Approximate Dynamic Programming Finally Performs Well in the Game of Tetris

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 26 (NIPS 2013)

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Victor Gabillon, Mohammad Ghavamzadeh, Bruno Scherrer


Tetris is a popular video game that has been widely used as a benchmark for various optimization techniques including approximate dynamic programming (ADP) algorithms. A close look at the literature of this game shows that while ADP algorithms, that have been (almost) entirely based on approximating the value function (value function based), have performed poorly in Tetris, the methods that search directly in the space of policies by learning the policy parameters using an optimization black box, such as the cross entropy (CE) method, have achieved the best reported results. This makes us conjecture that Tetris is a game in which good policies are easier to represent, and thus, learn than their corresponding value functions. So, in order to obtain a good performance with ADP, we should use ADP algorithms that search in a policy space, instead of the more traditional ones that search in a value function space. In this paper, we put our conjecture to test by applying such an ADP algorithm, called classification-based modified policy iteration (CBMPI), to the game of Tetris. Our extensive experimental results show that for the first time an ADP algorithm, namely CBMPI, obtains the best results reported in the literature for Tetris in both small $10\times 10$ and large $10\times 20$ boards. Although the CBMPI's results are similar to those achieved by the CE method in the large board, CBMPI uses considerably fewer (almost 1/10) samples (call to the generative model of the game) than CE.