Humans are no match for AI in Quake III

Artificial intelligence learns teamwork in a deadly game of capture the flag

By Edd Gent

Human gamers know just how hard it is to win a new spin on the classic computer game Quake: In a mazelike arena, they must work with other players to capture floating flags—all while dodging deadly gunfire. Now, for the first time, artificial intelligence (AI) has mastered teamwork in a complex first-person video game, coordinating its actions with both human and computer teammates to consistently beat opponents.

Although AI can drive cars and easily defeat the world’s greatest chess and Go players one on one, researchers have struggled to get it to master teamwork. The practice may seem intuitive to us, but predicting how others will behave—a crucial component of working on a team—adds a whole new level of complexity and uncertainty for AI to deal with.