Master Baboon The sea of the simulation


Games with extensible AI

Some computer games offer the possibility to extend their Artificial Intelligence with external scripts, or are explicitly designed to be played by bots. Such games are a great resource to develop, test, and teach AI algorithms.

I have been looking for a list of this kind of games, but could find very little information, often outdated. This is my own, annotated list; let me know if I missed something, and I'll make amend. I included only decently active projects:

Games for bots:

  1. Robocode (Java, .NET): AI bots control tanks equipped with cannon and radar on an square arena. A game with a long tradition, descending from the classic AI games RobotWar (1981) and crobots (1985). This is a very active project, with tournaments organized regularly all over the world. The strategical possibilities are quite limited, though.
  2. Tron challenge (any language): This is the first AI competition organized by the University of Waterloo Computer Science Club and sponsored by Google. The AIs control the "snakes" in a variant of the popular game Snake (or Nibbles, of QBasic fame) on a number of boards with symmetric walls. Although the competition is closed, the code is open source and perfectly usable. A nice game, but there seems to be one dominating strategy: using minimax. Entries in the competition differ in their cleverness in coming up with various approximations to prune down the huge tree of possible moves, and in handling the endgame.
  3. Planet Wars challenge (any language): Second AI competition, again organized by the University of Waterloo CS Club. The inspiration is the galactic conquer game Galcon. Bots controls fleets of spaceships to control planets for resources. Unlike the first competition, the optimal strategy is far from obvious, and the game offers a lot of space for experimenting with different approaches. Not as visually fun as other games, though.
  4. PacMan capture the flag (Python): The CS department at Berkeley offers a very popular Artificial Intelligence course that requires students to code up classical AI algorithms to control agents in a PacMan-like environment. The course concludes with a tournament in which PacMan agents compete to eat each other's dots. The game is extremely fun as I wrote about in previous posts. The code is available online (although somewhat messy). Unfortunately (but understandably, since the game is used in a course), the authors don't want the code of developed agents to leak online.
  5. Grid-Soccer (Mono, .NET): This is a multi-agent soccer-like game played on a grid board. I haven't tried this one yet... According to the authors, it was originally conceived as a testbed for multi-agent reinforcement learning algorithms.

Scriptable games (games that expose an interface for external clients):

  1. Starcraft Brood War (any language): This is your one chance at writing AI bots for a commercial game! 😉 Starcraft has been hacked to allow to control any aspect of the game through a user-written client (building construction, units movement, the full monty). Since 2010 there have been a few AI competitions open to the public (two of them still accepting entries!). Here's a video from last year's AIIDE tournament:

  2. XBlast (potentially any): A free version of Bomberman. The game has not been used to develop AI agents... yet. It is built with a server-client architecture and it's begging to get bots running on it.
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  1. Cool.
    The Spore may be one.

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