Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Strategy generation and evaluation for meta-game playing

Barney Darryl Pell

November 1993, 289 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted August 1993 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Trinity College.

DOI: 10.48456/tr-315


Meta-Game Playing (METAGAME) is a new paradigm for research in game-playing in which we design programs to take in the rules of unknown games and play those games without human assistance. Strong performance in this new paradigm is evidence that the program, instead of its human designer, has performed the analysis of each specific game.

SCL-METAGAME is a concrete METAGAME research problem based around the class of symmetric chess-like games. The class includes the games of chess, checkers, noughts and crosses, Chinese-chess, and Shogi. An implemented game generator produces new games in this class, some of which are objects of interest in their own right.

METAGAMER is a program that plays SCL-METAGAME. The program takes as input the rules of a specific game and analyses those rules to construct for that game an efficient representation and an evaluation function, both for use with a generic search engine. The strategic analysis performed by the program relates a set of general knowledge sources to the details of the particular game. Among other properties, this analysis determines the relative value of the different pieces in a given game. Although METAGAMER does not learn from experience, the values resulting from its analysis are qualitatively similar to values used by experts on known games, and are sufficient to produce competitive performance the first time the program actually plays each game it is given. This appears to be the first program to have derived useful piece values directly from analysis of the rules of different games.

Experiments show that the knowledge implemented in METAGAMER is useful on games unknown to its programmer in advance of the competition and make it seem likely that future programs which incorporate learning and more sophisticated active-analysis techniques will have a demonstrable competitive advantage on this new problem. When playing the known games of chess and checkers against humans and specialised programs, METAGAMER has derived from more general principles some strategies which are familiar to players of those games and which are hard-wired in many game-specific programs.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Pell, Barney Darryl},
  title = 	 {{Strategy generation and evaluation for meta-game playing}},
  year = 	 1993,
  month = 	 nov,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-315},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-315}