DeepMind's StarCraft 2 A.I. Ranks Higher Than 99.8% of Human Players

DeepMind's StarCraft 2 A.I. Ranks Higher Than 99.8% of Human Players

If you lost against AlphaStar, we're sorry.

A few months ago, an A.I. racked up 90 games of StarCraft 2—30 each as the Protoss, Terran, and Zerg—and managed to reach the Grandmaster rank for all three races. The A.I., dubbed AlphaStar, is the product of years of research conducted by DeepMind. Today, DeepMind went public with AlphaStar by way of a new research paper in Nature and a more digestible summary on its website.

DeepMind's final iteration of AlphaStar ranked above 99.8% of all active StarCraft 2 players. As the highest achievable rank in StarCraft 2, Grandmaster rank consists of the top 200 one-versus-one players in a given region (AlphaStar's games were played on European servers).

It took a novel innovation in machine learning techniques in order to get AlphaStar into Grandmaster. A common problem with A.I. designed to converge on better strategies is that they can also effectively "forget" what it has learned and then lose to past versions of itself. In a league where every A.I. agent is trying to win, that can lead to a situation where the A.I. end up stuck cycling through a few strategies that happen to beat each other. To prevent this, DeepMind reworked its AlphaStar A.I. training league to include "exploiter agents" that prioritize seeking out flaws in the strategy of win-maximizing agents.

It's an approach inspired by how actual top players train, and AlphaStar benefitted from the input of StarCraft 2 pros. Team Liquid's Dario "TLO" Wünsch is listed as a co-author on the paper: in addition to playing matches against AlphaStar for the purposes of research, Wünsch helped inform the limits placed on AlphaStar to ensure it isn't discernibly making moves faster than a human player possibly could.

In 2017, DeepMind partnered with Blizzard to make an open source environment for A.I. research within StarCraft 2—all 90 of AlphaStar's game replays and an open access version of the new paper are also available for free download. DeepMind is owned by Alphabet, the parent holding company of Google.

As always, the key takeaway of research like this is the breakthrough in methodology. A few good players did have to lose games against AlphaStar in the wild for the sake of science, but if it's any consolation, those folks are still better than AlphaStar at doing literally anything besides playing StarCraft 2.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

In other news

Fire Emblem: Three Houses Adds a Secret Fourth House in New DLC

Byleth dives deep into the Abyss for more students to teach.

Wargroove's Free Double Trouble DLC Gets a Release Date, But PS4 Players Will Have to Wait

Double Trouble will drop first on PC, Switch, and Xbox One next month.

Valve's Dota Underlords Has Been Having Trouble Holding Onto Players

The autobattler has been slowly bleeding players.

You may also like

What Underused Setting Would be Amazing in a Video Game?

COMMUNITY QUESTION | South Asia? Toronto? We want to hear from you which underused setting would be great for a video game.

The Leads of Red Dead Redemption 2 Would Like You to Know They're Not "Voice Actors"

The people behind Dutch, Arthur, and other game stars want to set something straight.

Temtem Can Be "Better Than Pokemon" Because It's Not Pokemon

There's a wonderful freedom in being the new kid on the block.

Activision Blizzard Moves Away From Twitch, Partners With YouTube Gaming

The Overwatch League and more will stream exclusively with Google.