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Future AI tools could help human commanders break opponents in real battles. 

Gamebreaker program by US security research agency DARPA wants to turn the design considerations of modern strategy games on their head, using AI to find every unfair advantage hidden in the game.

Northrop Grumman is building an AI designed to find new strategies to break virtual opponents within the framework of the program. 

Gamebreaker program is focused on a range of real-time strategy games, or programs where players command a range of units with different characteristics in competition against each other, including the popular Starcraft series of games, games like Google Research Football, etc.

“Gamebreaker seeks a methodology for finding “broken states” in games – situations in which one player in the game can gain unexpected advantages over a competitor,” Joshua Bernstein, director of advanced intelligent systems at Northrop Grumman, says. “In these applications AI finds asymmetrical conditions in a system (eg, the game or a real-world scenario) and communicates these conditions to stakeholders, such as military planners.”

Northrop Grumman’s entry will be built in Command: Modern Operations, a hyper-realistic theater-wide combat simulator designed to model Cold War as well as present conflicts.

Gamebreaker is, especially in terms of Pentagon budgets, an almost minuscule contract, clocking in at just $1 million. Its focus on developing an AI that can win scenarios in one game, and then testing if that AI can win a second game, is somewhat narrow. Yet the implications for more accurate wargaming through thoughtful AI could have a huge impact on how weapons systems are designed, modeled, and ultimately used by human commanders aided by AI agents.

Gamebreaker, part of DARPA’s larger initiative in military AI, is about winning Real Time Strategy games. Combining entertainment with simulation, these games seek to foster both fun and a balanced, competitive experience, one where each player stands a reasonable chance of winning.

This is directly at odds with actual war, where the smoothest path to victory is maximizing every unfair advantage a side can muster against a rival.

To succeed at breaking this balance, teams must build an AI that can play a strategy game, and then, while staying within the rules of the game, figure out how to use all the available pieces in the best and most unfair way against its opponents. It is about novel tactics, without any of the limitations of human understanding holding back how the algorithm plots a path to victory, according to breakingdefense.com.