite a bit that can be done to block a number of rush gambits. Of course, there is still always the LOL Gambit of building a swarm of transport aircraft to pick up the enemy commander (destroy their main unit and a large portion of their base since the base defenses are stupid enough to shoot it down.)

      • by A Friendly Troll (1017492) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:22PM (#30077214)

        How would you rather it be setup? I have not found a single RTS that isn't dominated by Rushing Tactics.

        Company of Heroes. http://www.companyofheroes.com/ [companyofheroes.com]

        It's a modern RTS which utilizes things such as directional cover, suppression and per-squad reinforcements, as well as rewards proper flanking. Unless, of course, you try to prevent said flanking by placing some barbed wire and mines...

        There is no such thing as rushing in CoH; the game doesn't reward rushing because it will end with a horribly tragic loss for the player who attempts it (!). You can't wall-off because you need some map control, resources need to be connected to your base in order to receive them, and your low popcap (based on the number of captured sectors) spells your ultimate doom. The nature of the game is that for the most part, each side has no more than ten units on the field. You can be a very good player even if you aren't a hyperactive teen capable of performing ten clicks per second.

        Bottom line: if someone wants to rush you, you will win the game in five minutes. But if you want to wall-off, this game isn't for you, as it requires constant fighting on multiple parts of the map.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          > There is no such thing as rushing in CoH

          Yes, because you start with two machine gun nests in your base, making rushes impossible. CoH sucks.

      • by FauxPasIII (75900) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:27PM (#30077300)

        Star Trek Armada and Armada II had a decent approach to preventing early-game rushes; your "town hall" equivalent building (starbase) is armed to the teeth. =)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vertinox (846076)

        How would you rather it be setup? I have not found a single RTS that isn't dominated by Rushing Tactics. I still play Age of Empires 2 for the whole walling off thing but it still doesn't beat a well developed rush.

        This is why I prefer Real Time Tactics Games to Real Time Strategy games.

        You know... Like Total War series...

      • I still play Age of Empires 2 for the whole walling off thing but it still doesn't beat a well developed rush.

        Say wha? AoE2 walls are fun, but you don't need them. Anti-rush tactics consist of ringing the frigging alarm bell and watching your holed up peasants shoot the hell out your moron opponent's attackers. You can *not* take a town center while in the Dark Age, and it's damn tough in the Feudal Age. You really can't develop a decent attack against an enemy base until the Castle Age, and you don't g

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          In the time that you spent calling all your lumberjacks back to your town center, your opponents 10 militia Men will take down the Lumberyard, the Mill, any mining camps you have, and utterly destroy your economy so that when you finally manage to build a Barracks farther from your base and fend him off, he'll show up with some Horsemen to finish off the army you just built, and then when you take those out he'll be at your door with Battering Rams.

          Either you aren't rushing properly, or your opponents aren'

        • Anti-rush tactics consist of ringing the frigging alarm bell and watching your holed up peasants shoot the hell out your moron opponent's attackers

          Meanwhile, your opponent wisely pulls his militia off to harass your workers whenever you try unringing the bell. So while his workers are busy gathering resources to get him to Feudal etc, you are left doing nothing... just awaiting your unavoidable death.

          And depending on what race he is playing, he could just finish you off in the Dark Age. I've had it done

      • by Khashishi (775369)

        Watch the pros. Rushing is considered to be a risky move. If you can catch your opponent doing some ridiculous early expansion, you'll win. But in normal circumstances, you'll set yourself back economically, unless you can manage to do a serious amount of damage with the rush.

        • I have watched some pros, and most of the times, their idea is that if you can get 2 zerglings (50 mineral) to take out a drone/probe/scv you've essentially made MORE on that trade off than anything else. Because those units cost as much, AND your denting your opponents economy. (So the idea is to send in 6 to get 3 probes, or 8 to get 4 drones, etc)

          I've never seen early expansion work properly in any of the pro matches I've watched, which to be honest is just short of a dozen so I'm not the know it all.

          It

          • by Khashishi (775369)

            I have watched some pros, and most of the times, their idea is that if you can get 2 zerglings (50 mineral) to take out a drone/probe/scv you've essentially made MORE on that trade off than anything else.

            That's incorrect analysis, because you are hurting your own economy by building troops. Essentially, you are sacrificing a drone for 2 zerglings.

            If you only manage to take out a single drone with those zerglings, you haven't even broken even with your opponent, because you both lost a drone, but you lost yours earlier in the game. Realistically, you probably need to kill two drones to make it worthwhile.

            This is why zergling rushes are so risky. If you don't kill or cripple your opponent, you lose.

    • by DreadPiratePizz (803402) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:49PM (#30076640)
      You have no idea what you're talking about do you? Go watch the professionals play and see how often they rush. Not that often anymore. Modern Starcraft is dominated by Fast Expanding, which is quite the opposite of a rush.
      • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:52PM (#30076688) Journal

        It's been a couple of years, but whenever I watched Boxer in the Korean SC tournaments a while back - the match is usually over within 15 or 20 minutes because they'd never need to progress past Dragoons, Hydra's, or Medics.

        An expansive SC player would be destroyed by 8 zerglings before he could get that second Command center off.

        • by DreadPiratePizz (803402) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:57PM (#30076780)
          Not true at all, the 1 RAX Fast Expand build is designed to allow a Terran player to expand early and EASILY defend against 8 zerglings. For you information, a lot has changed in just a few years.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2009 @03:07PM (#30077992)

            Expanding on the parent...

            Every matchup except for Zerg vs. Zerg starts with EXTREMELY fast expanding these days. Usually before they even have a single non-peon unit out. Hell, zergs expand TWICE right off the bat against Protoss. The players have figured out how to stop these early rushes with building placement, micro and build orders.

            If I were to guess, less than 2% of pro games in recent times are very early rushes aimed at killing a fast expanding players. Early rushes do happen more often than that but they are always with the intent of doing economic damage to get an advantage in the late game.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by EvanED (569694)

              Every matchup except for Zerg vs. Zerg starts with EXTREMELY fast expanding these days. Usually before they even have a single non-peon unit out

              That's not really true, at least the latter part. Protoss will often forge fast-expand, especially against Zerg, but other openings like one gate tech aren't uncommon. For terran, you almost never see expand-before-marine, and often there's no expand until the factory is building.

              So you *see* FEs like that in each matchup, I wouldn't call them *the* standard build

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's been a couple of years, but whenever I watched Boxer in the Korean SC tournaments a while back - the match is usually over within 15 or 20 minutes because they'd never need to progress past Dragoons, Hydra's, or Medics.

          An expansive SC player would be destroyed by 8 zerglings before he could get that second Command center off.

          Boxer's signature unit is is the dropship -- a mid-game unit that comes out only before the 3 science vessel units. 20 minutes by a pro's standard's is not a rush, its the beginning of endgame. They'll have 2-3 operational bases at this point.

    • What if, through the developers' virtual arms race, the AIs discover that rushing isn't actually the best way to win? Given enough room to experiment, could new, anti-rush gambits emerge that human players wouldn't have thought of?

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:50PM (#30076662)

      I don't know how you define rush.... I've had people complain that an attack after 10 minutes was a rush. Even the 6-pool was easily defeated by the proper build order and positioning. As a matter of fact, I liked SC more than others because every strategy had a proper counter. The only thing that was required was scouting - otherwise the other person could come in with the counter to your troops.

      While I don't think it is a great medium for a test, it's a pretty good one. Especially if the AI has to deal with fog of war.

    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:50PM (#30076664) Homepage Journal
      Rushing is an elementary strategy. You should learn to defend against it rather than complaining that it isn't far (in a war simulation game no less).
    • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:51PM (#30076678)

      StarCraft is only dominated by rush tactics when the players don't have the skills to defend against a rush. In StarCraft attempting a rush dooms you to failure if the rush doesn't fatally wound your opponent ('cause you stunted your economy to build your rushers). Correctly defending against a rush is mostly micromanagement (using your workers correctly to defend, which means constantly issuing them the attack orders they need since they won't attack on their own, while keeping some working on your economy). AIs should excel at micromanagement. I don't think rushing would be a problem in a StarCraft AI match.

      • Actually, AIs are kind of bad at micro certain types of micro. More specifically, they're bad at dancing. You can get AIs to focus fire really well, you can get AIs to spell cast retardedly well, but within the constraints of SC, its very hard to get AIs to dance their units properly (which is crucial during early game). That's one reason why all the previous 'super AI' built for SC have some cheating element involved (basically, free resources), because on average, given two equal forces, a skilled human p
    • by khallow (566160)
      It's not "rushing". It's figuring out where the enemy is and seizing the initiative. I suspect even games that have mechanics that discourage swarming a base early, still have early game tricks that an aggressive player can use to mess up someone's start (say sniping targets of opportunity or blowing up some easy to kill structures).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trepidity (597)

      For logistical reasons there aren't a lot of options. Past competitions have used Wargus [sourceforge.net], since it's open source. Game-industry people tend to roll their eyes at it though, and would prefer a competition using a "real" RTS, i.e. a popular mainstream one. Starcraft is one of the only choices for that, because someone's made an API for it [ucsc.edu] that allows you to write external AI to play the game. Most commercial RTSs don't have any way of doing that, unless you were to screen-scrape the display and then have to i

  • Human Advantages:
    Advanced Prediction
    Flexible Stategies
    Arguably Faster Learning

    AI Advantages:
    Able to command all units at once
    Usually More efficient w/ resources
    Instant Macro management

    Another advantage to the AI could include knowing the map layout and what the player has at all times, which is something the original starcraft had so the AI would know whether to rush you or not.

    • which is something the original starcraft had so the AI would know whether to rush you or not.

      It may have just been my limited experience with the AIs but most of the time it seemed that the AI was on a pretty fixed schedule in terms of attacks. If the AI had any comprehension of what the human player had built then I'd say that the AIs were very very poorly designed. They'd attack massive defense with a dozen zealots when a human player that knew the defense was there would have known it was futile to h

      • Re:Breakdown (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:19PM (#30077164)

        Most game AI's are not well designed, but not because they can't be. Most game AI's are built from the prespective that the player should be able to win, therefore Grandmaster level thinking is less desirable than preditable patterns that seem impossible to be till the player realizes they can be exploited.

        • by tool462 (677306)

          Exactly. The levels can be treated more as puzzles that need to be solved. After a couple of times trying to beat a level, you get a feel for the types of attacks to expect, and figure out ways to counter them. This could lead you to doing things you could never get away with in a Battle.net game. For instance, I was never a big fan of Vultures, but there were a few Terran missions where the spider mines were very useful.

          • by bnenning (58349)

            This could lead you to doing things you could never get away with in a Battle.net game. For instance, I was never a big fan of Vultures, but there were a few Terran missions where the spider mines were very useful.

            Vultures are very heavily used in pro matches, both for the mines and to sneak into enemy bases and kill workers.

        • by Khashishi (775369)

          In adventure games, or in campaign mode, I would agree with you. But in skirmish mode, the AI should be as smart as it can be (when set to hard).

          • by Chyeld (713439)

            In a perfect world yes. In a realistic world, the game developer realizes that skirmish mode is simply what people play when they don't want to bother with going online and finding a human to play against, and the effort spent creating and polishing a seperate AI just for that mode would garner more points with the player if it was spent elsewhere (such as fine tuning the balance of the game, polishing the maps, and etc.)

        • Re:Breakdown (Score:4, Informative)

          by RedFlames (1618315) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @04:17PM (#30079082)
          (I apologize in advance for the lack of paragraph spacing. Slashdot appears not to recognize the carriage return/line feed from this browser/computer?) Most games(I dare say almost all AAA titles) don't have anything resembling actual AI. Including AI is very very expensive computationally, it simply isn't feasible for most of the lower-end consumer users. To get around this, most games include a large variety of playbooks that define how the computer opponent should build, what to build, when to attack, etc... Sometimes there are minimal elements of AI, such as "if (terran) skip zergling rush". But, by and large, the AI is simply following a set of rules of when/what to build. If you switch the mode to "hard", most games simply ratchet up the minerals/second income for the computer, or remove fog of war (all Blizzard games do this). If you wish to experiment for yourself the 'ORTS' engine is a near replica of StarCraft but fully open-sourced. (http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~mburo/orts/) I believe there are multiple AI examples included (there used to be) so you can foray into the challenges presented by real AIs; computers that actually adapt their playing style to your own. As a warning, the engine does not abstract away details to make it easier (eg: there are unit collisions, writing a script to mine a patch of minerals effectively suddenly became much much harder). Disclosure: I am not affiliated with the ORTS engine directly, but I did take a class in my undergrad doing game AI on it.
          • Re:Breakdown (Score:4, Informative)

            by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:10PM (#30080062) Journal

            (I apologize in advance for the lack of paragraph spacing. Slashdot appears not to recognize the carriage return/line feed from this browser/computer?)

            Allowed html is displayed below the comment form when you write a comment. Only the the following are allowed on slashdot:

            <b> <i> <p> <br> <a> <ol> <ul> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <em> <strong> <tt> <blockquote> <div> <ecode> <quote>

        • I read a book on game AI that argued for a fundamental split between AI for games, and AI in general. The point of a game AI is to lose entertainingly. Which means the designer should focus on fakery like spawning enemies in just the right spot to be dangerous, plus entertaining features like having them ineptly track the player and exclaim, "Where'd he go?" Because of that argument, I've lost some of my interest in game-focused AI.
    • If it's an AI competition, I doubt the AI teams would be given any more information than the human teams had. Computers could be better at micro management, but probably not by enough to make up for humans' ability to adapt to changing circumstances and come up with new tactics on the fly.

    • by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @01:58PM (#30076788) Homepage

      Human Advantages:
      Imagined Prediction Advantage
      Flexible Stategies
      Arguably Faster Learning

      AI Advantages:
      Able to command all units at once
      Usually More efficient w/ resources
      Instant Macro management

      Korean Advantages:
      Superior Strategies
      Advanced Prediction
      Flexible Tactics
      Arguably Faster Learning
      Able to command all units at once
      Usually More efficient w/ resources
      Instant Macro management

      Fixed that for you :D

    • Another advantage to the AI could include knowing the map layout and what the player has at all times, which is something the original starcraft had so the AI would know whether to rush you or not.

      That's not an advantage AI has, that's just cheating. Circumventing game rules to see full map is just plain cheating, if a player did it you wouldn't say he's any better than the guy who doesn't see the map, same rules apply to AI. It's equivalent to making things 50% cheaper for the AI or giving it free units... it's just plain cheating.

      • Potato Potahto, I would agree that it isn't fair, but neither is being able to command over 100 units individually in a miniscule fraction of a second. When this kind of information isn't readily available to AI, they tend not to be difficult. I've never seen a human opponent lose against an AI when the Human goes on the offensive first.

  • AIIDE web site (Score:3, Informative)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:08PM (#30076948) Homepage

    The aiide conference web site [aiide.org] has been Slashdotted... even though Slashdot didn't link to it. :-)

  • Well, I guess it was announced almost 2 months ago. The teams have been submitted and the contest is currently running as far as I can tell FTFA. Hmmm... timely news. I don't think so, this would have been cool back in Sept. so someone that might be interested could simply create a bot and enter it. Now it is way past time
  • The cheapest way for the computer to beat the human is to simply open up multiple fronts that cannot be simultaneously micro-managed. Even maintaining one significant skirmish at the front will prevent the human from micromanaging the base back home.

    I've been a fan of RTS from the beginning but haven't seen anything really exciting since Total Anihillation. Maybe I've missed some great ideas but pretty much every one I've tried since has been met with the initial glee of pretty graphics and then the crushin

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aXis100 (690904)

      If you like TA, check out Spring at http://springrts.com/ [springrts.com]

      This is an open source fully 3d replica of TA. They've now built it to the point where it is a base engine that can host one of several mods - mostly based on TA style models and concepts, although a few are completely unique. AI's are plugins that can work over several mods if the author chooses so.

      My favourite is the Complete Annihillation Mod - http://springrts.com/wiki/Complete_Annihilation [springrts.com]
      The "chicken" mode has a weak AI, but enough brute force

  • by hort_wort (1401963) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:55PM (#30077782)

    My AI would design its base to be a rough representation of a naughty picture on the minimap. Human players would always lose as they just let the AI build away to see the picture get a higher resolution.

  • I'll buy StarCraft 2 if they have frequent (1 per year or more) competitions like this. Hopefully Blizzard will release its own easy to use API for AI competitions with the release of the game.

  • Ah I get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tengeta (1594989)
    Thats why StarCraft 2 was delayed, they don't even feel like writing the code anymore and want people to do it for free.
  • I imagine that a computer's ability to control units with instant reflexes and frame precision will make AI Starcraft a completely different game from anything we've seen. Watch some Tool Assisted Speedruns and see how the gameplay of a person playing frame by frame transcends that a skilled human playing normally. Games are designed, tested, or balanced with the expectation that a player cannot press a button thirty times a second, anticipate the frame in which a projectile which hit, or issue commands at

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