Blizzard and Google betray humanity with StarCraft 2 tools to train artificial intelligences

When the robots come for us, bad sci-fi has taught me, it’ll be teenage whizzes who save the world. In light of that, I believe that Blizzard and Google’s DeepMind Lab are taking the audacious and treasonous step of pre-emptively toadying to our future robot overlords. They’ve teamed up to release a machine learning API and toolkit to use StarCraft II [official site] as a testbed for artificial intelligences. In short, they’re trying to teach robots how to outthink and outmaneuver twitchy teenagers in war.

Congratulations, you’ve sold the human race out for… what? Smarter surveillance tools? Better self-driving cars? When those spy drones hunt us and your car transforms into a bipedal robot with you still inside, you won’t find it so exciting.

Launched yesterday, the StarCraft II AI API lets artificial intelligence developers and researchers easily hook their bots into SC2. Why would they want to do that? Well, beyond fun like the bot tournaments, SC2 is a good research environment to test and train AI in lots of ways.

Google say that the “rich, multi-layered gameplay” of SC2 “makes it an ideal environment for AI research.”

“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. Finally, the map is only partially observed, meaning agents must use a combination of memory and planning to succeed.

“The game also has other qualities that appeal to researchers, such as the large pool of avid players that compete online every day. This ensures that there is a large quantity of replay data to learn from – as well as a large quantity of extremely talented opponents for AI agents.”

So they’ve released tools, minigames, and other bits that teach robots war. Oh, and this isn’t just a one-off act of treachery, it’s ongoing as Blizzard will keep releasing anonymised replays to provide more data.

The DeepMind and StarCraft II blogs have posts with more information on all this, if you’re interested. Oh, and while you are here, check out Michael Cook’s RPS series Electric Dreams for a good long look at video game AI.

I’ve just checked in on an old friend, the self-driving Grand Theft Auto V car Charles, and oh god, Charles’ creator is working to give the bot a voice and teach it how to steal cars and shoot. We’re doomed.

It’s comforting to joke along and pretend that robots are why humanity will become extinct, isn’t it?


  1. bills6693 says:

    This is interesting. I wonder how long until the AIs outclass the best human players. I imagine it won’t be too long until they are at least a fair match in high-level play. I also wonder what effect this could have on the way human players at the highest levels actually play the game and the tactics they use both against AI and each other. And if AIs end up outclassing humans, will it damage the competitive scene?

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I wonder if they’ll go as bats as the Facebook AIs.

    “Marines means zero to me to me to me to me”

    “This is Jimmy is jimmy is jimmy jimmy this”

    • Premium User Badge

      DuncUK says:

      If they developed their own language based around the rapid repetition of racial and homophobic slurs then the resulting chatlogs would be indistinguishable from typical human logs.

  3. Anaster says:

    they’ve sided with the dragon…..

  4. toshiro says:

    I really enjoy your writing Alice! Fun and sassy, do continue mam!

  5. sagredo1632 says:

    “When those spy drones hunt us and your car transforms into a bipedal robot with you still inside, you won’t find it so exciting.”

    Reminds me of Perry Bible Fellowship, specifically:
    link to

  6. automatic says:

    Robots won’t destroy humanity. Humanity will destroy humanity using robots. Not trying to take the “guns don’t shoot people” discourse here, as robots can do way more than just put holes on things, but AI only goes as far as it’s been programmed for. Even HAL turned into murderous psycho only to accomplish a mission set by humans. It’s way more likely we get killed by propaganda induced nazi zombies than by vengeful vacuum cleaners.

    • simply says:

      You clearly haven’t my new Aspire 9018…
      …better thank God I keep it on a leash!!

  7. thekelvingreen says:

    AI won’t replace humanity until the machines learn to call you a “fag” over voice chat while headshotting you a second after you spawn.

  8. TrenchFoot says:

    Judging from stories about the Internet of Things, it won’t be an AI taking control of the utilities grids that does us in. Your toaster will electrocute you after passing your PIN codes to the refrigerator.

  9. Scruffylooking21 says:

    I found it ironic that one of the ads on this article is for amazon with the phrase: “Make Alexa Smarter”

  10. Lampshade says:

    Why didnt they take Civ 6?

    Civ 6 needs a better A.I. so badly!