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Dota AI Will Battle Human Players at TI8 & What Would it Mean if it Won?

Rise of the Bots?

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Dota has been a pinnacle of human strategy and creativity in esports for years but will there come a day where humans just don't cut it anymore? Artificial Intelligence (AI or bots) called OpenAI has been in the works with the goal of becoming good at Dota and up until now it's been winning some 1V1s. However, this year it's going 5V5, showing off its ability to cooperate and learn like never before. The idea that bots could best human players soon is daunting and maybe even concerning, so let's have a look at the idea and see where it could go.

Dota AI Clockwerk

Bots Aren't All There Yet

There Are Still Limitations

First we have to note that AI and bots aren't quite 'ready' right now. There are still things it can't do as well as human players (if at all), which is why at TI8 there are special rules and limits for the AI VS Humans match. For example, hero selection will be limited and there will be no warding, no Roshan, no consumable invisibility, no scanning, and limited item choices. Those are a LOT of limits and will make the AI VS Humans match significantly different from a regular professional match. However, these are things that can be worked out over time, so given enough years and computer learning, these limitations might be removed.

But Still, It's Getting Impressive

Here's a video explaining and demonstrating how OpenAI works in Dota 2, beating humans and executing high level strategies.

Can Human Players Become Obsolete?

AI Doesn't Have Creativity (for now)

There is a thing called a Turing Test. A test designed to determine if the thing you're dealing with is a human or a computer and it's been working so far because of some things artificial intelligence can't do. A lack of creativity and curiosity, elements not currently possible for a computer, means that an AI can't come up with original ideas, novel solutions, or new strategies. All it can do is take information it already knows and piece it together in the most efficient way to achieve its objectives. This was even expressed in the video game, The Turing Test, a puzzle game where you have to solve problems that an AI cannot. In one situation, a button must be held down to keep a door open. The AI's suggested solution was to cut off your arm to weigh the button down. Sounds creative (although painful and impractical) but we later discover that the idea isn't as original as it seemed and it was just piecing together information it already had.

Zenyatta V

Maybe in the future you won't carry with Zen but instead Zen will carry you?

It's interesting to note, however, that there have been a few AIs that have been able to somewhat pass the Turing Test, such as 'Eugene' and of course Google has it's own efforts into AI too. This has shown that the Turing Test has its own limitations, so a new test called the Lovelace Test is a new way to test for 'real' intelligence. Though whether a real life Zenyatta is possible is a question yet to be answered.

AI 'Won' Chess Decades Ago

Besides the fact that AI can't do some things, victory is not the only thing that matters. Computers mastered the classic strategic board game Chess a while back with AI like Deep Blue. Deep Blue was beating world class Chess champions by 1997 but two decades later human Chess tournaments are still a thing. The existence of a computer that can surpass even the greatest of champions has not made human players or the game of Chess obsolete or any less of an interest to fans of the game, so we can expect it to be a similar case with Dota and other esports. It seems that there simply being a 'better' AI player isn't enough to kill off a game or human competition for it and the death of a sport is based on something else.

So What If The AI Keeps Winning?

Can Watching Bot Battles Even Be Exciting?

It's totally a thing! The game Civilization has AI-only battles. Casting computer-only RTS matches happens too and can be interesting to watch. Personally, I've even casted computer-only Age of Empires matches and you will see things that will never happen in a human match, some things interesting and others even funny. This means there is a market for AI-only esports, not to mention that there was already a Bot TI Dota Tournament that has been drawing attention.

Would It Mean the End of Human Esports?

Well, that boils down to YOU. As we've established in my previous article, 'What Makes A Good Esports Title & Why Overwatch is Struggling', esports is a lot about the viewers. If the viewers prefer seeing bot matches, that's the direction the scene will take. If people still prefer watching humans, player matches will continue to be the primary form of competition. What I expect to happen though will be two separate forms of esports entertainment to exist at the same time, both bot and human tournaments progressing together. They are fundamentally different in terms of why they are interesting to watch and how the games play out, so there's no reason why one has to cancel the other out. Overall, it seems like AI is just about reaching the point where it has something interesting going for it, so we'll have to wait and see what the games and audience are like in the coming years.

If AI starts winning against humans, would you still watch Dota? Would you watch AI-only tournaments? Let us know in the comments!


GamerZakh is a Malaysian gaming YouTuber, Twitch streamer, and content creator. He approaches gaming from a nostalgic perspective and always tries to incorporate educational elements into his delivery of entertainment.

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GZ "GamerZakh"

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