When will an AI system score an impressive defeat of a professional human in Starcraft 2?

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Starcraft 2 (SC2) is a real time strategy computer game, first released in 2010. In the ensuing years it has grown to be a major e-sport, with many professional competitions involving significant monetary prizes.

SC2 is characterized by continuous time play, a huge action space, partial observability of enemies, and long-term strategic play. These qualities have made it very difficult for programmed or machine learning systems to match skilled human players. (In competitions involving Starcraft 1, for example, human players routinely trounce bots). Defeating a top human player would likely require some combination of:

  • Super-human tactical combat control (placement of troops, unit composition, use of special abilities, etc.)
  • Super-human control of the economy (near optimal resource use, new more efficeint build orders, etc.)
  • Super-human overall strategic play.
  • Discovery of "creative" new build order, army compoisitions, strategies, etc.
  • An implicit or explicit ability to model the plans and actions of its opponent.

Recently, AI company Deepmind and Blizzard Entertainment announced a partnership to create a version of SC2 usable as an AI research environment, as well as facilitate the participation of AI players in the existing SC2 platform. This suggests that Deepmind may be targeting Starcraft as a target for head-to-head competition with professional humans, following the impressive wins by AlphaGo over Lee Sedol in competitive Go.

In what month and year will an AI system score an "impressive win" over a professional human in Starcraft 2?

We'll define an "impressive win" as one satisfying either one of two criteria. Either:

  • The AI wins a match against a professional human in which a prize of $50,000 or more would have been awarded to the human for winning the match, OR

  • There is major media coverage of the win, and in top 100 results in Google News 72 hours after the match, more than 60% of professional StarCraft players interviewed on the subject made remarks that were scored by Mechanical Turk workers as being "impressed" rather than "dismissive."

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