Bryan McKenney

Computer Science Master's Student Creates AI For an Online Card Game
Bryan Mckenney

Bryan McKenney is a computer science accelerated master's student. He recieved his undergraduate degree in computer science here at UNH, and his hometown is in Newmarket, NH. 

1. Why did you choose UNH for a computer science graduate program?

I chose to stay at UNH for my M.S. degree in computer science because I was in the accelerated master's program, so I can get my master's in one year, which is a pretty good deal. There were also classes that I didn’t have time to take in undergrad that now I will be able to.

2. Tell us a about your research or project focus?

I am working on creating a smarter AI to play the 2-player online collectible card game Duelyst II. In Duelyst II, you play unit, spell, and artifact cards onto a 9x5 grid board. You can move around and attack with units on the board and your goal is to defeat the opponent’s general. This game poses many challenges for AI, including the large combinatorial action space and the inability to see your opponent’s deck and hand. I previously worked on planning algorithms to play this game, and now I am going to be turning to machine and reinforcement learning to achieve better results.

3. What are you hoping to accomplish with this research project? How will it potentially impact society or day-to-day life?

Games are useful as testbeds for AI, so if I come up with a novel solution to this problem, it might be helpful in other areas. I could also potentially replace the existing weak AI in Duelyst II with a stronger one, which will improve the player experience by increasing the challenge in single-player games.

4. What do you enjoy most about your experience at UNH?

Getting free pizza every Friday during CS 900 is pretty sweet. Aside from that, UNH has friendly and knowledgeable professors, and the research support is amazing. I was paid to do research for two summers by the Hamel Center during my undergrad, and was able to publish two papers and present at two conferences. I hope to publish one or two papers this year and attend a conference again. Research has been the most exciting part of my time at UNH.

5. How has the program prepared you for a future career?

I am interested in a career in AI research, so it has been great to get so much AI research experience while at UNH. The masters-level CS classes I’ve taken so far (as well as the undergrad classes) have been very interesting and teach useful skills in different areas of computer science.

6. What do you hope to do after your time at UNH?

After UNH, I plan to get a Ph.D. in computer science and do research on AI (perhaps for games). I would also be happy getting an AI programming job (perhaps for games).

7. What is your advice for someone on how to best prepare for a graduate program in computer science?

Find research opportunities, do your classwork as soon as you can, and try to get some sleep, too. The accelerated master's program is also a great way to speed up getting a master's, but if you’re going for a Ph.D. you don’t need to get a master's first (I just wanted to because I wasn’t sure about Ph.D. or job, and master's is good for both).