VAST: Value Function Factorization with Variable Agent Sub-Teams

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Thomy Phan, Fabian Ritz, Lenz Belzner, Philipp Altmann, Thomas Gabor, Claudia Linnhoff-Popien


Value function factorization (VFF) is a popular approach to cooperative multi-agent reinforcement learning in order to learn local value functions from global rewards. However, state-of-the-art VFF is limited to a handful of agents in most domains. We hypothesize that this is due to the flat factorization scheme, where the VFF operator becomes a performance bottleneck with an increasing number of agents. Therefore, we propose VFF with variable agent sub-teams (VAST). VAST approximates a factorization for sub-teams which can be defined in an arbitrary way and vary over time, e.g., to adapt to different situations. The sub-team values are then linearly decomposed for all sub-team members. Thus, VAST can learn on a more focused and compact input representation of the original VFF operator. We evaluate VAST in three multi-agent domains and show that VAST can significantly outperform state-of-the-art VFF, when the number of agents is sufficiently large.