How good are different languages at runnig evolutionary algorithms?

As part of the EvoStar conference, which took place last week, we presented the poster Benchmarking Languages for Evolutionary Algorithms, where, with help from many friends in Open Science fashion, we tested several a bunch of compiled and scripting languages on several common evolutionary operations: crossover, mutation and OneMax.

It was presented in poster form, and you had to be there to actually understand it. Since you are not, it’s better if you use this comments (or those at the poster) to inquire about it. Or you can check out the interactive presentation we also did, which in fact includes data and everything in the source.
This work is ongoing, and you are very welcome to participate. Just take a peek at the repo, and do a pull request.

Towards automatic StarCraft strategy generation using genetic programming

I forgot to mention that we published our paper “Towards automatic StarCraft strategy generation using genetic programming” in CIG 2015 conference, held in Taiwan. This was a work made in collaboration with Alberto Tonda (INRA) and Giovanni Squillero (Politecnico di Torino), starting a new research line using this game (and also, starting other nice collaborations that are still a secret!)

The abstract:

Among Real-Time Strategy games few titles have enjoyed the continued success of StarCraft. Many research lines aimed at developing Artificial Intelligences, or “bots”, capable of challenging human players, use StarCraft as a platform. Several characteristics make this game particularly appealing for researchers, such as: asymmetric balanced factions, considerable complexity of the technology trees, large number of units with unique features, and potential for optimization both at the strategical and tactical level. In literature, various works exploit evolutionary computation to optimize particular aspects of the game, from squad formation to map exploration; but so far, no evolutionary approach has been applied to the development of a complete strategy from scratch. In this paper, we present the preliminary results of StarCraftGP, a framework able to evolve a complete strategy for StarCraft, from the building plan, to the composition of squads, up to the set of rules that define the bot’s behavior during the game. The proposed approach generates strategies as C++ classes, that are then compiled and executed inside the OpprimoBot open-source framework. In a first set of runs, we demonstrate that StarCraftGP ultimately generates a competitive strategy for a Zerg bot, able to defeat several human-designed bots.

Do you want to know more? Download the paper draft or electronic version in IEEE web.

[Paper] Studying the effect of population size in distributed evolutionary algorithms on heterogeneous clusters

Finally we have published in Applied Soft Computer journal the last paper related with my thesis. We used OSGiLiath to perform a number of cool experiments related with automatic adaptation of dEAs on heterogeneous clusters.

The abstract:

Distributed Evolutionary Algorithms are traditionally executed on homogeneous dedicated clusters, despite most scientists have access mainly to networks of heterogeneous nodes (for example, desktop PCs in a lab). Fitting this kind of algorithms to these environments, so that they can take advantage of their heterogeneity to save running time, is still an open problem. The different computational power of the nodes affects the performance of the algorithm, and tuning or fitting it to each node properly could reduce execution time.

Since the distributed Evolutionary Algorithms include a whole range of parameters that influence the performance, this paper proposes a study on the population size. This parameter is one of the most important, since it has a direct relationship with the number of iterations needed to find the solution, as it affects the exploration factor of the algorithm. The aim of this paper consists in validating the following hypothesis: fitting the sub-population size to the computational power of the heterogeneous cluster node can lead to an improvement in running time with respect to the use of the same population size in every node.

Two parameter size schemes have been tested, an offline and an online parameter setting, and three problems with different characteristics and computational demands have been used.

Results show that setting the population size according to the computational power of each node in the heterogeneous cluster improves the time required to obtain the optimal solution. Meanwhile, the same set of different size values could not improve the running time to reach the optimum in a homogeneous cluster with respect to the same size in all nodes, indicating that the improvement is due to the interaction of the different hardware resources with the algorithm. In addition, a study on the influence of the different population sizes on each stage of the algorithm is presented. This opens a new research line on the fitting (offline or online) of parameters of the distributed Evolutionary Algorithms to the computational power of the devices.

The paper (currently “In press” form) can be downloaded from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568494615006468

Evostar 2015 mandatory post

We can never skip the chance to assist the Evostar conference, and aside learn the latest trends in Evolutionary Computation and present our results, we also have a good time with our other colleagues.

This time the conference was held in Copenhagen (Denmark), and because Antonio and me were part of the organization we didn’t have much time to go sightseeing, but we went to Tivoli Gardens and ride the flying chairs (and screamed like babies).

On the scientific part, we presented two papers to EvoGames track, related with our research lines on content generation for videogames and AI optimization. The first paper, How the World Was MADE: Parametrization of Evolved Agent-Based Models for Backstory Generation, presents a study on parametrization of the values that define a virtual world to facilitate the emergence of archetypes, and be able to generate interesting backstories (for videogames, for example). See the poster here:

The poster

Also, as we are commited to open science and open software, you can download the MADE environment from its web. The abstract:

Generating fiction environments for a multi-agent system optimized by genetic algorithms (with some specific requirements related to the desirable plots), presents two main problems: first it is impossible to know in advance the optimal value for the particular designed fitness function, and at the same time, it creates a vast search space for the parameters that it needs. The purpose of this paper is to define a methodology to find the best parameter values for both, the evolutionary algorithm, and the own fictional world configuration. This design includes running, to completion, a world simulation represented as a chromosome, and assigning a fitness to it, thus composing a very complex fitness landscape.
In order to optimize the resources allocated to evolution and to have some guarantees that the final result will be close to the optimum, we systematically analyze a set of possible values of the most relevant parameters, obtaining a set of generic rules. These rules, when applied to the plot requisites, and thus, to the fitness function, will lead to a reduced range of parameter values that will help the storyteller to create optimal worlds with a reduced computation budget.

Evostar 2015 - Copenhagen(That’s me with the IKEA rat plushies I used to describe our system)

Our other paper, It’s Time to Stop: A Comparison of Termination Conditions in the Evolution of Game Bots, describes a methodology to compare different termination conditions in noisy environments such as the RTS games. The abstract:

Evolutionary Algorithms (EAs) are frequently used as a mechanism for the optimization of autonomous agents in games (bots), but knowing when to stop the evolution, when the bots are good enough, is not as easy as it would a priori seem. The first issue is that optimal bots are either unknown (and thus unusable as termination condition) or unreachable. In most EAs trying to find optimal bots fitness is evaluated through game playing. Many times it is found to be noisy, making its use as a termination condition also complicated. A fixed amount of evaluations or, in the case of games, a certain level of victories does not guarantee an optimal result. Thus the main objective of this paper is to test several termination conditions in order to find the one that yields optimal solutions within a restricted amount of time, and that allows researchers to compare different EAs as fairly as possible. To achieve this we will examine several ways of finishing an EA who is finding an optimal bot design process for a particular game, Planet Wars in this case, with the characteristics described above, determining the capabilities of every one of them and, eventually, selecting one for future designs.

Evostar 2015 - Copenhagen(Here’s Antonio presenting the paper)

You can see the rest of the Evostar photos in their flickr account.

How the world was MADE: parametrisation of evolved agent-based models for backstory generation

Our paper “How the world was MADE: parametrisation of evolved agent-based models for backstory generation” has been accepted in Evostar 2015 conference. This paper continues our previous work published at ALIFE. You can also download the MADE framework source and binaries to test it for your own. Also, read the draft in our repository on GitHub.

The abstract:

Generating fiction environments for a multi-agent system optimized by genetic algorithms (with some specific requirements related to the desirable plots), presents two main problems: first it is impossible to know in advance the optimal value for the particular designed fitness function, and at the same time, it creates a vast search space for the parameters that it needs. The purpose of this paper is to define a methodology to find the best parameter values for both, the evolutionary algorithm, and the own fictional world configuration. This design includes running, to completion, a world simulation represented as a chromosome, and assigning a fitness to it, thus composing a very complex fitness landscape.

In order to optimize the resources allocated to evolution and to have some guarantees that the final result will be close to the optimum, we systematically analyse a set of possible values of the most relevant parameters, obtaining a set of generic rules. These rules, when applied to the plot requisites, and thus, to the fitness function, will lead to a reduced range of parameter values that will help the storyteller to create optimal worlds with a reduced computation budget.

[Paper] Going a Step Beyond the Black and White Lists for URL Accesses in the Enterprise by means of Categorical Classifiers

Our work titled Going a Step Beyond the Black and White Lists for URL Accesses in the Enterprise by means of Categorical Classifiers, as part of the researh under the MUSES project, has been presented today at the ECTA 2014 conference.

Abstract:

Corporate systems can be secured using an enormous quantity of methods, and the implementation of Black or White lists is among them.
With these lists it is possible to restrict (or to allow) the users the execution of applications or the access to certain URLs, among others. This paper is focused on the latter option. It describes the whole processing of a set of data composed by URL sessions performed by the employees of a company; from the preprocessing stage, including labelling and data balancing processes, to the application of several classification algorithms. The aim is to define a method for automatically make a decision of allowing or denying future URL requests, considering a set of corporate security policies.
Thus, this work goes a step beyond the usual black and white lists, since they can only control those URLs that are specifically included in them, but not by making decisions based in similarity (through classification techniques), or even in other variables of the session, as it is proposed here.
The results show a set of classification methods which get very good classification percentages (95-97%), and which infer some useful rules based in additional features (rather that just the URL string) related to the user’s access. This led us to consider that this kind of tool would be very useful tool for an enterprise.

You can check the presentation at: .

[Paper] My life as a sim: evolving unique and engaging life stories using virtual worlds

Our latest publication My life as a sim: evolving unique and engaging life stories using virtual worlds, using our framework MADE (created by @rubenhek), has been published in the ALIFE 2014 conference. The abstract:

Stories are not only painfully weaved by crafty writers in the solitude of their studios; they also have to be produced massively for non-player characters in the video game industry or tailored to particular tastes in personalized stories. However, the creation of fictional stories is a very complex task that usually implies a creative process where the author has to combine characters, conflicts and backstories to create an engaging narrative. This work describes a general methodology to generate cohesive and coherent backstories where desired archetypes (universally accepted literary symbols) can emerge in complex stochastic systems. This methodology supports the modeling and parametrization of the agents, the environment where they will live and the desired literary setting. The use of a Genetic Algorithm (GA) is proposed to establish the parameter configuration that will lead to backstories that best fit the setting. Information extracted from a simulation can then be used to create the literary work. To demonstrate the adequacy of the methodology, we perform an implementation using a specific multi-agent system and evaluate the results, testing with three different literary settings.

Check out the presentation by @jjmerelo at http://jj.github.io/alife14-made/#/home. You can download the proceedings of the conference (CC license), or download the paper draft.

More information is available on the project page.