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Your next Starcraft II opponent might be a robot in disguise

Google’s DeepMind AI division will likely end up making the next generation of military killbots, but before then, at least they’ll provide new challenges for the esports crowd. In January, their “AlphaStar” StarCraft II agent trounced a crew of pro players ten to one. To make sure it wasn’t a fluke, they’ve unleashed AlphaStar on the European public. According to this official blog post, AlphaStar is limited to Europe for now. StarCraft II players can opt for a chance to have their next 1v1 partner partner swapped out for an unfeeling machine that’s less likely to insult your mother.

The good news is that AlphaStar isn’t going to be learning bad habits and worse language from StarCraft 2’s player population. These anonymous test matches are just for benchmarking, rather than being used as training material for the AI. They’ll be testing several iterations of AlphaStar against players, and just to keep things authentic and raise the stakes, winning or losing against the AI will count against your MMR ladder ranking. At least there’s some small mercy – they’ve put harder limits on AlphaStar’s actions-per-minute in-game, so its micro might be a little less brutal.

Other than your opponent being a bit quieter than usual if heckled, there should be no indication that you’re playing against the AI. Games will be anonymous so as not to affect how people respond to any matches against AI. Personally, I’m hoping that they identify some nice low-level AlphaStar variants that could pass for decent human players and make them official AI training opponents to play against. The AI can already play well as Terran, Zerg and Protoss, and I’d feel easier playing against a (simulated) human than an actual player.

Personally, I’m sticking with single-player. At least then I know my opponent is a machine, and one that isn’t self-teaching. If you’re up for a potential robo-thrashing, just click the Opt In button in StarCraft II’s ranked 1v1 page.

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