Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Soummya Kar

Second Advisor

Joao Xavier


This dissertation studies multi-agent algorithms for learning Nash equilibrium strategies in games with many players. We focus our study on a set of learning dynamics in which agents seek to myopically optimize their next-stage utility given some forecast of opponent behavior; i.e., players act according to myopic best response dynamics. The prototypical algorithm in this class is the well-known fictitious play (FP) algorithm. FP dynamics are intuitively simple and can be seen as the \natural" learning dynamics associated with the Nash equilibrium concept. Accordingly, FP has received extensive study over the years and has been used in a variety of applications. Our contributions may be divided into two main research areas. First, we study fundamental properties of myopic best response (MBR) dynamics in large-scale games. We have three main contributions in this area. (i) We characterize the robustness of MBR dynamics to a class of perturbations common in real-world applications. (ii) We study FP dynamics in the important class of large-scale games known as potential games. We show that for almost all potential games and for almost all initial conditions, FP converges to a pure-strategy (deterministic) equilibrium. (iii) We develop tools to characterize the rate of convergence of MBR algorithms in potential games. In particular, we show that the rate of convergence of FP is \almost always" exponential in potential games. Our second research focus concerns implementation of MBR learning dynamics in large-scale games. MBR dynamics can be shown, theoretically, to converge to equilibrium strategies in important classes of large-scale games (e.g., potential games). However, despite theoretical convergence guarantees, MBR dynamics can be extremely impractical to implement in large games due to demanding requirements in terms of computational capacity, information overhead, communication infrastructure, and global synchronization. Using the aforementioned robustness result, we study practical methods to mitigate each of these issues. We place a special emphasis on studying algorithms that may be implemented in a network-based setting, i.e., a setting in which inter-agent communication is restricted to a (possibly sparse) overlaid communication graph. Within the network-based setting, we also study the use of so-called \inertia" in MBR algorithms as a tool for learning pure-strategy NE.

Available for download on Friday, November 17, 2017