Blizzard unleashes Google's DeepMind AI against European Starcraft II players

Experimental AlphaStar agent will play anonymously, but only against gamers who opt into test matches

Blizzard has partnered with Google for a test of the latter's DeepMind technology, pitting StarCraft II players against the artificial intelligence in online matches.

A number of experimental versions of DeepMind's AI agent for StarCraft II, dubbed AlphaStar, will "soon play a small number of games on the competitive ladder in Europe" as part of Google's research, according to Blizzard.

To ensure all matches are played in the same conditions, AlphaStar will play anonymously. The DeepMind team hopes this means it will be able to see how the AI copes against a wide variety of player strategies.

AlphaStar won't be taking on the entire StarCraft community -- players will have to opt in, with details on how to do so found on Blizzard's website. Neither Blizzard nor Google will detail when these matches are due to take place.

The developer says AlphaStar will play using "built-in restrictions... defined in consultation with pro players." For example, Blizzard has assured that AlphaStar will not have any more knowledge of a match than its online opponents.

"Like human players, AlphaStar perceives the game using a camera-like view," the company explained. "This means that AlphaStar doesn't receive information about its opponent unless it is within the camera's field of view, and it can only move units to locations within its view."

The AI is also limited to how many effect actions per minute and per second it can make.

Blizzard adds that AlphaStar will not learn from its matches or improve its strategies over the course of the test. So far, the AI has only been trained from human replays and self-play, making these the first matches against human players.

The results will be released in a peer-reviewed scientific paper, along with replays from the matches AlphaStar played, at a later date.

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