Blizzard’s partnership with DeepMind, a firm that specializes in machine learning, has culminated in the release of the StarCraft II API, which is available now. This mechanism for enabling outside creators into integrate their apps into StarCraft II is going to open up the competitive sci-fi strategy game to researchers working in the field of A.I.
At the 2016 BlizzCon fan gathering in Anaheim, Blizzard revealed that it was working with DeepMind to test the same sort of learning algorithms that helped the company’s AlphaGo A.I. beat some of the top players of the complicated board game, Go.
“On behalf of Blizzard Entertainment, the StarCraft II development team is very pleased to announce the release of the StarCraft II API,” reads a Blizzard blog post. “We recognize the efforts made by researchers over the years to advance AI using the original StarCraft. With the StarCraft II API, we’re providing powerful tools for researchers, gamers, and hobbyists to utilize the game as a platform to further advance the state of AI research.”
This new set of tools, players will have access to the following features:
- A machine-learning API that Blizzard developed to give developers an easy way to hook into the game.
- The capability to use scripted A.I., which is a more traditional way of making computers behave in an intelligent way by giving it “if/then” statements.
- Image-based A.I. where the computer can “see” the game and learn how it works over time by playing game after game.
- Support for Windows, Mac, and Linux
While this is potentially an incredible way for researchers to understand how machines learn, Blizzard claims it could also lead to new ways for fans to enjoy StarCraft II.
“This API also exposes a sandbox for the community to experiment with, using both learning-based AI and scripted AI to build new tools that can benefit the StarCraft II and AI communities,” reads the Blizzard blog.
In its own blog, DeepMind explained why Blizzard’s real-time strategy game is so ideal for A.I. research.
“Part of StarCraft’s longevity is down to the rich, multi-layered gameplay, which also makes it an ideal environment for AI research,” reads the DeepMind blog. “For example, while the objective of the game is to beat the opponent, the player must also carry out and balance a number of sub-goals, such as gathering resources or building structures. In addition, a game can take from a few minutes to one hour to complete, meaning actions taken early in the game may not pay-off for a long time.”
Those are all challenges for a machine (well, and humans) that have difficulty spotting cause-and-effect. But with this new API, researchers can program learning algorithms and then run hundreds, thousands, or even millions of StarCraft II games to give the A.I. the data it needs to spot difficult trends.
And that’s the story of why in 50 years, when the machines overtake Earth, we will have to turn to our StarCraft II pros to save the human race.