Keywords: [ “multi-agent reinforcement learning” ] [ “Standardised evaluation protocol” ] [ “MARL” ] [ “Evaluation” ] [ “Cooperative MARL” ]
Multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) has emerged as a useful approach to solving decentralised decision-making problems at scale. Research in the field has been growing steadily with many breakthrough algorithms proposed in recent years. In this work, we take a closer look at this rapid development with a focus on evaluation methodologies employed across a large body of research in cooperative MARL. By conducting a detailed meta-analysis of prior work, spanning 75 papers accepted for publication from 2016 to 2022, we bring to light worrying trends that put into question the true rate of progress. We further consider these trends in a wider context and take inspiration from single-agent RL literature on similar issues with recommendations that remain applicable to MARL. Combining these recommendations, with novel insights from our analysis, we propose a standardised performance evaluation protocol for cooperative MARL. We argue that such a standard protocol, if widely adopted, would greatly improve the validity and credibility of future research, make replication and reproducibility easier, as well as improve the ability of the field to accurately gauge the rate of progress over time by being able to make sound comparisons across different works. Finally, we release our meta-analysis data publicly on our project website for future research on evaluation accompanied by our open-source evaluation tools repository.