OpenAI Flaws and Deceptions

Published on: 05/07/2018

Artificial Intelligence has already conquered complex games like Go and chess, defeating the very best competitors in those games without batting an eye. But when the news came out that Elon Musk’s OpenAI company was building a bot capable of defeating the top Dota 2 players, the community was skeptical.

Dendi’s inability to deal with the Terminator Shadow Fiend bot at The International 2017 left people feeling like humanity was doomed. It was only a matter of time now. The end was nigh. The atmosphere reminded me of Garry Kasparov’s defeat against Deep Blue, in 1997.


This year, as they had already announced at The International 7, OpenAI are building an entire bot team capable of crushing the best Dota 2 rosters in the world. And given the speed at which they’re moving towards this goal, the chance of that happening at The International 2018 is almost 100%. So there you have it. Bold prediction: OpenAI vs. TI 8 champions (most likely, PSG.LGD or Team Liquid): 3 – 0. But would this result be relevant or even fair?
Well, I think not. And here’s why.

A sleight of hand

When a magician performs a trick in front of you, they’re exploiting the weaknesses of human perception and employing a highly practiced set of moves to create the impression that they’re doing something impossible.

Elon musk open ai

Of course, this is not The Prestige, so you’re obviously being tricked somehow. But, just as Michael Caine’s character says in the film, you’re not really looking for the secret, because you enjoy the state of awe so much that you just want to be fooled. In a very similar way, OpenAI has played its trick to perfection, mesmerising the Dota 2 community in 2017 and being well on its way to doing it again.

The TI 7 deception

Let’s remember the TI 7 moment more clearly. OpenAI had developed a very strong bot by having it play against itself until it had acquired “lifetimes of experience”. Then the bot was presented to the community and the results were impressive: the bot destroyed everyone it played against, including the best analysts and midlaners in the world. Then, during the Main Event of The International 2017, it showed Dendi how he should have played in the Regional Qualifiers in order for Na’Vi to have a chance of making it to the event.


There’s one problem though: the bot could only play Shadow Fiend, in a 1v1 mirror matchup. And Shadow Fiend is a hero that quickly snowballs out of control in the laning phase, due to the bonus damage it gets from Necromastery. So as soon as one of the Shadow Fiends gets a tiny advantage, it can use that advantage to build an even bigger advantage for itself. Unless a significant mistake is made by the side that has the initial advantage, the entire match is practically over in less than a minute.

dendi vs ai bot

Computers are far better than humans at raw computation, being capable of performing billions of operations per second. So the Shadow Fiend choice makes perfect sense, given that the hero has only 1 active skill in the laning phase (which he can use at 3 different ranges) and the matchup between two Shadow Fiends is decided through nothing more than simple decisions that the AI can calculate vastly better than a human. But try complicating matters, asking the bot to make much tougher decisions and having an Invoker vs. Invoker matchup. I’d really like to see how the OpenAI bot beats Miracle or someone like Sumiya in the midlane, even after having lifetimes of experience.

The upcoming TI 8 deception

For The International 2018, OpenAI has already prepared a team of 5 AI bots with the goal of beating the strongest rosters in the world. But, just like in 2017, there’s a catch. As lawyers and people in other professions use to say, he who controls the frame, controls the game. In other words, set up the most favorable conditions under which you’re likely to succeed and you’ll mostly likely emerge victorious. Choose the battleground and how the battle will be fought, play to your own strenghts and your opponent’s weaknesses, and victory is guaranteed.

The teams who will face OpenAI’s system at The International 2018 will not actually play a real game of Dota. They will play using 5 predetermined heroes against 5 predetermined heroes, in a mirror matchup. And just like in 2017, the 5 predetermined heroes have obviously been selected to minimize complex decision making and maximize what the AI is great at: raw computational power. I mean, just look at these 5 heroes and tell me this isn’t a joke: Viper, Lich, Crystal Maiden, Sniper and Necrophos.

Clearly, the context has been set so that the human advantage can be minimized. Complex decision making regarding drafts, item choices, hero playstyles and so on are reduced so much that raw computational power (basically, small mechanics and battle plan optimizations when every possibility is known ahead of time) is almost guaranteed to triumph.


It’s all a matter of who’s making better calculations for the most part, and, lo and behold, the AI will prove to be better at it than humans. Wow! What a surprise!

And as if this wasn’t enough, humanity’s team will likely play its first match ever using these 5 preselected heroes, while the OpenAI system will have already played that draft a million times before. The whole thing reminds me of that final scene from the Gladiator movie, when Commodus stabs Maximus in the back before the start of the fight. The good guy still wins, but I doubt our guys can do the same under these conditions.

I don’t know about you, but I seriously have a hard time giving the bots any credit in such a case. I mean, I was expecting to see some real, human-like intelligence being displayed by the Machine, and I’m not talking about the TI 7 host. He’s doing alright in that department.

Whether you agree or disagree (about my opinion as a whole, not about the last sentence), please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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Radu - "MrB" | Esports Writer and Editor - Passionate about Dota


  • greffcallco greffcallco
    • 8. July 2018
    Starcraft is the true test of AI bots.
  • matthewgardner matthewgardner
    • 8. July 2018
    I'm sorry but it doesn't seem like you are knowledgeable of what OpenAI and the field of deep learning are trying to do. If you expected 5 human like bots to come out and stomp pro teams with any lineup, I suggest you lay off the Will Smith Sci Fis.You are absolutely right that the game is being conditioned in the bots favors. Because this is a basic formula for problem solving and advancing a research area. You make assumptions, obtain results, and work your way up from there. Dota 2 is simply a platform that has been strategically chosen to demonstrate deep learning in a new and substantial way. It is not a means to impress players and fans.And I can assure you there are no "simple decisions that the AI is calculating vastly better". At least not explicitly. The whole reason why this work is impressive and getting much attention, is because a deep learning framework is not told of any calculations or decisions to make. Deep learning nor AI in general take the approach of just doing raw computation, but rather exploit well studied and developed mathematical and statistical methods. It is not respectable to reduce this work to a "minimization of complex decision making and maximization of raw computational power". For such a complex game like dota, this is a substantial step forward for the deep learning community, and I am sure they have plans to progress with less ideal conditions.
  • ricardomacias ricardomacias
    • 8. July 2018
    Hi! I don't think that OpenAI is trying to deceive the community or create an unfair game so that their bot can win. I think it's more of a show of the capabilities that reinforcement learning algorithms have. Moreover, I believe there was a display of learned, legitimate machine intelligence. Baiting, team fighting, and spatial awareness were all behaviors that emerged naturally (i.e. a human did not write code to bait, etc etc) as the algorithm ran longer.I think we should all keep in mind that the "search space" of these games is absolutely huge. Our minds can easily tell that going in 1v5 is not that great of an idea most of the time. It takes a good amount of time and computational resources convey that information to an AI, at least with the current state of the art algorithms. Now imagine trying to convey what team composition to choose out of so many heroes in a specific matchup, along with optimal item builds for each hero (which we know is based on so many factors!), different ways to coordinate plays between all the combinations of these heroes, etc. The list goes on and on! I think as we see a progression in the amount of computational resources available and an advancement in these algorithms, we may catch a DOTA game between bots and humans, where humans don't have any constraints. I don't think we will see that within the next year or even within the next 2-3. I hope that this was a useful perspective. Thanks for reading!
  • mrb mrb
    • 10. July 2018
    Hello Ricardo, Matthew, and Greff. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue. They've definitely enriched my perspective and helped me gain a better understanding of the OpenAI project and the purpose behind it. The efforts being put into developing the system are no doubt great and the results are in many ways impressive. Furthermore, given enough time, I'm sure we'll get to a point where the AI will have much greater capabilities and become a difficult challenge for any human player or team, under more inclusive conditions. My criticism was sparked by my desire to show the community that humanity is not that awful (well, not yet at least) at decision making and problem-solving that a recently developed AI system could simply walk into the Dota 2 bar, shoot everyone blindfolded and walk away with the girl, rendering people's efforts of many years in mastering the game completely useless. Apologies for the sharply worded language used at times, as they don't necessarily reflect my general attitude towards the OpenAI project or Artificial Intelligence in general. I'm firmly convinced that progress in this area will lead to a lot of positive things, as long as we set up the right conditions and safety measures for that to happen. My opinion was simply a revolt in the face of what I perceived to be an act of injustice towards (incoming epic expression) the entire human race. Well, the part that plays Dota anyway. People in the community do not perceive the project the same way as the engineers behind it. Nor do they see it as a purely scientific thing. Furthermore, and I fully understand this part because I'm an esports content creator, a lot of hype was generated in the wake of last year's TI. The feeling that was created through various tweets from people like Elon Musk (whom I greatly admire) was that the best Dota 2 players in the world had been bested by the AI in a complete and general sense. In other words, the implication was that the human "problem" or resistance was solved for the general case, and not for a particular and highly specific case, which actually favored the AI quite a bit. While I fully understand the general enthusiasm on OpenAI's part, and the need for the hype which was created, I felt like someone should put on the Batman suit and defend humanity in some sense, presenting and contextualizing the facts with more objectivity. Obviously, in the process, I managed to go to the other extreme and be completely biased in favor of humans, carried away by my desire to defend "the good cause". But, as a whole, rest assured that I now understand the situation much better and can only wish the project a prosperous and happy life, as well as many victories in the battles ahead. As for the inevitable clash between Humanity and The Machine at The International 2018, I can only quote Elon Musk: "I hope the AI is nice to us." :)

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