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NeuralKart - A Real-time Mario Kart AI using CNNs, Offline Search, and DAGGER


The project currently only works on Windows.

Install 64-bit Python 3

This project was written for Python 3. Furthermore, Tensorflow requires 64-bit Python.

Install Python Dependencies

The following Python dependencies need to be installed.

  • Tensorflow
  • Keras
  • Pillow
  • matplotlib
  • mkdir_p
  • h5py

Get BizHawk (1.12.2)

Our scripts are all written for the BizHawk emulator (tested in version 1.12.2), which has embedded Lua scripting. To get BizHawk you first need to install the prerequisites - Then you can download BizHawk (version 1.12.2) and unzip it to any directory -

Download Our Pre-trained Weights and Recordings

These should be unzipped into the folder of the repo.

  • Save States - The states should be accessible as states/[mode]/[track].state.
  • Weights - The weights should be accessible as weights/[track].hdf5
  • Recordings (Optional) - The recordings should be accessible as recordings/[track]/[mode]/[recording]/[frame].png.

Usage Instructions

Running a Live Demo

These instructions can be used to run a demo of three tracks that the AI performs well on.

  1. Download the save states and pre-trained weights.
  2. Run using Python 3 - this starts a server on port 36296 which actually runs the model.
    • You can pass a --cpu to force Tensorflow to run on the CPU.
  3. Open BizHawk and Load the MarioKart 64 ROM.
  4. Turn off messages (View > Display Messages).
    • You don't have to do this, but they get in the way.
  5. Open the BizHawk Lua console (Tools > Lua Console).
  6. Load Demo.lua

This should automatically play three tracks in a loop. You can hit Esc to switch to the next track. You can also hit the arrow keys to manually steer the player. This can be used to demonstrate the AI's stability.

Note that the clipboard is used to pass frames from the emulator to the Python script. It's a hack, but it seems to work - just don't try to copy or paste anything while the scripts are running.

Run the AI on another Track

Once you have the demo working, you can use these instructions to play on other tracks. Note that you can only play on a track if there are weights trained for it.

First, navigate to another track from the menu, or use one of our save states (File > Load State > Load Named State). These states are set to be the frame after the race starts. Then load Play.lua from the Lua console.

Training the Model on Recordings

Once you have the AI running, you probably want to try retraining the weights based off our recordings. First download our weights from the link above, then run [track]. You can also use --cpu to force it to use the CPU.

Creating new Recordings from the Search AI

Load a state and then load SearchAI.lua in order to generate a recording using the search AI. Recordings consist of a series of frames and a steering.txt file that contains the recorded steering values.

Running the Iterative Improvement Loop

As mentioned in the paper, we ran an iterative improvement loop that swaps between playing and generating new recordings. To bootstrap the process, you must first generate a recording using the search AI and create an initial weights file using Now start using the --cpu flag (so that you can train on the GPU).

Now you can load a state and run PlayAndSearch.lua which alternates between playing and searching. It retrains every other run. You probably need to edit the code that calls on line 90 so that it works in your environment.

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