Snapchat will let you play as your Bitmoji in video games

Snapchat will let you play as your Bitmoji in video games

10:09am, 25th April, 2019
Want your video game character to look just like you? Soon you’ll be able to scan an in-game code with Snapchat to play as your personalized Bitmoji avatar on PC, console, and mobile games. Today is new Bitmoji For Games SDK that will let hand-selected partners integrate 3D Bitmoji as a replacement for their character skins. With support for Unity, Unreal, and the Play Canvas engine behind Snap’s new Bitmoji Party game inside Snapchat, the SDK should make it easy for developers to pipe in life-like avatars that give people a stronger emotional connection to the game. “It’s kind of a no-brainer to bring Bitmoji into games. Games can be so much more engaging with you…in the game” Bitmoji co-founder Ba Blackstock tells me. “We’re adding an identity layer to gaming that has the potential to have a transformational effect on the industry.” Snapchat has a massive opportunity to colonize the web — and the games ecosystem — with its Bitmoji instead of waiting for developers to make half-assed clones. Bitmoji is perhaps Snapchat’s most popular and enduring feature now that Stories and ephemeral messaging have been widely copied, with 330 million estimated downloads according to . As I wrote in my feature piece on Snapchat’s new platform strategy, , every distributed instance of the company drives attention back to its original apps, and each partnership it establishes is one more ally in the fight against Facebook. Snap’s New CMO Snap’s new CMO Kenny Mitchell As Snapchat moves into this new era of marketing itself through Bitmoji, today it also announced it’s , Kenny Mitchell. He was formerly the VP of marketing at McDonald’s and the head of consumer engagement at Gatorade. Mitchell oversaw the sports drink’s Serena Wlliams tennis game that lived inside a Snapchat ad and saw an average of over 200 seconds of play time, and its viral Super Bowl augmented reality lens that let you dump a cooler of Gatorade on yourself. “Kenny’s consumer marketing expertise and his deep understanding of our products will be a great combination for Snap” writes Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. The company has seen many senior execs depart over the years due to clashes with Spiegel over leadership, so we’ll see if Mitchel sticks around. He’ll be spearheading Snap’s new marketing campaign to reactivate Android users frustrated by its buggy app and bring them back to its newly reengineered version. “I look forward to helping Evan and Snap continue to tell their story to people around the world, and working with my new colleagues as we define the future of the camera and self-expression” Mitchell writes. Bitmoji, The Visual Identity Layer in 2016 for just , propelling it to become a staple top 10 app. Snap launched its platform in June 2018, allowing developers to integrate Bitmoji into the keyboards of their apps like Tinder for use as chat stickers or 2D profile pics. And this month at Snap’s first Partner Summit, it launched , and more. But now it will let 3D Bitmoji replace your in-game character head-to-toe. For now, the SDK will be free to top developers chosen for the program from PC, Mac, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android and other platforms. Surprisingly, most game devs just build their own avatar customization feature from scratch, but they’re typically focused on clothes and crazy hairstyles than fine-tuning a face that looks like your own. And while customized avatars are common in shooter games, Bitmoji could bring them to platform, racing, dancing, puzzle, fighting, and role-playing games too. Bitmoji For games won’t be an open platform to ensure the brand isn’t misused. Blackstock explains that “You can look at what we’re doing with Bitmoji Kit where we have guidelines of best practices of how to use Bitmoji and not use Bitmoji. We’ll apply the same kinds of guidelines to gaming.” That might mean no extra graphically violent games, or anything in which players might revel in inflicting pain on a personalized avatar. But Fortnite, with its cartoony violence might be an ideal Bitmoji partner. Snap’s global head of gaming partnerships John Imah says he could imagine using his Bitmoji in titles from Star Wars, Lego, Mario Kart, or Warcraft. Depending on how their models for characters, landscapes, and items work, developers may have to do some work to make BItmoji work gracefully. But Imah says when it can “There will be some modification on our end to make sure this works within their engine so we can make this process as seamless as possible for these developers.” Users will design their avatar in the Bitmoji or Snapchat app, though there may be in-game customization options down the line. If users ask to import their Bitmoji, the game will show a QR Snapcode on screen that users can scan with the Snapchat camera. That authentication unlocks their Bitmoji to use as an avatar skin in the game. Suddenly, every quest, battle, and cutscene becomes about them, not some generic character. Given Fortnite is earning hundreds of millions of dollars selling cosmetic upgrades, the inevitable question is whether Snap will start selling bonus outfits, items, or face options for Bitmoji. “It’s really early days for Bitmoji For Games. It’s something we’ll explore later down the road” Imah tells me. Imagine if kids could buy Supreme sweatshirts or fresh Nikes for their Bitmoji? That could be a lucrative new business for Snap that’s strengthened by each Bitmoji partnership, and at a time when it’s eager to boost revenue and cut losses as it aims for profitability. Bitmoji For Games could cement Snapchat as the best way to visually represent yourself online without a photograph. As the darker sides of the Internet and human nature come into focus for the tech industry, we need more ways to both be ourselves while retaining privacy. Bitmoji could deliver the emotional connection of seeing yourself as the hero without the risks of exposing your true face.
The Switch has now outsold the N64, but Nintendo sees growth slowing

The Switch has now outsold the N64, but Nintendo sees growth slowing

8:00am, 25th April, 2019
Switch has now outsold its N64 console on lifetime sales, but prospects for the portable gaming system look mixed for the next year following a conservative sales forecast. just its end of year financials, and in doing so it revealed that it sold 16.95 million Switch consoles in the last year, taking it to 34.7 million sales to date and therein surpassing the N64. That annual sales figure is about on par with — which was — but what happens over the next twelve-month period is less clear. The Japanese company is predicting that it will shift 18 million Switch units over the next financial year, and there are positive and less positive signals to back that up. It would be hard to imagine that demand for the same device continuing for another year without changes. Will be there new things? That seems likely, we just don’t know exactly what and when. “As a general rule, we’re always working on new hardware and we will announce it when we are able to sell it,” , although he refused reports that a new, lower-priced model will be unveiled at the E3 show in June. Beyond new models, there will also be new markets. Nintendo is poised to enter China after to sell the Switch in the country in partnership with Tencent. Gaming in China is currently in flux — last year was , but — but Nintendo’s catalog of family-friend and cute titles are likely to fare better than more edgy content in terms of approval. Even though the Switch is over two years old, opening China as a market will create a lot of new demand if it is marketed right. Meanwhile, on the software side, the Switch is performing well with more than 23 titles now at one million sales or more, while Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokemon: Let’s Go have generated 13.81 million and 10.63 million sales, respectively. More broadly, Nintendo’s general financial update disappointed investors. Annual operating profit of 250 billion yen ($2.2 billion) rose by 41 percent but revenue grew just 14 percent to 1.2 trillion yen ($10.7 billion). For the fourth quarter, operating profit came in at 29.7 billion JPY ($266 million) which was below the 36 billion JPY average for . Nintendo’s annual forecast was also seen by many as tepid, perhaps because the company was burned by those aggressive Switch sales targets set last year. “Nintendo is being extra cautious as it wouldn’t want to miss its target again,” games consultant and former TechCruncher said Serkan Toto .
Ex-Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor reveals new solo indie project ‘Intergalactic Space Empire’

Ex-Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor reveals new solo indie project ‘Intergalactic Space Empire’

1:56pm, 24th April, 2019
Chris Taylor speaks at the VentureBeat GamesBeat Summit today. (Screenshot via Twitch stream) Today at the annual in Los Angeles, veteran Seattle-area games developer Chris Taylor made a about his next project. His new game, Intergalactic Space Empire, is an ambitious mostly-solo project for Taylor, designed and running on cloud-based servers. In a short fireside chat with VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi that was livestreamed on Twitch, Taylor said that the new game came out of “a craving to do something fresh and new.” His new company, Kanoogi, shares its name with a new cloud-based gaming platform that Taylor has developed himself. Intergalactic Space Empire is a real-time strategy game, and can be played on any online-capable device that can run a modern web browser. It’s built in C++, running on a cloud-based virtual machine, and is a deliberate throwback to an earlier era of video games, featuring 2D graphics, a single map, and a top-down environment. Notably, its graphics are rendered locally on the player’s device, as opposed to the approach of doing all the work in the cloud and sending it to the player as a video feed. However, the game itself runs in the cloud, and takes up no space on the local device being used to play it. According to Taylor, the player will never have to install or update Intergalactic Space Empire; it’s meant for fast-paced, drop-in, drop-out play. Taylor, based out of Woodinville, Wash., has been working on PC games for 30 years. Born in Canada, he moved to Washington in the ’90s to work as designer on the original . He went on to found Gas Powered Games in Seattle, which created popular PC games like Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander. Gas Powered Games would subsequently be acquired and renamed Wargaming Seattle in 2013. Taylor left the company three years later, citing fatigue with plans to become an indie developer. (Wargaming Seattle was subsequently and by its new parent company in 2018.) Less than two weeks until I am in LA revealing my next big project at GamesBeat '19. I'll be onstage with sharing all the details about what I've been quietly working on for the past two years. — Chris Taylor (@DeathBot9) Taylor’s announcement at GamesBeat today marks the end of a two-and-a-half-year stretch of relative silence. He’d announced that he was , one that was intended to be accessible and free to play, but had been notoriously tight-lipped about anything else to do with it. Today marked the first time that Taylor mentioned the name of his new company, the name of the project, or the details thereof. An official website for Kanoogi, with more details about the company and Intergalactic Space Empire, is scheduled to go live later today. Here’s a video from 2017 of Taylor talking about Total Annihilation and the broader games industry.
Are women better gamers than men? This startup’s AI-driven research says yes

Are women better gamers than men? This startup’s AI-driven research says yes

12:39pm, 24th April, 2019
Last year the startup, which has developed an AI assistant to help gamers play smarter and improve their skills, . Using machine learning, it analyzes their matches and makes personal recommendations, and allows the gamer to be taught by a virtual assistant. Because they have this virtual assistant they can now do some interesting research. For the first time ever, we can actually peer over the shoulder of a gamer, and find out what makes them good of not. The findings are fascinating. Gosu.ai surveyed nearly 5,000 gamers playing to understand what factors separate successful and less successful gamers. They found that although only 4 percent of respondents to the survey were women, it turned out that those women that responded had a 44 percent higher win rate on average than the men. Does this suggest women are better gamers than men? This isn’t a scientific study, but it is a tantalizing idea… The study also found that the higher your skills in foreign languages, the slower your skills improve. They also found that people without a university degree, people who don’t travel, and people who play sports increase their game ratings faster. Similarly, having a job also slows growth. Well, duh. Gosu.ai’s main competitors are Dojomadness and Moremmr. But the main difference is that these competitors make analytics of raw statistics, and find the generalized weak spots in comparison with other players, giving general recommendations. Gosu.ai analyzes the specific actions of each player, down to the movement of their mouse, to cater direct recommendations for the player. So it’s more like a virtual assistant than a training platform. The startup is funded by Ventech and Sistema_VC. Previously, the startup was backed by Gagarin Capital.
China’s new gaming rules to ban poker, blood and imperial schemes

China’s new gaming rules to ban poker, blood and imperial schemes

2:39am, 22nd April, 2019
Lots of news has surfaced from China’s gaming industry in recent weeks as the government hastens to approve a massive backlog of titles in the world’s . Last Friday, the country’s State Administration of Press and Publication, the freshly minted gaming authority born from a last year that led to an approval blackout, enshrined a new set of guidelines for publication that are set to move some to joy and others to sorrow. On April 22, China finally resumed the to license new games for monetization. Licensing got back on track in December but Reuters in February that the government stopped accepting new submissions due to a mounting pile of applications. The bad news: The number of games allowed onto the market annually will be capped, and some genres of games will no longer be eligible. Mahjong and poker games are taken off the approval list following a wave of earlier over concerns that such titles may channel illegal gambling. These digital forms of traditional leisure activities are immensely popular for studios for they are relatively cheap to make and bear lucrative fruit. video game researcher Niko Partners, 37 percent of the 8,561 games approved in 2017 were poker and mahjong titles. While the new rule is set to wipe out hundreds of small developers focused on the genre, it may only have a limited impact on the entrenched players as the restriction applies only to new applicants. “It won’t affect us much because we are early to the market and have accumulated a big collection of licenses,” a marketing manager at one of China’s biggest online poker and mahjong games publishers told TechCrunch. China will also stop approving certain games inspired by its imperial past, including “gongdou”, which directly translates to harem scheming, as well as “guandou”, the word for palace official competition. The life inside palaces has inspired blockbuster TV series such as the Story of Yanxi Palace, an in-house production from China’s equivalent . But these plots also touch a nerve with Chinese officials who worry about “obscene contents and the risk of political metaphors,” Daniel Ahmad, senior analyst at Nikos Partners, suggested to TechCrunch. Screenshots of Xi Fei Zhuan, a mobile game that lets users play the role of harems to win love from the emperor. Image source: Games that contain images of corpses and blood will also be rejected. Developers previously modified blood color to green to circumvent restrictions, but the renewed guidelines have effectively ruled out any color variations of blood. “Chinese games developers are used to arbitrary regulations. They are quick at devising methods to circumvent requirements,” a Guangzhou-based indie games developer told TechCrunch. That may only work out for companies armed with sufficient developing capabilities and resources to counter new policies. For instance, Tencent was quick to implement an anti-addiction system for underage users before the practice became an industry-wide norm as of late. “Many smaller publishers will have a harder time under this new set of regulations, which will require them to spend extra time and money to ensure games are up to code,” suggested Ahmad. “We’ve already seen that many smaller publishers were unable to survive the temporary game license approval freeze last year and we expect to see further consolidation of the market this year.” China has over the past year taken aim at the gaming industry over concerns related to gaming addiction among minors and illegal content, such as those that promote violence or deviate from the government’s ideologies. To enforce the growing list of requirements, an Online Game Ethics Committee launched in December under the guidance of the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party to help the new gaming regulator in vetting title submissions. More than 1,000 games have been approved since China ended the gaming freeze in December, though Tencent, the dominant player in the market, has yet to receive the coveted license required for monetizing its hugely popular mobile title PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Uncertain waters in the gaming industry have wiped billions of dollars off the giant’s market cap and prompted it to initiate a bigger push in such as cloud computing and financial technologies. NetEase, the runner-up in China’s gaming market, reacted by
Microsoft unveils $250 Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, its first console without a disc drive

Microsoft unveils $250 Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, its first console without a disc drive

4:17pm, 16th April, 2019
The new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition. (Microsoft Photo) Microsoft today unveiled the new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, confirming rumors of the . The $250 console — $50 less than other Xbox One S models — is geared toward gamers who prefer to download games digitally rather than buy physical discs. The new console is another example of Microsoft shifting’s gaming strategy to focus on reaching more gamers on a variety of devices and a greater emphasis on cloud-based gaming. Xbox One S All-Digital Edition will go on sale starting May 7 and come bundled with , and . Microsoft is painting the new device as the most affordable way to play Xbox games and guaranteed that it will remain less expensive than other consoles even as prices fluctuate. Microsoft today also announced plans to , the company’s rotating catalog of 100 games that users can download. The $15 per month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will roll out later this year. Microsoft might have another new console up its sleeve. A second rumored Microsoft project, “” is designed to work with Microsoft’s planned game streaming service. There’s a chance it could be unveiled at the big E3 gaming conference, where Microsoft promised its . The all-digital console feels like a bridge to the company’s grander vision where users can play Xbox games on any number of devices. It has taken other steps to get there, including to Android and iOS devices. The shift will really kick into high gear later this year when the ambitious Project xCloud begins public trials later this year. Microsoft will look to leverage its cloud presence by making it possible for people to play high-powered Xbox games on smartphones. The news of the new Xbox console comes as rival Sony on plans for its next-generation console. The new model won’t arrive this year, and it will feature capability that provides a greater degree of visual realism and ship with a solid-state drive to make it easier to seamlessly load big-budget, open-world games.
Commentary: Sony’s next-generation PlayStation console feels like a victory lap

Commentary: Sony’s next-generation PlayStation console feels like a victory lap

2:30pm, 16th April, 2019
Sony lifted the hood on its next PlayStation console in a today featuring an interview with Mark Cerny, the lead architect of the PlayStation 4. To summarize briefly, the new model won’t arrive this year, will feature capability that provides a greater degree of visual realism by allowing even better simulation of light and sound, and most importantly, will ship with a solid-state drive. The addition of a solid-state drive is notable, given that big-budget games at the moment tend to involve big, open worlds for the player to explore, which means the game has to load an entire, miles-wide map when you fire the game up. A solid-state drive would allow nearly seamless transitions for console games. But overall, Cerny makes it sound like the PlayStation 5 (which isn’t officially named that yet, but let’s stick with it for now) is based around a few quality-of-life changes, rather than marking a seismic transition between console generations. The PS5 isn’t the stalking horse for a new media brand, as the PlayStation 2 was for DVDs or the PS3 was for Blu-Ray discs; it’ll at least be backwards compatible with your PS4 library; and you’ll still be able to buy discs for it. It’s just a new, more powerful, more versatile PlayStation. This is perversely refreshing. For the last few console generations, success or failure has generally been determined by which of the major players went first, and thus, made the first big mistake. The PlayStation 2 launched against weak competition (Sega’s , while the GameCube and the first Xbox didn’t come out until the next year), and promptly took over the console market. Drunk on that success, Sony launched the PS3 in 2006 and . Microsoft promptly leapt into the gap with the cheaper, easier-to-use Xbox 360, pulled out in front, and immediately squandered that lead with initial reports for the Xbox One. At launch, the console wouldn’t allow games to be traded or resold, and was intended to require consumers to have the Xbox One “phone home” via the Internet every 24 hours to renew its licenses. The company immediately had to , which handed Sony an easy marketing win for the PS4. Meanwhile, Nintendo stayed off in its own lane, making a off of its typically lower-powered devices. The average Nintendo console has significantly less under the hood than its major competitors, but Nintendo actually builds its machines so they turn a profit per sale, whereas both Sony and Microsoft . In a lot of ways, Nintendo is in a different games industry than its competitors, and always has been. With the PS5, Sony is planning to reenter a marketplace that’s in a constant state of flux, with no stated plans to do anything but offer more of the same. It currently enjoys a , so why not? Nothing is broken on Sony’s end, so there’s nothing to fix. It’s the mark of a secure, seasoned competitor that’s actually learned from past mistakes, when the last few console generations have all been marked by one company joyfully throwing its lead away at launch. However, it’s also coming up to bat in a video game industry that’s in a greater state of flux than normal. Google’s streaming service Stadia promises to put serious marketing and programming muscle behind cloud-based gaming in a way that can’t help but change the landscape around it. Microsoft already has a streaming service of its own, as well as new initiatives such as the, the, and bringing to its competitors’ platforms. Sony does run the risk of bringing a machine to market that’s “just” a traditional games console, when other major players are focusing on redefining how games are played. Still, it can afford to do that. Depending on how you look at the data, Sony has roughly two-thirds of the console market on lock. If Microsoft or Google do end up causing a small-scale revolution, all Sony has to do is offer a new option and it’s golden. The big challenge for Sony right now isn’t withstanding the competition; it’s simply sitting back and not screwing up.
Sony shares some details about the PlayStation 5

Sony shares some details about the PlayStation 5

1:23pm, 16th April, 2019
Lead architect for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita gave to Wired’s Peter Rubin and shared some details about Sony’s next-gen console — the console that is likely to be called the PlayStation 5. The next PlayStation will be based on an AMD architecture just like the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro. The custom made CPU will be based on the third-generation AMD Ryzen CPU line. It’ll feature eight 7nm cores. As for the GPU, plans to use a custom version of AMD Radeon’s Navi GPUs. While AMD is to unveil this new generation of GPUs in the coming months, Cerny says that the next-gen PlayStation GPU will support ray tracing. Those chips should also lead to a jump in audio performance. You can expect better 3D audio support if you have a set of speakers or headphones that support this kind of stuff. The PlayStation 5 will also ship with SSD hard drives by default. This is a key differentiating factor between PC games and console games. Spinning hard drives lead to endless loading screens. Opting for an SSD changes everything. For instance, Cerny says that fast-travel in Spider-Man running on a PlayStation 4 Pro takes approximately 15 seconds, while it takes less than a second on a next-generation PlayStation devkit. On the hardware front, Cerny also said that the PlayStation 5 will have a BluRay drive to read physical games. And you’ll also be able to play PlayStation 4 games on the new console. Based on the interview, it’s unclear whether Sony wants to launch a second-generation PlayStation VR headset. But if you already bought a VR headset, it’ll be compatible with the future PlayStation. Sony is skipping E3 this year, which means that we won’t hear more about the PlayStation 5 for a while. The company will most likely launch the new console in 2020.
Chilly reception for marijuana tycoon game shows games industry’s backwards stance on drugs

Chilly reception for marijuana tycoon game shows games industry’s backwards stance on drugs

10:21pm, 15th April, 2019
Intense and graphic violence is something we’ve come to simply expect from games, but sexual and other adult themes are still largely taboo — including, as publisher is learning, drugs. Even if the game in question is a relatively serious tycoon-type look at the current (and legal!) business of selling weed. Devolver is no stranger to controversy; it has published and helped develop dozens of games and many of them have featured the kind of graphic violence that sets off those who still see the medium as a corruptive, fundamentally debased one. And to be fair, the likes of Hotline Miami aren’t going to change any minds. But for the company’s first original commissioned IP, it had the idea of assembling a game in the popular “tycoon” genre, but focused on the emerging and popular sector of growing marijuana. Obviously this is somewhat controversial, but the plant is legal in many states and countries already and on its way in plenty of others. This isn’t the time or place for a full evaluation of the scheduling system and the war on drugs, but it suffices to say that it is a complex and interesting business ecosystem that’s teetering on the edge of widespread acceptance. That makes it a bit edgy, but also fresh and relevant — perfect, Devolver thought, to build a game around. . Unfortunately, the company’s co-founder Mike Wilson told me the other day, they underestimated how square the gaming industry is. “This is definitely the hardest game I’ve had to market, and that’s saying something,” Wilson told me. “It has been a fucking nightmare. The fact that we’re still so afraid of a topic like weed instead of the murder simulators you can market any time, anywhere, it’s shocking.” Console game stores were reluctant to even carry it, and warned Devolver that it would never be featured, which is a death sentence for a game’s discoverability. They couldn’t get ads approved on Facebook or Instagram, and the person who submitted them even had his account suspended. And just this week, streamers trying out the game on YouTube had their videos demonetized. The only stores that didn’t buck were Steam, which is largely content-agnostic, and GOG, a popular DRM-free storefront. Why, though? This isn’t a game about smoking blunts or cutting dime bags with oregano to sell to middle school kids. Well, it is a little pro-legalization. “This isn’t a pro-legalization game. This is a tycoon game. You don’t do drugs in the game!” said Wilson. “You can play as a totally legal, scrupulous businessperson. We did all this research with like, dispensaries, geneticists, lawyers, we were worried about cultural sensitivity with the subject matter, things like how much more black people get jailed for it. We wanted it to be representative of all the social issues involved. It’s kind of like doing a game about booze in the prohibition era — like, what an interesting industry to study, right?” It’s not that the companies involved here — Microsoft, Sony, YouTube and so on — are applying some invisible rules. The rules are there; when I contacted YouTube for comment, they pointed me to the list of And plain as day there’s the one about drugs: “Video content that promotes or features the sale, use, or abuse of illegal drugs, regulated drugs or substances, or other dangerous products is not suitable for advertising.” It’s just a bit weird to me still that we have this backwards, puritan approach to this stuff. Think of how much vile garbage is on YouTube and how the most popular games in the world glorify guns and death. But a recreational drug legal in many places and generally well thought of, not to mention a massive and growing business — that’s beyond the pale. I understand YouTube doesn’t want people doing bong-clearing competitions, and console makers want to appear family-friendly so they don’t lose that teen and tween market. But surely we can be adults about this. Gaming is maturing to be an interactive storytelling medium that encompasses serious issues, but the industry is holding itself back by its squeamishness about adult themes. And that feeds into the puritanical objections from misguided commentators, who go nuts over romancing an alien in Mass Effect or the ridiculous “Hot Coffee” thing in GTA, but don’t acknowledge the sophisticated storytelling of Return of the Obra Dinn, or subversive commentary of Papers, Please, or the impressive period recreation of an Assassin’s Creed. Drugs are a complex and controversial topic. I get that some people want to stay hands-off. But when that hands-off stance doesn’t apply to graphic violence, sexism, and other sore spots, it comes off as prudish and hypocritical.
OpenAI Five crushes Dota2 world champs, and soon you can lose to it too

OpenAI Five crushes Dota2 world champs, and soon you can lose to it too

3:54pm, 15th April, 2019
Dota2 is one of the most popular, and complex, online games in the world, but an AI has once again shown itself to supersede human skill. In matches over the weekend, “Five” system defeated two pro teams soundly, and soon you’ll be able to test your own mettle against — or alongside — the ruthless agent. , OpenAI detailed how its game-playing agent has progressed from its younger self — it seems wrong to say previous version, since it really is the same extensive neural network as many months ago, but with much more training. The version that played at Dota2’s premiere tournament, The International, gets schooled by the new version 99 percent of the time. And it’s all down to more practice: In total, the current version of OpenAI Five has consumed 800 petaflop/s-days and experienced about 45,000 years of Dota self-play over 10 realtime months (up from about 10,000 years over 1.5 realtime months as of The International), for an average of 250 years of simulated experience per day. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time an RL [reinforcement learning] agent has been trained using such a long-lived training run. One is tempted to cry foul at a datacenter-spanning intelligence being allowed to train for 600 human lifespans. But really it’s more of a compliment to human cognition that we can accomplish the same thing with a handful of months or years, while still finding time to eat, sleep, socialize (well, some of us) and so on. Dota2 is an intense and complex game with some rigid rules but a huge amount of fluidity, and representing it in a way that makes sense to a computer isn’t easy (which likely accounts partly for the volume of training required). Controlling five “heroes” at once on a large map with so much going on at any given time is enough to tax a team of five human brains. But teams work best when they’re acting as a single unit, which is more or less what Five was doing from the start. Rather than five heroes, it was more like five fingers of a hand to the AI. Interestingly, OpenAI also discovered lately that Five is capable of playing cooperatively with humans as well as in competition. This was far from a sure thing — the whole system might have frozen up or misbehaved if it had a person in there gumming up the gears. But in fact it works pretty well. You can watch the replays or get the pro commentary on the games if you want to hear exactly how the AI won (I’ve played but I’m far from good. I’m not even bad yet). I understand they had some interesting buy-back tactics and were very aggressive. Or, if you’re feeling masochistic, . We’re launching OpenAI Five Arena, a public experiment where we’ll let anyone play OpenAI Five in both competitive and cooperative modes. We’d known that our 1v1 bot would be exploitable through clever strategies; we don’t know to what extent the same is true of OpenAI Five, but we’re excited to invite the community to help us find out! Although a match against pros would mean all-out war using traditional tactics, low-stakes matches against curious players might reveal interesting patterns or exploits that the AI’s creators aren’t aware of. Results will be posted publicly, so be ready for that. You’ll need to sign up ahead of time, though: The system will only be available to play from Thursday night at 6 PM to the very end of Sunday, Pacific time. They need to reserve the requisite amount of computing resources to run the thing, so sign up now if you want to be sure to get a spot. OpenAI’s team writes that this is the last we’ll hear of this particular iteration of the system; it’s done competing (at least in tournaments) and will be described more thoroughly in a paper soon. They’ll continue to work in the Dota2 environment because it’s interesting, but what exactly the goals, means, or limitations will be are yet to be announced.