Dota 2 AI bot shows the pros how it's done


— 3:55 PM on August 14, 2017

Gamers love to complain about the AI in many different ways. In the NES era, computer-controlled opponents were called "cheap." In FPS games, the opponents in single-player games are usually nothing but stupid cannon fodder. In games like the ill-fated Daikatana, friendly bots would hold the player back from completing the mission objective. But times have changed. After machines achieved success playing chess, Go, and poker, AI bots from Elon Musk's OpenAI venture have now defeated some of the best professional players in the world in one-on-one matches in Valve's popular Dota 2 MOBA.

The action happened at The International, the game's largest annual tournament. According to Peter Bright at Ars Technica, OpenAI's bot can only play as Shadow Fiend (one of 113 playable combatants), and only play against the same character. That might not sound like a terribly impressive feat until one learns that the machine learned how to play the game on its own by playing against itself on an Azure cloud server for two weeks. The bot developed bluffing techniques without observing the machinations of real players, too. Success in Dota 2 is made even more impressive by the fact that all moves must be chosen with incomplete knowledge of the play field and game conditions.

OpenAI's bot defeated well-known professional Dota players Artour "Arteezy" Babaev, Sumail "Suma1l" Hassan, and Danil "Dendi" Ishutin. The AI was then set loose against tournament attendees. The first 50 opponents to beat the machine got offered in-game prizes. All of the awards were claimed before the end of the event, though defeating the computer involved using unusual strategies that the bot had little to no experience defending against.

The project's next step is to refine the AI to be able to play on teams in the game's popular 5-on-5 mode. OpenAI's bots ran on a cloud server, but I can't help but think about a possible future where gamers have the option of adding AI-specific hardware to improve their experience, similar to the dedicated physics cards of yore.

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