Blizzard announced on July 10 that DeepMind’s Starcraft II AI AlphaStar will be playing ladder matches against human players. AlphaStar is joining the ladder for a limited time to help DeepMind researchers develop new insights into AI.
The AI will remain on ladder for “a series of blind trial matches.” AlphaStar will only participate in 1v1 matches, and only on the European Starcraft II servers. DeepMind will be keeping track of its performance during said matches. This experimental AlphaStar will not learn on its own. Instead, it may undergo programmed changes during the test period, using results from its games.
This run of test games is a continuation of a similar test AlphaGo was part of in January. You can see those games in the video below.
AlphaStar can play as any one of the three factions. It will likely use a randomized name, as the announcement post states that players won’t know they are facing it. This is done so players treat it as a human opponent and use their standard strategies against it. However, no Starcraft II player will find themselves matched against AlphaStar unless they have opted in for the test. Beating AlphaStar affects MMR as normal, as does losing to it.
It’s not clear yet whether AlphaStar will have an automatic edge over players. However, Starcraft II is a game intensely reliant on mechanical skill. Therefore, it is possible AlphaStar may have certain advantages.
DeepMind’s researchers seems to have taken that possibility into account. The post states that AlphaStar will have “built-in restrictions that the DeepMind team has defined in consultation with pro players.” Unlike a bot, AlphaStar will be limited to acting within what’s visible on their screen at any given moment. The post also states it will have a capped APM, or actions-per-minute.
The post emphasizes that this period of testing will benefit research into AI in general and not specifically in gaming. On that front, OpenAI Five’s performance against Dota 2 world champions OG showed that AI is already unbeatable.
When the trial is over, DeepMind will release their findings in a scientific paper. Alongside it, they will also release AlphaStar’s match replays.
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