Cheaters hacked an AI bot – and beat the “Rocket League” elite
Rolv, a member of the collective that built Nexto, who gave only a first name and says they work in AI, says the AI bots are not designed to function in competitive games, only as training opponents. But apparently someone hacked Nexto to allow it to play in a human’s place. Rolv says the collective has several more advanced robots in the works, including one that can learn from watching human gameplay. The group is now reconsidering whether to release the more powerful bots to prevent cheaters from using them as happened with Nexto.
Sergey Levine, an associate professor at UC Berkeley who studies reinforcement learning, says the situation is getting worse. Rocket League elite reflects how quickly AI tools are becoming more accessible. He adds that it may be possible to detect robots like Nexto using machine learning, but that this is still a science in progress. “One way to discover RL agents is with other RL agents,” says Levine. “Using this requires running training against the fine thousands of times.”
Another Rocket League bot developer, who knows the developers of Nexto and declined to give a real name but uses the handle Zealan on Discord, says the game is a fascinating challenge from an AI perspective. To stand a chance in games against humans, robots must anticipate the outcome of actions many seconds ahead. “Nexto is already superhuman in some situations,” says Zealan, who is interested in machine learning. “Trust me, in a couple of years it will be top tier beyond professional Rocket League bots.”
Epic declined to comment, but told PC Gamer that it is working on ways to detect and block bots like Nexto. That could start a game of cat and mouse, with cheaters using more advanced bots and more complex methods to avoid detection, and the company responding with new countermeasures. Psyonix later released a statement saying it had banned a number of accounts found to have used the fine. The company said it had introduced a new way for users to report suspected cheating, as well as new bot countermeasures, although it did not provide further details.
“I’m interested in how the situation will develop,” says Ted Xiao, an AI researcher who has followed the episode with interest. “I’ve heard players share the exploits that Nexto fails against, and I suspect the bot abusers don’t have the technical chops to fine-tune the agents further, so maybe it’ll be a dead end for now.”
Wilen, the elite player who is surprised by Nexto, says that the situation could become more urgent if the robot learns to throw itself through the air with the ball in addition to dribbling on the ground. “I’ve heard it will be soon, and when it happens, it’s not going to be a fun sight for others Rocket League players.”
Updated 01-19-2022, 5:25 PM EST: This article has been updated with information from a statement released by Psyonix.