Steven R. April 13, 2019
Artificial intelligence has already beaten the best in the world at board games like chess and go, but now it is beating the best in Dota 2.
In a showmatch best-of-three series, OpenAI Five defeated reigning The International 2018 champions OG in lopsided fashion. Though the game used a special set of rules that barred certain items and included only a fraction of Dota 2’s hero pool, the human side was soundly defeated.
OG opened the series with a lineup built to exploit OpenAI Five’s perceived weaknesses of early game ganking and an inability to deal with randomness. The team played an unorthodox lineup and used unconventional strategies including mid laner Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen playing Riki and Sébastien "7ckngMad" Debs cutting creep waves with Viper. Things initially worked out as the two sides were competitive early, but when the OpenAI Five began looking for team fights, it consistently got the better of OG with its carefully calculated fights frequently ending with heroes surviving with just a sliver of health.
That allowed the OpenAI Five to run away with the game and take the opening victory.
Though OG’s loss could partially be credited to the team untested tactics, that wasn’t the case in game two. The OpenAI Five utterly dominated from the start, turning a strong laning phase into unstoppable pushes. It began taking barracks at just 17 minutes and forced the GG call not long after.
OpenAI made its Dota 2 debut at The International 2017 where it defeated fan favorite player Danil “Dendi” Ishutin in a one versus one game. That was followed by an open challenge to fans and top players in attendance, with many marveling at OpenAI’s creativity and technical prowess.
In 2018, OpenAI branched out from mid-only games to proper five versus five Dota 2 with the OpenAI Five. It debuted with a 2-1 series win opposite a team that included pro offlaner David "MoonMeander" Tan alongside a number of prominent Dota 2 casters.
However, it returned at The International 2018 to play legitimate professional teams with limited success. It was dealt losses by both TI8 participant PaiN Gaming as well as Big God, a squad of Chinese legends. Though OpenAI Five demonstrated remarkable skills while laning and fighting, it struggled with more nuanced aspects of the game like ganking and farming, which made for drawn out losses in both series.
Going from losing to those sorts of teams six months ago to steamrolling a formidable OG speaks volumes to the sort of progress the OpenAI team has made. OpenAI developers revealed on stream that they had worked with various other teams including Alliance and Team Lithium on unbroadcasted games, with the OpenAI Five winning every time.
Granted, the victory over OG still comes with a bit of an asterisk. OpenAI still competes under a very limited rule set that takes a lot of weapons away from pro players.
Still, with how quickly OpenAI has progressed, it doesn’t feel like it would take that much longer for the program to be toppling pros in an unrestricted game of Dota 2.