The Complexity of Ergodic Mean-payoff Games

Krishnendu Chatterjee, Rasmus Ibsen-Jensen

We study two-player (zero-sum) concurrent mean-payoff games played on a finite-state graph. We focus on the important sub-class of ergodic games where all states are visited infinitely often with probability 1. The algorithmic study of ergodic games was initiated in a seminal work of Hoffman and Karp in 1966, but all basic complexity questions have remained unresolved. Our main results for ergodic games are as follows: We establish (1) an optimal exponential bound on the patience of stationary strategies (where patience of a distribution is the inverse of the smallest positive probability and represents a complexity measure of a stationary strategy); (2) the approximation problem lie in FNP; (3) the approximation problem is at least as hard as the decision problem for simple stochastic games (for which NP intersection coNP is the long-standing best known bound). We present a variant of the strategy-iteration algorithm by Hoffman and Karp; show that both our algorithm and the classical value-iteration algorithm can approximate the value in exponential time; and identify a subclass where the value-iteration algorithm is a FPTAS. We also show that the exact value can be expressed in the existential theory of the reals, and establish square-root sum hardness for a related class of games.

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