Coordinating the actions of agents in multiagent systems presents a challenging problem, especially as the size of the system is increased and predicting the agent interactions becomes difficult. Many approaches to improving coordination within multiagent systems have been developed including organizational structures, shaped rewards, coordination graphs, heuristic methods, and learning automata. However, each of these approaches still have inherent limitations with respect to coordination and scalability. We explore the potential of synergistically combining existing coordination mechanisms such that they offset each others’ limitations. More specifically, we are interested in combining existing coordination mechanisms in order to achieve improved performance, increased scalability, and reduced coordination complexity in large multiagent systems.
In this work, we discuss and demonstrate the individual limitations of two well-known coordination mechanisms. We then provide a methodology for combining the two coordination mechanisms to offset their limitations and improve performance over either method individually. In particular, we combine shaped difference rewards and hierarchical organization in the Defect Combination Problem with up to 10 000 sensing agents. We show that combining hierarchical organization with difference rewards can improve both coordination and scalability by decreasing information overhead, structuring agent-to-agent connectivity and control flow, and improving the individual decision-making capabilities of agents. We show that by combining hierarchies and difference rewards, the information overheads and computational requirements of individual agents can be reduced by as much as 99% while simultaneously increasing the overall system performance. Additionally, we demonstrate the robustness of this approach to handling up to 25% agent failures under various conditions.