AI recreates game engine using less than two minutes of videogame footage

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new approach using an artificial intelligence to learn a complete game engine, the basic software of a game that governs everything from character movement to rendering graphics.

In layman’s terms, the new system can replicate the ‘game engine,’ which dictates everything from character movement to rendering graphics, creating a cloned version that is indistinguishable from the original when played.

The Georgia Tech team’s AI can learn how a video game operates just by watching two minutes of gameplay. On right, the AI replicates Mega Man in the ‘Bomberman’ stage. There were some failures, including a point at which he disappears. The original is shown on the left.

Their AI system watches less than two minutes of gameplay video and then builds its own model of how the game operates by studying the frames and making predictions of future events, such as what path a character will choose or how enemies might react.

To get their AI agent to create an accurate predictive model that could account for all the physics of a 2D platform-style game, the team trained the AI on a single “speedrunner” video, where a player heads straight for the goal. This made “the training problem for the AI as difficult as possible.”

“Our AI creates the predictive model without ever accessing the game’s code, and makes significantly more accurate future event predictions than those of convolutional neural networks,” says Matthew Guzdial, lead researcher and Ph.D. student in computer science. “A single video won’t produce a perfect clone of the game engine, but by training the AI on just a few additional videos you get something that’s pretty close.”

They next tested how well the cloned engine would perform in actual gameplay. They employed a second AI to play the game level and ensure the game’s protagonist wouldn’t fall through solid floors or go undamaged if hit by an enemy. The results: the AI playing with the cloned engine proved indistinguishable compared to an AI playing the original game engine.

A section of gameplay video (left) is produced by the original Super Mario Bros. engine, and the cloned engine (right) demonstrates the ability to accurately predict animation states.

‘A single video won’t produce a perfect clone of the game engine, but by training the AI on just a few additional videos you get something that’s pretty close.’ The game engine created with their system was more similar to the original than the same test done on a neural network, according to the researchers.



(source: GaTech blog, dailymail)




Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN)

Neural networks are used for recognizing pictures, understanding natural language with good accuracy, automate driving vehicles and a lot of other applications follow. But still, neural networks need human supervision to learn. Usually, a network needs labeled examples to learn effectively. While it’s also possible to learn from unlabeled data, this had typically not worked very well.

GANs was proposed by Ian Goodfellow (currently a staff research scientist at Google Brain). By applying game theory, he devised a way for a machine-learning system to effectively teach itself about how the world works. This ability could help make computers smarter by sidestepping the need to feed them painstakingly labeled training data. Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) are neural networks that are trained in an adversarial manner to generate data mimicking some distribution.

To explain it in simpler terms: 

If you want to get better at something, say chess; what would you do? You would compete with an opponent better than you. Then you would analyze what you did wrong, what he/she did right, and think on what could you do to beat him/her in the next game.

You would repeat this step until you defeat the opponent. This concept can be incorporated to build better models. So simply, for getting a powerful hero (viz generator), we need a more powerful opponent (viz discriminator)!

To understand this deeply, first, you’ll have to understand what a generative and a discriminative model is.

In machine learning, the two main classes of models

  • Discriminative – A discriminative model is one that discriminates between two (or more) different classes of data – for example, a convolutional neural network that is trained to output 1 given an image of a human face and 0 otherwise.
  • Generative –  A generative model, on the other hand, doesn’t know anything about classes of data.  Instead, its purpose is to generate new data which fits the distribution of the training data – for example, a Gaussian Mixture Model is a generative model which, after trained on a set of points, is able to generate new random points which more-or-less fit the distribution of the training data (assuming a GMM is able to mimic the data well).

The generative network’s training objective is to increase the error rate of the discriminative network (i.e., “fool” the discriminator network by producing novel synthesized instances that appear to have come from the true data distribution). In practice, a known dataset serves as the initial training data for the discriminator. Training the discriminator involves presenting it with samples from the dataset until it reaches some level of accuracy. Typically the generator is seeded with a randomized input that is sampled from a predefined latent space (e.g. a multivariate normal distribution). Thereafter, samples synthesized by the generator are evaluated by the discriminator. Backpropagation is applied in both networks so that the generator produces better images, while the discriminator becomes more skilled at flagging synthetic images. The generator is typically a deconvolutional neural network, and the discriminator is a convolutional neural network.

Working of GANs explained:

So as we saw, there are two components in GANs

  1. Generator Neural Network
  2. Discriminator Neural Network


The Generator Network takes a random input and tries to generate a sample of data. In the above image, we can see that generator G(z) takes an input z from p(z), where z is a sample from probability distribution p(z). It then generates a data which is then fed into a discriminator network D(x). The task of Discriminator Network is to take input either from the real data or from the generator and try to predict whether the input is real or generated. It takes an input x from pdata(x) where pdata(x) is our real data distribution. D(x) then solves a binary classification problem using sigmoid function giving output in the range 0 to 1.

Defining the notations used:

Pdata(x) -> the distribution of real data
X -> sample from pdata(x)
P(z) -> distribution of generator
Z -> sample from p(z)
G(z) -> Generator Network
D(x) -> Discriminator Network

Steps to train a GAN: 

Step 1: Define the problem. Do you want to generate fake images or fake texts? Here you should completely define the problem and collect the data for it.

Step 2: Define architecture of GAN. Define how your GAN should look like. Should both your generator and discriminator be multi layer perceptrons or convolutional neural networks? This step will depend on what problem you are trying to solve.

Step 3: Train Discriminator on real data for (n) epochs. Get the data you want to generate fake on and train the discriminator to correctly predict them as real. Here value (n) can be any natural number between 1 and infinity.

Step 4: Generate fake inputs for generator and train discriminator on fake data. Get generated data and let the discriminator correctly predict them as fake.

Step 5: Train generator with the output of discriminator. Now when the discriminator is trained, you can get its predictions and use it as an objective for training the generator. Train the generator to fool the discriminator.

Step 6: Repeat step 3 to step 5 for a few epochs.

Step 7: Check if the fake data manually if it seems legit. If it seems appropriate, stop training, else go to step 3. This is a bit of a manual task, as hand evaluation of the data is the best way to check the fakeness. When this step is over, you can evaluate whether the GAN is performing well enough.

The dueling-neural-network approach has vastly improved learning from unlabeled data. GANs can already perform some dazzling tricks. By internalizing the characteristics of a collection of photos, for example, a GAN can improve the resolution of a pixelated image. It can also dream up realistic fake photos, or apply a particular artistic style to an image. “You can think of generative models as giving artificial intelligence a form of imagination,” Goodfellow says.



(Sources: Wikipedia, MitTechReview, AnalyticsVidhya)