DeepMind’s AlphaStar artificial intelligence was recently put to work trying to master the real-time complexities of Blizzard’s StarCraft II. Which it successfully managed in just over six weeks, becoming the first non-human to reach the rank of Grandmaster in the game.
The AI was first tasked with watching human players to study their (our?) movements, then forced to play against itself as each faction in the game, so that it could probe each side for weaknesses. This is a massive task, as unlike other, more linear games that AIs have mastered previously, StarCraft is an open, expansive map where the number of possible actions a player can take in a match are seemingly endless.
With that sorted, DeepMind made the decision to limit AlphaStar’s speed. Rather than let it calculate and execute strategies as fast as a computer could process, it instead had the AI run at human speed, so that it had to rely on its strategies to win, not its mechanical advantages.
The result being that AlphaStar is now ranked Grandmaster, a title reserved for the top 200 players in each of the game’s four regions, and which places it above 99.8% of human players.
If you’d like to see the AI in action, here’s video from January when AlphaStar beat two StarCraft II pros.