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Luke Dicken Awarded “Eric Dybsand Memorial AI Scholarship” by IGDA Foundation

The Strathclyde AI an Games Group are pleased to report that Luke Dicken, one of our PhD students, has been awarded the prestigious “Eric Dybsand Memorial AI Scholarship”. This award is presented by the IGDA Foundation, the charitable division of the International Game Developers Association. The scholarship commemorates Eric Dybsand, a Game AI developer and pillar of the community who died in 2004. It allows Luke to attend the Game Developers Conference, the largest gathering of game developers, which is held each year in San Francisco. There Luke will be an honoured guest at the annual AI Dinner, be mentored by members of the AI Game Programmers Guild and receive exclusive VIP treatment at a range of industry events occurring around GDC.

Luke received a similar scholarship last year to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles as a guest of the IGDA, so he is thrilled to have a second opportunity.

He will be in San Francisco March 2nd to 11th, and would be delighted to meet with anyone who is interested about the work we are doing at SAIG.

Game Development at Strathclyde

SAIG are pleased to announce that we have begun taking a more pro-active role in encouraging game development within the student body at the University of Strathclyde. Game development education is an increasingly popular area, so we have founded an extra-curricular group to better support our students who want to learn more about this exciting field. We held introductory sessions in mid-December, and will be moving forward with this project going into the new semester. Our aim is threefold, firstly to better educate students about aspects specific to games, secondly to provide a conduit for faculty support for these endeavours and finally to help raise awareness within the student body of the broader game developer community and the opportunities available there.

SAIG Hosts Professor Peter Cowling

On January 27th, SAIG will be hosting a seminar given by University of Bradford’s Peter Cowling. The title of the session is “Graph Search + Machine Learning = Monte Carlo Tree Search” and the abstract is attached below. This is a rescheduling of the session that was originally meant to take place on December 9th, which was postponed due to poor weather conditions disrupting travel. Fingers crossed that Peter will be able to join us this time!

Search in (very large) directed graphs has proven a very productive model for creating intelligent behaviours, in areas such as computer Chess, planning, scheduling and optimisation. For other problems that can be modelled using directed graphs, such as creating computer players for the traditional board game Go, search in these graphs has proved intractable. There is considerable current excitement over the potential of Monte Carlo Tree Search algorithms (particularly UCT (, which have integrated machine learning and graph search methods to beat human professional Go players in the past couple of years. This represents a significant step towards an outstanding research question in Artificial Intelligence (

In addition to its success in computer Go, Monte Carlo Tree Search has proven to be more effective than other graph search algorithms in a wide range of decision problems. In the first part of this talk we will discuss very recent work on Monte Carlo Tree Search as a general-purpose way of searching minimax trees (e.g. for Go) and other trees (e.g. for multiplayer games and decision problems with uncertainty and incomplete information).

When dealing with uncertainty and incomplete information, a common approach is to use a particular determinization, by assuming that all players know all information and that all random events are known in advance. We average over a number of determinizations, and choose the move with the best average score, yielding strong play for games such as Bridge and Scrabble. We will discuss the advantages and shortcomings of determinization, by reviewing our own work on searching the decision trees for the card games Dou Dhi Zhu and Magic:The Gathering and the board game Lord of the Rings:The Confrontation. We will discuss approaches to handling decision trees with uncertainty and hidden information,
culminating in our recent work on Information Set Monte Carlo Tree Search. as well as the work of others to create strong players for other games.

After a brief explanation of the algorithms, and a survey of some highlights of the work to date, we will discuss the rich set of open questions surrounding Monte Carlo Tree Search, which will allow us to understand this family of algorithms and the range of applications for which they might prove effective.

SAIG Presenting at the AltDevConf

We are pleased to report that Luke will be speaking at the upcoming “AltDevConf” as part of the Programming track, introducing his research developing the Integrated Influence Architecture. The AltDevConf is a new conference being organised by some of the people behind popular industry website AltDevBlogADay. It is running for the first time this year, is entirely virtual and attendance will be free. The conference is scheduled to be held on the 11th and 12th of February, we’ll post details on how you can watch the sessions closer to the time.

SAIG Welcomes Undergraduates

As part of the final year of their undergraduate studies, students undertake a “Final Year Project” which forms a significant portion of their degree classification. The project typically incorporates development and/or research, but is marked largely on the basis of a report of the project, which acts as a dissertation or thesis.

This year, SAIG is delighted to have six undergraduates joining the group for their projects. Kerrie Munn will be continuing her work with SPREE, Ciaran McGhie will be extending the Primal system whilst Joshua Burtwhistle and Matthias Lenz will be working with the Ms. Pac-Man framework. We are also introducing a new area for work within SAIG, on the Bot Prize which concerns creating human-like players for the game Unreal Tournament 2004 – John Dunne and Chris MacDonald will be undertaking the initial work on this.

Please join us in welcoming these students to the group, and we wish them the best of luck over their final year of study.

SAIG Research Featured on

A high-level overview of the motivation for the StarCraft research projects currently being undertaken at SAIG has been featured on the front page of leading games industry website The piece was written by SAIG’s own Luke Dicken, and analyses the challenge of playing RTS games as a human, and the level of thought that goes into even the simplest of actions within these game worlds.

The full article is available from this link.

Starcraft Research Projects Added to Site

We’ve added information to the website detailing some work we’ve been undertaking in the RTS game StarCraft. You can read all about it by visiting the StarCraft page. We’re excited to be in the process of tidying up Primal prior to an early-version release to the Open Source community, and of course we’re hopeful that by giving ourselves a full year to prepare for the 2012 Starcraft AI Competition, we’ll be able to compete well! for more information about any of the Starcraft projects, don’t hesitate to contact Luke Dicken

SAIG Presenting at IGDA Scotland (27th July)

Luke will be attending the July meeting of the International Game Developers Association, presenting an overview of the past couple of months of events that SAIG have been attending. Please come along and join us at IGDA Scotland, 27th July in the Walkabout Bar in Edinburgh. Doors at 7pm, speakers at 8pm.

Website Launch!

We’ve been working on putting together a website for the group – or at least talking about it – for a while now. Thanks to Epitome Solutions we’ve now made this a reality and launched what we hope is going to be a great site that will serve us well. Right now all of the content we want to be in place isn’t quite there yet, but we felt it was very important to get the site up before we attend the Paris Game AI Conference later this week. We’ll be adding more detail about our work, and especially an overview of each of our projects, as things progress.

Thanks for stopping by, please feel free to hit the comments and let us know your thoughts on the site.

SAIG Attending Paris Game AI Conference ’11

Luke will be attending the fourth annual Game/AI Conference this year in Paris, and is giving a tutorial session titled “The Next-Generation of Game Planners”. The Game/AI Conference is the largest gathering of Game AI developers, and we are delighted to expand our presence from the poster that we presented last year to be significantly more substantial. If you don’t have plans to join us in Paris this year, there are provisions being made to provide a livestream of the event, more info can be found on

Note that full coverage of the tutorial session will be made available through, rather than through this website.