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Oral 4 Track 4: Reinforcement Learning II



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Tue 2 May 6:00 - 6:10 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Transformers are Sample-Efficient World Models

Vincent Micheli · Eloi Alonso · François Fleuret

Deep reinforcement learning agents are notoriously sample inefficient, which considerably limits their application to real-world problems. Recently, many model-based methods have been designed to address this issue, with learning in the imagination of a world model being one of the most prominent approaches. However, while virtually unlimited interaction with a simulated environment sounds appealing, the world model has to be accurate over extended periods of time. Motivated by the success of Transformers in sequence modeling tasks, we introduce IRIS, a data-efficient agent that learns in a world model composed of a discrete autoencoder and an autoregressive Transformer. With the equivalent of only two hours of gameplay in the Atari 100k benchmark, IRIS achieves a mean human normalized score of 1.046, and outperforms humans on 10 out of 26 games, setting a new state of the art for methods without lookahead search. To foster future research on Transformers and world models for sample-efficient reinforcement learning, we release our code and models at

Tue 2 May 6:10 - 6:20 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 25% paper
Building a Subspace of Policies for Scalable Continual Learning

Jean-Baptiste Gaya · Thang Doan · Lucas Caccia · Laure Soulier · Ludovic Denoyer · Roberta Raileanu

The ability to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills is crucial for autonomous agents. Existing methods are typically based on either fixed-size models that struggle to learn a large number of diverse behaviors, or growing-size models that scale poorly with the number of tasks. In this work, we aim to strike a better balance between scalability and performance by designing a method whose size grows adaptively depending on the task sequence. We introduce Continual Subspace of Policies (CSP), a new approach that incrementally builds a subspace of policies for training a reinforcement learning agent on a sequence of tasks. The subspace's high expressivity allows CSP to perform well for many different tasks while growing more slowly than the number of tasks. Our method does not suffer from forgetting and also displays positive transfer to new tasks. CSP outperforms a number of popular baselines on a wide range of scenarios from two challenging domains, Brax (locomotion) and Continual World (robotic manipulation). Interactive visualizations of the subspace can be found at

Tue 2 May 6:20 - 6:30 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 25% paper
Neural Episodic Control with State Abstraction

Zhuo Li · Derui Zhu · Yujing Hu · Xiaofei Xie · Lei Ma · YAN ZHENG · Yan Song · Yingfeng Chen · Jianjun Zhao

Existing Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) algorithms suffer from sample inefficiency. Generally, episodic control-based approaches are solutions that leverage highly rewarded past experiences to improve sample efficiency of DRL algorithms. However, previous episodic control-based approaches fail to utilize the latent information from the historical behaviors (\eg, state transitions, topological similarities, \etc) and lack scalability during DRL training. This work introduces Neural Episodic Control with State Abstraction (NECSA), a simple but effective state abstraction-based episodic control containing a more comprehensive episodic memory, a novel state evaluation, and a multi-step state analysis. We evaluate our approach to the MuJoCo and Atari tasks in OpenAI gym domains. The experimental results indicate that NECSA achieves higher sample efficiency than the state-of-the-art episodic control-based approaches. Our data and code are available at the project website\footnote{\url{}}.

Tue 2 May 6:30 - 6:40 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Learnable Behavior Control: Breaking Atari Human World Records via Sample-Efficient Behavior Selection

Jiajun Fan · Yuzheng Zhuang · Yuecheng Liu · Jianye HAO · Bin Wang · Jiangcheng Zhu · Hao Wang · Shu-Tao Xia

The exploration problem is one of the main challenges in deep reinforcement learning (RL). Recent promising works tried to handle the problem with population-based methods, which collect samples with diverse behaviors derived from a population of different exploratory policies. Adaptive policy selection has been adopted for behavior control. However, the behavior selection space is largely limited by the predefined policy population, which further limits behavior diversity. In this paper, we propose a general framework called Learnable Behavioral Control (LBC) to address the limitation, which a) enables a significantly enlarged behavior selection space via formulating a hybrid behavior mapping from all policies; b) constructs a unified learnable process for behavior selection. We introduce LBC into distributed off-policy actor-critic methods and achieve behavior control via optimizing the selection of the behavior mappings with bandit-based meta-controllers. Our agents have achieved 10077.52% mean human normalized score and surpassed 24 human world records within 1B training frames in the Arcade Learning Environment, which demonstrates our significant state-of-the-art (SOTA) performance without degrading the sample efficiency.

Tue 2 May 6:40 - 6:50 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Offline RL with No OOD Actions: In-Sample Learning via Implicit Value Regularization

Haoran Xu · Li Jiang · Jianxiong Li · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang · Wai Chan · Xianyuan Zhan

Most offline reinforcement learning (RL) methods suffer from the trade-off between improving the policy to surpass the behavior policy and constraining the policy to limit the deviation from the behavior policy as computing $Q$-values using out-of-distribution (OOD) actions will suffer from errors due to distributional shift. The recent proposed \textit{In-sample Learning} paradigm (i.e., IQL), which improves the policy by quantile regression using only data samples, shows great promise because it learns an optimal policy without querying the value function of any unseen actions. However, it remains unclear how this type of method handles the distributional shift in learning the value function. In this work, we make a key finding that the in-sample learning paradigm arises under the \textit{Implicit Value Regularization} (IVR) framework. This gives a deeper understanding of why the in-sample learning paradigm works, i.e., it applies implicit value regularization to the policy. Based on the IVR framework, we further propose two practical algorithms, Sparse $Q$-learning (SQL) and Exponential $Q$-learning (EQL), which adopt the same value regularization used in existing works, but in a complete in-sample manner. Compared with IQL, we find that our algorithms introduce sparsity in learning the value function, making them more robust in noisy data regimes. We also verify the effectiveness of SQL and EQL on D4RL benchmark datasets and show the benefits of in-sample learning by comparing them with CQL in small data regimes. Code is available at \url{}.

Tue 2 May 6:50 - 7:00 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Is Conditional Generative Modeling all you need for Decision Making?

Anurag Ajay · Yilun Du · Abhi Gupta · Joshua B Tenenbaum · Tommi Jaakkola · Pulkit Agrawal

Recent improvements in conditional generative modeling have made it possible to generate high-quality images from language descriptions alone. We investigate whether these methods can directly address the problem of sequential decision-making. We view decision-making not through the lens of reinforcement learning (RL), but rather through conditional generative modeling. To our surprise, we find that our formulation leads to policies that can outperform existing offline RL approaches across standard benchmarks. By modeling a policy as a return-conditional generative model, we avoid the need for dynamic programming and subsequently eliminate many of the complexities that come with traditional offline RL. We further demonstrate the advantages of modeling policies as conditional generative models by considering two other conditioning variables: constraints and skills. Conditioning on a single constraint or skill during training leads to behaviors at test-time that can satisfy several constraints together or demonstrate a composition of skills. Our results illustrate that conditional generative modeling is a powerful tool for decision-making.

Tue 2 May 7:00 - 7:10 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 25% paper
RLx2: Training a Sparse Deep Reinforcement Learning Model from Scratch

Yiqin Tan · Pihe Hu · Ling Pan · Jiatai Huang · Longbo Huang

Training deep reinforcement learning (DRL) models usually requires high computation costs. Therefore, compressing DRL models possesses immense potential for training acceleration and model deployment. However, existing methods that generate small models mainly adopt the knowledge distillation-based approach by iteratively training a dense network. As a result, the training process still demands massive computing resources. Indeed, sparse training from scratch in DRL has not been well explored and is particularly challenging due to non-stationarity in bootstrap training. In this work, we propose a novel sparse DRL training framework, “the Rigged Reinforcement Learning Lottery” (RLx2), which builds upon gradient-based topology evolution and is capable of training a sparse DRL model based entirely on a sparse network. Specifically, RLx2 introduces a novel multi-step TD target mechanism with a dynamic-capacity replay buffer to achieve robust value learning and efficient topology exploration in sparse models. It also reaches state-of-the-art sparse training performance in several tasks, showing $7.5\times$-$20\times$ model compression with less than $3\%$ performance degradation and up to $20\times$ and $50\times$ FLOPs reduction for training and inference, respectively.

Tue 2 May 7:10 - 7:20 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 25% paper
Towards Effective and Interpretable Human-Agent Collaboration in MOBA Games: A Communication Perspective

Yiming Gao · Feiyu Liu · Liang Wang · Zhenjie Lian · Weixuan Wang · Siqin Li · Xianliang Wang · Xianhan Zeng · Rundong Wang · jiawei wang · QIANG FU · Yang Wei · Lanxiao Huang · Wei Liu

MOBA games, e.g., Dota2 and Honor of Kings, have been actively used as the testbed for the recent AI research on games, and various AI systems have been developed at the human level so far. However, these AI systems mainly focus on how to compete with humans, less on exploring how to collaborate with humans. To this end, this paper makes the first attempt to investigate human-agent collaboration in MOBA games. In this paper, we propose to enable humans and agents to collaborate through explicit communication by designing an efficient and interpretable Meta-Command Communication-based framework, dubbed MCC, for accomplishing effective human-agent collaboration in MOBA games. The MCC framework consists of two pivotal modules: 1) an interpretable communication protocol, i.e., the Meta-Command, to bridge the communication gap between humans and agents; 2) a meta-command value estimator, i.e., the Meta-Command Selector, to select a valuable meta-command for each agent to achieve effective human-agent collaboration. Experimental results in Honor of Kings demonstrate that MCC agents can collaborate reasonably well with human teammates and even generalize to collaborate with different levels and numbers of human teammates. Videos are available at