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Author Topic: Skynet meets the Swarm: A fascinating article about AI.  (Read 1934 times)
Deozaan
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« on: January 19, 2011, 05:54:29 PM »

We’re gathered in a conference room on the Berkeley campus, the detritus of a LAN party scattered around us. The table is covered with computers and pizza, and there’s a game of StarCraft projected on the screen. Oriol Vinyals, a PhD student in computer science, is commanding the Terran army in a life-or-death battle against the forces of the Zerg Swarm.

Oriol is very good—one-time World Cyber Games competitor, number 1 in Spain, top 16 in Europe good. But his situation now is precarious: his goliath walkers are holding off the Zerg’s flying mutalisks, but they can’t be everywhere at once. The Zerg player is crafty, retreating in the face of superior firepower but never going far, picking off targets of opportunity and applying constant pressure.

Then Oriol makes a mistake. He moves his goliaths slightly out of position, just for a few seconds. It’s enough. The mutalisks react instantly, streaming through the gap in his defenses and making straight for his vulnerable workers. By the time Oriol brings the goliaths back to drive off the mutalisks, his workers are wiped out and his resource production is crippled.

Oriol makes a desperate, last-ditch attack on the Zerg base, trying to break through before the mutalisks are reinforced, but it’s too late. One after another, his goliaths get ripped apart by the Zerg defenses. As a new wave of mutalisks emerges from the Zerg hatcheries, he has no choice but to concede—to the computerized AI that just defeated him.

There's a palpable air of celebration in the room; even Oriol is grinning. He was just beaten by the Berkeley Overmind, an AI agent that our team in the room spent the past few months working on. The Overmind is our entry into the 2010 StarCraft AI Competition, and after dozens of test matches, it has finally defeated our human StarCraft expert for the first time


I'm no expert in AI, nor am I very good at StarCraft, so I don't really have anything to add to the conversation. I just found the whole thing fascinating.
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Renegade
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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2011, 02:33:53 AM »

That was interesting. (The 'DC game' thread would benefit.)
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Deozaan
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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2011, 02:58:13 AM »

Yeah, I agree. smiley

Someone (Lashiec?) said in IRC that the article is a bit obtuse if you're not familiar with the game. So YMMV. smiley
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worstje
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2011, 08:25:53 AM »

That was an awesome read. smiley

And I guess I can see how it is a bit obtuse, but in all fairness to the authors of the article they gave quite decent summaries of concepts. I saw explanations on the basic race differences, global overview of tactics (mess with resources aka gas-steal/worker-kills, hit-and-run, etc), basic uses and effects of different units (tanks, mutalisks, archons, templars) and in the end, I think that's about as much as one might expect.

After all, in an article discussing Deep Blue's tactics, would you expect to see indepth explanations of the way a horse jumps and how it works with other units? Far less so than that a discussion on how to set up proper two-pronged attacks over the course of several moves which is more AI. Likewise, you wouldn't expect to see the details of castling or promoting explained, if it came up at all in the article.

Summary: great article. smiley If anyone else has gotten slightly curious about Starcraft but not necessarily from a playing perspective, hit up youtube. And do not worry about the graphics of SC1 you see in the article: with Starcraft 2 having been released watching videos is ten times the fun as it drags the game into this age once more. It's a bigger sport than one might expect at first glance, and there's a fair number of people casting games from crap to the highest professional tiers while discussing their tactics and all that.

Personally I find it far more entertaining than soccer, baseball and the sorts. So, if anyone is interested, let me know and I'll collect a bunch of links to good casters. smiley
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Deozaan
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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2011, 06:42:26 PM »

If you're up for a challenge, here are instructions on how to play against the AI agents from the competttion:

http://eis.ucsc.edu/BotInstructions
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Lashiec
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2011, 08:31:11 PM »

I gave the article another quick read this morning, and I kinda understood it all. I think my commentary on its obtuseness stems from the fact that I was quite a bit sleepy when reading the article yesterday, and didn't catch any of the explanations, except that the mutalisk seemed like a very important unit for the AI :-D

I watched a few videos of StarCraft II a couple of weeks and they bored me to tears Grin. It's not a game very attractive for spectators, specially if you don't intend to use the videos as a learning tool.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2011, 08:39:18 PM by Lashiec » Logged
worstje
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« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2011, 02:41:08 AM »

I personally disagree. I don't play and love watching it. The biggest problem I think people face is that they do not know the units, thus can't see all the tactics going on even if there's a good commentator. Compare it to watching tennis without knowing the scoring system, which is pretty confusing, or golf, or baseball. The less you know of the rules, the more it will just look like something hitting a ball around that you can barely see on the screen. The more you watch, the more you know there's far more to it than just the ball itself.
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