Reid last week Vilen, an elite gamer using the descriptor”Chicago” in rocket league, the popular vehicular soccer game, is facing a strange and unsettling new adversary. At first, the player appeared to be a rookie, hesitantly and clumsily moving the rocket vehicle. They then caught and perfectly balanced the ball on the hood of their car and, with superhuman skill, drove it towards the goal at high speed.
Not only was the other driver clearly a bot, he was also ridiculously good. “It’s very difficult to play against him,” Wilen says. “His perfect dribbling will wreak havoc on almost every player.”
Vilen is one of the elite rocket league players who have recently encountered a bot in competitive play. He’s not good enough to beat everyone yet, but he can play at a high level, allowing less experienced players to trick their way into the higher ranks.
rocket league frantic and extremely difficult to play. Each player controls a car capable of incredible acrobatic stunts in an arena where gravity and physics are seemingly set to a ridiculous setting. The goal is to use your vehicle to maneuver the giant ball past and into your opponent’s goal, a task that requires considerable skill and patience. Sometimes two players work together as a team, making huge leaps, frantically parrying and accidentally colliding, trying to anticipate and counter their opponents’ own antics.
Upper rocket league players often launch their cars into the air to move the ball towards the net, but Vilen says the bot he encountered was specially trained to carry it on the ground. “The bot doesn’t actually roll over or jump in the air too often,” he says, presumably because he hasn’t been programmed or trained to do so. “Instead, he waits for the ball to fall, catches it on the roof of the car and makes a perfect dribbling in the direction of the opposing team’s goal,” says Wilen.
The bot that Wilen and others have encountered is called Nexto. He acquired the ability to dribble and score points using an artificial intelligence approach known as reinforcement learning, which formed the basis of breakthrough research that allowed computers to master other complex games such as Go and Star Craft. This technique has also been applied to more practical areas, including chip design and data center cooling in the last few years. Reinforcement learning entails creating a program that can perform a task at a basic level and improve by responding to feedback through practice.
company behind rocket league, psionixpart epic games, allows players to use bots for practice. In 2020, he provided an Application Programming Interface (API) to make it easier for developers to build bots. Last April the group rocket league enthusiasts with programming skills announced RLGym, an open source library for building reinforcement bots for rocket league. Later that year, the group released several open source bots, including a particularly skilled dribbler named Nexto.