Google’s algorithm AlphaGo stunned the world by defeating Go legend Lee Se-dol yesterday, and winning another game today. After checkers, chess and now go, what’s next? Well, Google engineers may have their eyes set on Starcraft – a strategy computer game.

Screenshot from professional Starcraft game.

Starcraft  is a military science fiction strategy game released towards the end of the 90s. It gained huge popularity, especially in South Korea. StarCraft sold over 11 million copies across the globe, with 4.5 million of these being sold in South Korea.

The game (as it is played in a multiplayer setting) has you pick one of three races: humans, protoss (advanced energy beings) or zerg (the swarm). Each of them has typical structures and combat units. The game requires not only an ever-adapting strategy, but also high speed and keyboard-mouse coordination.

Having computers square off against humans in such a computer game, as opposed to chess or go brings forth new challenges. First of all, the computer would have the benefit of far superior coordination as well as the lack of fatigue. In other words, the computer would be much better at building and moving fighting units around. But would it have a better strategy?

Pro gamers think not. Flash (one of the most dominant Starcraft pro gamers) said:

“Honestly I think I can win. The difference [from] Baduk(Go) is [that in Starcraft,] both sides play in a state where you don’t know what’s happening, and you [have to] collect information [to progress]—I think that point is a bit different.”

This brings up an interesting point. How well can AIs adapt to a game where they have incomplete knowledge? Will cold-heart algorithms trump human intuition once more? We may be entering a new age of Artificial Intelligence, and computer games may very well be the next battlefield.

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Estimate my solar savings!