Looks like the Deepmind Starcraft AI relied on superhuman speed after all

Deepmind presented an AI that could beat human champions at Starcraft II. It claimed the AI was limited to what human players can physically do, putting its achievement in the realm of strategic analysis rather than finger twitchery. But there's a problem: it was often tracked clicking with superhuman speed and efficiency.

Aleksi Pietikäinen:

1. AlphaStar played with superhuman speed and precision.

2. Deepmind claimed to have restricted the AI from performing actions that would be physically impossible to a human. They have not succeeded in this and most likely are aware of it.

3. The reason why AlphaStar is performing at superhuman speeds is most likely due to it’s inability to unlearn the human players tendency to spam click. I suspect Deepmind wanted to restrict it to a more human like performance but they are simply not able to.

Pietikäinen suggests that because Deepmind would have depended on recorded human games to train the AI, it picked up a peculiar human behavior: idle or unnecessary "spam clicking". As a result Deepmind would have been forced to lift the AI's clickspeed limits to escape this behavior, at which point it develops strategies that irreducibly depend on bursts of superhuman speed. In brief:

"It is deeply unsatisfying to have prominent members of this research project make claims of human-like mechanical limitations when the agent is very obviously breaking them and winning it’s games specifically because it is demonstrating superhuman execution."

It looks rather like Deepmind bungled an interesting AI's announcement by making claims about it that it didn't realize were wrong. Read the rest

Lawrence Lessig on designing a corruption-resistant democracy for a virtual world

Lawrence Lessig (previously) has spent years articulating the case against corruption of the political sphere (and has written a superb book on the subject); now he's helping to design the political framework for Seed, a multiplayer game "in which players must collaborate (or compete) to rebuild society on a new, untamed planet." Read the rest

Brief history of grid-based dungeon crawlers

The Digital Antiquarian offers a potted history of 1990s-era dungeon crawlers: the first-person kind that plays out in real time, but restricts players to movement on a grid to keeps things doable on the era's limited hardware. They were soon outmoded by free movement in three dimensions, but have become a cult subgenre that thrives to this day.

It was easy and natural in these games to control a whole party of characters moving in lockstep from square to square, thus retaining another of the foremost pleasures of turn-based games like Wizardry: that of building up not just a single character but a balanced team of them. In a free-scrolling, free-moving game, with its much more precise sense of embodied positioning, such a conceit would have been impossible to maintain. And much of the emergent interactivity of Dungeon Master‘s environment would also have been impossible without the grid. Many of us still recall the eureka moment when we realized that we could kill monsters by luring them into a gate square and pushing a button to bash them on the heads with the thing as it tried to descend, over and over again. Without the neat order of the grid, where a gate occupying a square fills all of that square as it descends, there could have been no eureka.

Pictured here is of one of the Ishar series, missing from TDA's roundup, perhaps due to its obscurity outside of Britain and France. It was the high point of the genre's golden age, the best and worst of it, and I fancy you can tell from just one screenshot. Read the rest

Free game: What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch is free this month from the Epic store. I downloaded it last night and couldn't stop playing until I was done. It's a detailed, polished walking simulator that clocks in at 3 hours, so tightly orchestrated it feels like a genuinely interactive movie.

It centers on Edith, a high schooler and the last surviving child of a family "cursed" by generations of tragedy. After her mother's death, she inherits the cosy yet unsettling manse she grew up in and sets out to uncover the family's secrets. This is to say, she wants to know why so many Finches died young and why her mother didn't want the stories told.

It's obviously from the outset that something is deeply wrong with the family even as it is clearly a family full of love. The wrongness hovers at the margins of reason. It's reflected in the house, normal at the ground level but an alarming mass of ramshackle additions up top. Surely that would be dangerous, you ask yourself.

Some of the family death vignettes really got under my skin. They're all elaborated in the telling to the point of magic realism and beyond, but when you sit and think about what was shown they unravel to mundane parenting failures, one after another after another. The elaborations thereby become part of the problem. But now I'm in danger of spoiling the game's secrets.

Edith Finch maintains a tension between modern gothic mystery and the suggestion of a damaged family that mythologizes its subtly self-destructive currents. Read the rest

Bushwookies rejoice! Fortnite has added the Sneaky Snowman

Fortnite Battle Royale is constantly adding new items, weapons, vehicles and locations. The latest? The Sneaky Snowman.

The winter-themed map has a lot of Snowmen hanging around it. Now you can disguise yourself as one and sneak up on folks.

Snowmen can't build or use weapons, but they can throw snowballs and act as a free 100 shield. When you switch to another item, the Snowman disguise will fall.

Players who love disguising themselves as an in-game bush (aka Bushwookies) will likely have a ball! Read the rest

Weirdly compelling game: Which domain name is more expensive?

The Domain Name Pricing Game is surprisingly addictive and rather surreal. I'm terrible at it though.

Martin O'Leary created the game based on an idea by Holly Gramazio.

"Please don't buy any of these domains," O'Leary writes. "They're all terrible and you'd be supporting asshole domain squatters."

The Domain Name Pricing Game (via Waxy) Read the rest

Unsealed court documents reveal that Facebook knew kids were being tricked into spending thousands of dollars on their parents' credit cards

In 2012, Facebook settled a class-action suit with parents who claimed that their kids were being tricked into spending real money on game items, thinking they were spending virtual in-game currency; the parents said that Facebook had structured its system to allow kids to use their parents' credit cards without the parents' intervention, unlike competitors like Google and Apple, who required password re-entries when a card was re-charged for in-game purchases. Read the rest

Another World: Survival turns an old game into a new challenge

Another World: Survival is a low-res adaptation of Eric Chahi's classic 16-bit game. Though it's broken down to the essentials to "fit" on the Pico-8 fantasy console, it so perfectly implements the original's combat mechanics and aesthetic that I can't stop playing. Read the rest

'Verizon Gaming' cloud-based games service coming soon to Android

'Verizon Gaming' is coming soon to Android, and a beta is already running on the Nvidia Shield, per a report from Chris Welch at Verge. Read the rest

Why video games are made of triangles.. smaller and smaller triangles

The power is in the polygons.

Read the rest

Razer laptops get hotter

Too late for Christmas! Razer's laptops—one of few designed for playing games that an adult could use in public without embarassment—got a spec bump to include 2000-series Nvidia graphics chips.

The updated line of laptops will also feature an anti-ghosting keyboard powered by Razer Chroma which offers 16.8 million colors for key customization. New power management options, including modes to boost graphics performance, or to maximize the run time of the 80Wh battery. Audio is delivered through improved dual front-firing speakers and features Dolby Atmos for deeper bass response in the sound.

Configurations start with the 2060 part, which was just announced by NVidia at a pre-CES event, but if you're going to spend this much on a laptop you should probably hike up to the 2070. It comes in white and traditional Razer "black 'n' rainbows". They'll be out Jan. 29, and if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

I found that a 15" laptop was too hefty for me and recently went back to a 12" MacBook as my daily driver. I'm more tempted to switch, then, by the smaller 13" Razer Blade Stealth laptop [Amazon]. Updated two months ago, it's still the size of a MacBook but now includes the MX150 chip. It won't handle the latest games on Ultra, but it is a credible game-capable GPU in an ultraportable laptop. (Last-gen Stealth owners had to get an external GPU to play—a bulky ask) Read the rest

Gamer who attacked wife on livestream reinstated by Twitch (UPDATE: banned again)

Last month, an Australian Fortnite player who streamed himself attacking his wife off-screen while his screaming children watched was charged with assault and banned from Amazon-owned Twitch. But after only two weeks, the service has restored Luke Munday's account and is profiting from his newfound notoriety.

Twitch and Munday and Munday’s attorney didn’t respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast.

Munday, who goes by “MrDeadMoth” on Twitch, was a small-time streamer until the night of Dec. 9. That’s when his pregnant girlfriend, unhappy that he had missed dinner with his family, asked him to stop playing Fortnite and chatting with his Twitch fans.

Angered, Munday went off-screen, but kept the camera running. After Munday left the stream, a slapping sound could be heard on the video, while his girlfriend cried and their two children, both toddlers, were heard screaming.

There are three stages to how tech platforms keep their racist, sexist, criminal celebrities afloat in the face of criticism.

1. Smiling and promising to do better. 2. Smiling, teeth clenched, silently, like the creepy Fassbender robot from the new Alien movies. 3. Mask-off distinterest in criticism, trending toward open hostility.

Welcome to 2, Twitch! (YouTube's been at 3 since the Pewd N-bomb.)

UPDATE: He's been rebanned, reports The Verge. Read the rest

Play HATETRIS, the most frustrating version of Tetris ever

According to its infernal creator, HATETRIS "is bad Tetris. It's hateful Tetris. It's Tetris according to the evil AI from 'I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.'"

Background, hints, and links to others' prior work here.

(via Kottke) Read the rest

Game design contest: remix America's new public domain!

This is the first day in 20 years for new works entering the American public domain, and to celebrate, Itch.io is hosting a 1923 public domain game jam, with prizes for best analog game, digital game, adaptation of a 9123 work, remix from multiple sources, deep cut, and visuals; judged by a group of archive, game and copyright nerds (including me!) -- here's a list of 1,000+ works that enter the public domain today to get you started! Read the rest

A crocheted Monopoly game blanket you can actually play

This is quite the feat. Twitter user @pilotviruet's mom crocheted them a playable Monopoly game blanket. Color me impressed!

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Building a high-performance cluster of Gameboy emulators to teach computers to play video games

Kamil Rocki was inspired by the 2016 paper from Google Deepmind researchers explaining how they used machine learning to develop a system that could play Breakout on the Atari 2600 with superhuman proficiency. Read the rest

K-Swiss's new line of performance sneakers for videogaming

K-Swiss and esports organization Immortals is releasing sneakers designed for playing videogames.

Bloomberg reports that the "performance" version of the sneaker, called the Grandmaster, "will include the ability to quickly kick the shoes off hands-free. That should help provide comfort during long matches."

(via NextDraft) Read the rest

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