An AI ‘impossible to beat’ explored on detail for Age of Empires IV

October 28th is getting closer, and Age of Empires IV is still on high expectations as time runs out. The new game of the franchise that among other things promises to be ‘the next level of RTS games’ has made an even higher bet: making an artificial intelligence that, in words from their creators, even pro players would not ever defeat.

What some others would say is that this new AI would use cheat codes or unfair advantages like more resources than normal or cheaper units. However, Quinn Duffy, Relic’s game director, along with Adam Isgreen, World’s Edge franchise creative director, declared in an interview that this AI not only does not cheat in any way, but works with machine learning that constantly learns from players and improves by its own.

We use machine learning in training the AI right now, but we want to take that even further. Down the road, not at launch, we’ll probably look into having a merciless AI that keeps learning the more people play against it, to the point that it’ll be unbeatable (…) but we’re OK with that, because if you opt into that difficulty, if you want to opt into making the AI better at beating you, go right ahead.

Adam Isgreen, World’s Edge creative director

This ‘impossible’ AI, which unfortunately will be put into the game after the release, as well as other features like scenario editor, mods, cheat codes and ranked multiplayer, works with the idea of being learning from the players strategy as it plays more and more, until the point that it can’t be defeated.

As Age of Noob explains in his video, in contrast of how the AI was designed for Age of Empires II, where it had specific instructions for subjects like how to behave according to map or civilization, standard build orders and modest reaction to enemy aggression, the developers for the AI in Age of Empires IV went for a different direction. The machine learning for the ‘Merciless‘ AI, as developers calls it, works along with a straight up code that says basic topics of a common matchup, like creating new villagers and military, get more resources regardless of any particular build order, take fights that leads to an advantage, etc.

This basic code, combined with the machine learning technique, is taking his first steps by challenging himself, until a point where the computer knows exactly what to do and starts playing like a human person would do. That doesn’t necessarily mean than this AI is literally impossible to beat, but it does make improvements constantly with no necessity for new upgrades, making this AI a complete challenge for any player who dares to face it.