The research lab OpenAI’s team of bots won a best-of-three match against a team of former Dota 2 pros, 2-1, in a benchmark match in preparation for challenging the best of the best in the game in the upcoming International 2018.
Dubbed the ‘OpenAI Five,’ the team of bots has been playing countless matches against itself, improving with every iteration by analysing its previous matches for optimal courses of action. Each bot has been logging almost 180 years of experience for each day of training, dwarfing that of any human’s, even the most veteran of Dota 2 pros.
Arrayed against this Skynet-esque opponent was a ragtag team of former pros Ioannis “Fogged” Loucas, Ben “Merlini” Wu, David “MoonMeander” Tan, William “Blitz” Lee, and caster Austin “Capitalist” Walsh. While the human team has their own fare share of competitive experience, most of them have stuck to coaching or being on the caster and analyst desk in recent times.
Given the sheer experience and mechanical advantage (they are computers after all), it was not that big of a surprise when the OpenAI Five won the first two games under 30 minutes (most evenly-matched Dota games last around 45 minutes). Game 1 was a quick 21 minute and 37 seconds affair, while in Game 2 the human team was able to hold on a bit longer, lasting 24 minutes and 53 seconds.
“We didn’t know what to expect, it felt like playing against a really solid team. They respond well, and have good teamwork,” said Blitz in a statement after the match.
It was only in the third game, when the audience was made to draft OpenAI Five’s heroes, that the human team won. Despite an advantage in hero lineups, the audience expectedly picked up a wonky combination of heroes, the OpenAI Five lasted for 35 minutes and 47 seconds.
The line-up for OAI5 this round is fairly Looney-Tunes. Two big scary tanks, Sven and Axe, with two good invisibility / ganker (surprise attack) heroes, Slark and Riki, and the Queen of Pain who can blink (teleport a few metres) for escape and attack.
— Smerity (@Smerity) August 5, 2018
While the bots’ feats are impressive, the matches were in no way reminiscent of a true Dota 2 pro game. Set restrictions limit the players from playing Dota 2 in its full breadth, even if the restrictions for the benchmark match were lighter than before. For example, instead of a mirror match with five identical heroes, each team was free to pick from an expanded pool of 18 heroes. Although the scan function cannot be used, items like the Magic Bottle, which restores health and mana, were made available. Additionally, each player was granted an item courier, instead of just one for each team.
With The International 2018 only mere days away, the OpenAI Five seem more than ready to take on a team of full Dota 2 professionals. Will the bots beat the pros? Sure, there’s a good chance they would. But that’s because they will be playing a very restricted game of Dota, which is a different game altogether.
Dota 2 has a total of 115 heroes, with over 150 items that can be purchased to help further their cause to victory, which then leads to a practically countless number of playable combinations and strategies. The restricted 18-hero pool is but a mere shadow of that. What’s more, other tweaks like having item couriers for each player instead of having one per team takes away another of the game’s quirks (admittedly frustrating if you’re playing with uncooperative strangers).
In other words, the OpenAI are not yet capable of playing a full, unrestricted game of Dota 2, much less win a match against pros. But, the OpenAI Five have a good chance of beating them in their own restricted version of the game.
You can catch the match between the OpenAI Five and a team of the world’s best Dota 2 players when The International 2018 kicks off on August 15 with the Group Stages, and with the Main Event starting on August 20.