There was a recent informal question on chat about RTS games suitable for AI benchmarks, and I thought it would be useful to ask a question about them in relation to AI research.

Compact is defined as the fewest mechanics, elements, and smallest gameboard that produces a balanced, intractable, strategic game. (This is important because greater compactness facilitates mathematical analysis.)

  • $\begingroup$ Best solution probably to write it yourself. Most interesting is if and how game produce partial observability and what are long-term causality dependencies. With your own game you can produce whatever properties you want. $\endgroup$ Jun 6 '19 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ This was inspired in part by Kuhn poker. $\endgroup$
    – user76284
    Jun 12 '19 at 18:34

This is an interesting question. One good place to start would be the gargantuan catalogue of rather simple RTS flash games and the like. There are many sites that have 100s of such titles, and it would not be too difficult to build the framework for these types of games(there are open source tools that can help as well).

As far as "real" mainstream games, the pickings are rather slim for simple benchmark RTS titles. One that comes to mind is Rome: Total War. At least in exhibition, there is not much to strategize over besides who to attack and from where. Also, as I assume this relates to starcraft, one good simplified predecessor to starcraft would be the Dune series, and in particular Dune 2.


These are some examples of simple RTS games I know of:

It is very fast; the game environment runs 40,000 frames per second per core on a Macbook Pro. It captures the key dynamics of a real-time strategy game: Both players gather resources, build facilities, explore unknown territory (terrain that is out of sight of the player), and attempt to control regions on the map. In addition, the engine has characteristics that facilitate AI research: perfect save/load/replay, full access to its internal game state, multiple built-in rule-based AIs, visualization for debugging, and a human-AI interface, among others.

microRTS is a small implementation of an RTS game, designed to perform AI research. The advantage of using microRTS with respect to using a full-fledged game like Wargus or Starcraft (using BWAPI) is that microRTS is much simpler, and can be used to quickly test theoretical ideas, before moving on to full-fledged RTS games.

  • Galcon Fusion: A streamlined RTS game with relatively few actions, such as unit production and when to attack/defend.

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