Imitation learning through games: theory, implementation and evaluation
Gorman, Bernard (2009) Imitation learning through games: theory, implementation and evaluation. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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Despite a history of games-based research, academia has generally regarded
commercial games as a distraction from the serious business of AI, rather than as an
opportunity to leverage this existing domain to the advancement of our knowledge.
Similarly, the computer game industry still relies on techniques that were developed
several decades ago, and has shown little interest in adopting more progressive
academic approaches. In recent times, however, these attitudes have begun to change;
under- and post-graduate games development courses are increasingly common,
while the industry itself is slowly but surely beginning to recognise the potential
offered by modern machine-learning approaches, though games which actually
implement said approaches on more than a token scale remain scarce.
One area which has not yet received much attention from either academia or industry
is imitation learning, which seeks to expedite the learning process by exploiting data
harvested from demonstrations of a given task. While substantial work has been done
in developing imitation techniques for humanoid robot movement, there has been
very little exploration of the challenges posed by interactive computer games. Given
that such games generally encode reasoning and decision-making behaviours which
are inherently more complex and potentially more interesting than limb motion data,
that they often provide inbuilt facilities for recording human play, that the generation
and collection of training samples is therefore far easier than in robotics, and that
many games have vast pre-existing libraries of these recorded demonstrations, it is
fair to say that computer games represent an extremely fertile domain for imitation
In this thesis, we argue in favour of using modern, commercial computer games to
study, model and reproduce humanlike behaviour. We provide an overview of the
biological and robotic imitation literature as well as the current status of game AI, highlighting techniques which may be adapted for the purposes of game-based
imitation. We then proceed to describe our contributions to the field of imitation
learning itself, which encompass three distinct categories: theory, implementation
We first describe the development of a fully-featured Java API - the Quake2 Agent
Simulation Environment (QASE) - designed to facilitate both research and education
in imitation and general machine-learning, using the game Quake 2 as a testbed. We
outline our motivation for developing QASE, discussing the shortcomings of existing
APIs and the steps which we have taken to circumvent them. We describe QASE’s
network layer, which acts as an interface between the local AI routines and the
Quake 2 server on which the game environment is maintained, before detailing the
API’s agent architecture, which includes an interface to the MatLab programming
environment and the ability to parse and analyse full recordings of game sessions.
We conclude the chapter with a discussion of QASE’s adoption by numerous
universities as both an undergraduate teaching tool and research platform.
We then proceed to describe the various imitative mechanisms which we have
developed using QASE and its MatLab integration facilities. We first outline a
behaviour model based on a well-known psychological model of human planning.
Drawing upon previous research, we also identify a set of believability criteria -
elements of agent behaviour which are of particular importance in determining the
“humanness” of its in-game appearance. We then detail a reinforcement-learning
approach to imitating the human player’s navigation of his environment, centred
upon his pursuit of items as strategic goals. In the subsequent section, we describe
the integration of this strategic system with a Bayesian mechanism for the imitation
of tactical and motion-modelling behaviours. Finally, we outline a model for the
imitation of reactive combat behaviours; specifically, weapon-selection and aiming. Experiments are presented in each case to demonstrate the imitative mechanisms’
ability to accurately reproduce observed behaviours.
Finally, we criticise the lack of any existing methodology to formally gauge the
believability of game agents, and observe that the few previous attempts have been
extremely ad-hoc and informal. We therefore propose a generalised approach to such
testing; the Bot-Oriented Turing Test (BOTT). This takes the form of an anonymous
online questionnaire, an accompanying protocol to which examiners should adhere,
and the formulation of a believability index which numerically expresses each agent’s
humanness as indicated by its observers, weighted by their experience and the
accuracy with which the agents were identified. To both validate the survey approach
and to determine the efficacy of our imitative models, we present a series of
experiments which use the believability test to evaluate our own imitation agents
against both human players and traditional artificial bots. We demonstrate that our
imitation agents perform substantially better than even a highly-regarded rule-based
agent, and indeed approach the believability of actual human players.
Some suggestions for future directions in our research, as well as a broader
discussion of open questions, conclude this thesis.
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