Quickly Training Game-Playing Agents with Machine Learning

Posted by Leopold Haller and Hernan Moraldo, Software Engineers, Google Research

In the last two decades, dramatic advances in compute and connectivity have allowed game developers to create works of ever-increasing scope and complexity. Simple linear levels have evolved into photorealistic open worlds, procedural algorithms have enabled games with unprecedented variety, and expanding internet access has transformed games into dynamic online services. Unfortunately, scope and complexity have grown more rapidly than the size of quality assurance teams or the capabilities of traditional automated testing. This poses a challenge to both product quality (such as delayed releases and post-launch patches) and developer quality of life.

Machine learning (ML) techniques offer a possible solution, as they have demonstrated the potential to profoundly impact game development flows – they can help designers balance their game and empower artists to produce high-quality assets in a fraction of the time traditionally required. Furthermore, they can be used to train challenging opponents that can compete at the highest levels of play. Yet some ML techniques can pose requirements that currently make them impractical for production game teams, including the design of game-specific network architectures, the development of expertise in implementing ML algorithms, or the generation of billions of frames of training data. Conversely, game developers operate in a setting that offers unique advantages to leverage ML techniques, such as direct access to the game source, an abundance of expert demonstrations, and the uniquely interactive nature of video games.

Today, we present a ML-based system that game developers can use to quickly and efficiently train game-testing agents, helping developers find serious bugs quickly while allowing human testers to focus on more complex and intricate problems. The resulting solution requires no ML expertise, works on many of the most popular game genres, and can train an ML policy, which generates game actions from game state, in less than an hour on

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