Learning Nearly Decomposable Value Functions Via Communication Minimization


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Reinforcement learning encounters major challenges in multi-agent settings, such as scalability and non-stationarity. Recently, value function factorization learning emerges as a promising way to address these challenges in collaborative multi-agent systems. However, existing methods have been focusing on learning fully decentralized value functions, which are not efficient for tasks requiring communication. To address this limitation, this paper presents a novel framework for learning nearly decomposable Q-functions (NDQ) via communication minimization, with which agents act on their own most of the time but occasionally send messages to other agents in order for effective coordination. This framework hybridizes value function factorization learning and communication learning by introducing two information-theoretic regularizers. These regularizers are maximizing mutual information between agents' action selection and communication messages while minimizing the entropy of messages between agents. We show how to optimize these regularizers in a way that is easily integrated with existing value function factorization methods such as QMIX. Finally, we demonstrate that, on the StarCraft unit micromanagement benchmark, our framework significantly outperforms baseline methods and allows us to cut off more than 80% of communication without sacrificing the performance. The videos of our experiments are available at https://sites.google.com/view/ndq.
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Key words
Multi-agent reinforcement learning, Nearly decomposable value function, Minimized communication
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