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AIs Battle to the Death in Ms. Pac-Man Competition

The results of 2011’s Ms Pac-Man vs Ghost Team Competition were announced today by Philipp Rohlfshagen and Simon Lucas at the Congress on Evolutionary Computation in New Orleans. Now, this wasn’t some namby-pamby person-on-person video game break organized for the conference; this was an all-out death match in which entrants wrote artificial intelligence programs to control either Ms. Pac-Man or the Ghost Team.

In the competition, each AI controlled competitor moved through a gauntlet of matchups until the dust settled and one winner stood out amongst the carnage. The roles were fairly straightforward: Ms. Pac-Man aims to get the highest score, while the Ghost Team AIs are designed to suppress the plucky puck-shaped heroine. The competition was brutal, since the highest Ms. Pac-Man score in the competition was 69, 204 — paltry compared to the 900,000 achieved by human players on conventional machines. But keep in mind, conventional machines are designed to be fun to play, not cold-hearted and cunning.

Of course, it’s not all just for fun. While a Pac-Man playing AI is of limited application, the process of developing and testing one could have implications for other projects. From the New Scientist:

“Games are usually seen as a valuable test-bed for new technologies in computational intelligence as they are well defined yet very challenging,” explains Rohlfshagen. He says the multi-agent algorithms behind the ghost controllers could be used for transport or military applications, or even modelling biological predator-prey dynamics.

Perhaps, one day, a swarm of futuristic military drones will be able to trace its lineage to the humble and ever vigilant Ghost Team.

(via New Scientist)

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