December 4, 2017

ELF: An Extensive, Lightweight and Flexible Research Platform for Real-time Strategy Games

Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS)

By: Yuandong Tian, Qucheng Gong, Wenling Shang, Yuxin Wu, Larry Zitnick


In this paper, we propose ELF, an Extensive, Lightweight and Flexible platform for fundamental reinforcement learning research. Using ELF, we implement a highly customizable real-time strategy (RTS) engine with three game environments (Mini-RTS, Capture the Flag and Tower Defense). Mini-RTS, as a miniature version of StarCraft, captures key game dynamics and runs at 40K frame per-second (FPS) per core on a laptop. When coupled with modern reinforcement learning methods, the system can train a full-game bot against built-in AIs end to-end in one day with 6 CPUs and 1 GPU. In addition, our platform is flexible in terms of environment-agent communication topologies, choices of RL methods, changes in game parameters, and can host existing C/C++-based game environments like ALE [4]. Using ELF, we thoroughly explore training parameters and show that a network with Leaky ReLU [17] and Batch Normalization [11] coupled with long-horizon training and progressive curriculum beats the rule-based built-in AI more than 70% of the time in the full game of Mini-RTS. Strong performance is also achieved on the other two games. In game replays, we show our agents learn interesting strategies. ELF, along with its RL platform, is open sourced at