Blizzard Entertainment is changing the game (quite literally) with a newly registered patent aimed at making their gaming systems smarter and more adept at keeping up with ever-changing gaming rules, specifically for their popular online card game, Hearthstone. The patent – US11724194B2 – describes a system using artificial intelligence (AI), that learns from playing and adapts to improve its game strategy.
The challenge with games like Hearthstone is that the rules constantly evolve, new cards are added, and the game is updated frequently. This makes pre-trained AI models ineffective, as they can't quickly adapt. Therefore, the company is seeking quicker, smarter solutions.
This new system uses a method called reinforcement learning to improve results at the initial deployment phase. Instead of playing for hours to accumulate experience and then starting to improve, the proposed strategy starts the learning process right away and continues learning while in play.
This is a leap forward from the previously used model, AlphaZero, which was perfect for static games like chess or go but struggled to keep up with dynamic games like Hearthstone. It is the computer-game equivalent of learning to ride a bike in real-time rather than reading up on it before even laying a finger on the handlebars.
Depicted in varying processes through the provided figures, the new system integrates what the company calls a "heuristic" into the model. In simple terms, a "heuristic" is a form of programming that allows the model to make a more educated guess. It's like giving the system a helpful hint to improve its initial moves. This makes the system quicker, more useful, and less reliant on a significant amount of learning before becoming efficient.
By using this mix of the AI learning model and a statistic-based computing technique, this new system strikes a balance between results that are usable from initial stages and still maintaining room for continuous future learning and improvement.
If successful, this could redefine how AI learns in the gaming world, especially for games that aren't static. As Blizzard moves forward with this patented technology, it will surely be exciting to see how the games we play learn and adapt alongside us.
However, remember, just because it’s patented doesn’t mean it will pop up in your next Hearthstone update. Patents are a way of protecting ideas, but those ideas don't always make it to our screens. Perhaps this one will change the game, or perhaps it's simply Blizzard playing its cards close to its chest. Only time will tell where this new venture leads.