What do you think the future of sports will be like?
You already know that the WCG is an international esports competition, but if you click on “NEW HORIZONS” featured prominently at the bottom of the WCG website, you may find yourself in unfamiliar territory. In this section, you won’t find any games or players. Instead, you will find only AI and robots.
In 2006, NASA launched the first spacecraft ever to explore Pluto—the spacecraft was named New Horizons. This was a fitting name since the spacecraft reached the outer edges of the Solar System and allowed humans to look at the boundary between our solar system and the space that stretched beyond.
WCG has also launched a project that allows gamers to see the boundary between the present and the future. This project represents the present of science and technology, the future of esports, and the future of sports platforms, all at the same time.
AI Masters, the name of WCG’s AI robot soccer tournament, reaches toward these “new horizons.”
What is “AI robot soccer”?
Some people might recall “robot soccer.” In a robot soccer game, much like in regular soccer, real robots run around the field and try to kick the ball into the other team’s goal.
Robot soccer and AI robot soccer have some things in common, but AI robot soccer has two distinctive features. The first is that, in AI robot soccer, the robots are not real, physical robots but virtual ones that play on a monitor. The second is that the robots have the ability to learn and develop tactics. Yes, it’s true! This is a “deep learning” method, a recent hot topic in science and technology.
The robots that play in AI robot soccer games follow the deep learning process described below.
1. Start with WCG standard algorithm.
2. Make your 1.0-version algorithm and prepare for battle!
3. Revise your tactics and continue to evolve, until you win.
4. Your algorithm wins!
5. The version of the algorithm that won the game is now the result of the 1st learning.
6. Use the results of the first learning to revise your algorithm until you win again.
5. Aha! Now your algorithm can play against itself and continue to evolve!
Introducing WCG AI Masters, Deep Learning Soccer Competition
This deep learning method is similar to that of Google's AlphaGo. AlphaGo learned the basic rules of the board game Go, and then continued to play using various algorithms. The AI program AlphaGo allegedly evolved and developed by repeatedly playing against itself.
WCG’s AI robot soccer tournament was inspired by the AI World Cup 2018, organized by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). A total of 16 teams from 8 countries participated in the AI World Cup 2018, including a team from Google. The AI World Cup drew a lot of interest from the science community, but the soccer matches were limited in that the general public had no way to participate in them because the AI World Cup was primarily for engineering research purposes.
However, WCG saw the hidden potential of the AI World Cup and decided to create a similar event filled with the fun of sports. So, WCG developed a future esports game in which anyone around the world could participate. This game also adopted many of the characteristics of traditional soccer. To create the AI robot soccer games, WCG made huge improvements to the systems and engines being used.
The result of all these efforts is WCG’s AI robot soccer games, which will be as much fun to watch as traditional sports!
WCG AI robot soccer games have corner kicks, penalty kicks, and each robot player has different capabilities according to its position! Soccer players on the monitor can learn for themselves, create different formations, and move around the field. They can even demonstrate unique learned tactics.
Teams adopt different tactics depending on their algorithms. One team might show a preference for flank attacks, while another team might focus on counterattacking as part of their defense strategy. At AI robot soccer games, you—the developer of the algorithm—become the manager of your very own soccer team.
The Webots engine used for the AI robot soccer games was originally a robotics simulator engine. In other words, it was not originally intended for games. So, at first, it was difficult to apply the laws of physics in order to make the engine suitable for esports. However, WCG developers overcame this obstacle by making “the best upgrade possible.”
It was indeed difficult subdividing the different capabilities by soccer position because adding more capabilities meant a much larger amount of algorithmic information. They were able to develop the technology needed through continuous tests of maximum speed, mass, restitution coefficients, and torque.
Since the Webots engine was not originally intended for soccer games, it did not have any sound at first. However, sound was added to improve the games’ sense of realism in terms of background noise and game design. When all these processes were combined, it was like making a whole new game.
WCG AI MASTERS!
The dream of developing AI soccer has now become a reality. Anyone who would like to develop their own soccer team may submit an application for the games—submissions will be received from April 1 to May 10. Beginning on April 15, the programs for building AWS servers will be distributed. Using the programs, applicants can freely develop an AI and help their team begin to learn. Final algorithms must be submitted by May 31.
Each applicant must have a working knowledge of the programming language C++ or Python.
Countless applications have already been submitted. Even on the first day of the application period, many applicants were submitted from all around the world—not only from ICT powers, such as Korea, North America, Europe, and China, but also from such countries as Cuba, Argentina, Chile, and Kazakhstan.
WCG NEW HORIZONS
Since its launch, WCG has pursued competitions in which all gamers around the world can participate and enjoy themselves. WCG believes that helping people enjoy games can contribute to making the world a better place. International competitions like the Olympic Games are a great way to achieve this goal. WCG has transformed as many traditional events as possible into e-game formats, leading the way for the future of games and sports.
A point of concern for the revived WCG is the frightening and often controversial development of technology, coupled with the current social phenomena. This often causes anxiety or conflict between classes. But in all of this there’s something we can do.
WCG is making preparations to ensure that the upcoming matches are something that anyone can easily watch and have fun with, and that the matches help people become more familiar with future technology. In addition to creating bonds between developers and fans, the AI robot soccer games are particularly meaningful because they give people a look at how esports will be played in the future.
WCG dreams of a future in which all races, genders, and generations can come together and experience “fun.” This is the very reason that New Horizons was created.