The Games Computers (and People) Play

Jonathan Schaeffer, University of Alberta

The development of high-performance game-playing pro-grams has been one of the major successes of artificial intelligence research. The results have been outstanding but, with one notable exception (Deep Blue), they have not been widely disseminated. This talk will discuss the past, present, and future of the development of games-playing programs. Case studies for backgammon, bridge, checkers, chess, go, hex, Othello, poker, and Scrabble will be used. The research emphasis of the past has been on high performance (synonymous with brute-force search) for two-player perfect-information games. The research emphasis of the present encompasses multi-player imperfect/non-deterministic information games. And what of the future? There are some surprising changes of direction occurring that will result in games being more of an experimental testbed for mainstream AI research, with less emphasis on building world-championship-caliber programs.

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