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International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

ISSN: 2010-1791

International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences

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A Brief Introduction to Differential Games

L. Gmez Esparza, G. Mendoza Torres, L. M. Saynes Torres.
Facultad de Ciencias de la Electrnica. Benemrita Universidad Autnoma de Puebla.

1. Introduction
The theory of dynamics games is concerned with multi-person decision making. The
principal characteristic of a dynamic game is that involves a dynamic decision process evolving
in time (continuous or discrete), with more than on decision maker, each with its own cost
function and possibly having access to different information. Dynamic game theory adopts
characteristics from game theory and optimal control theory, although it is much more versatile
than each of.
Differential games belong to a subclass of dynamic games called games in the state space.
In a game in the state space, the modeler introduces a set of variables to describe the state of a
dynamic system, at any particular instant of time in which the game takes place. The systematic
study of the problems of differential games was initiated by Isaacs in 1954.
After development of the maximum principle of Pontryagin's maximum principle, it became
clear that there was a connection between differential games and optimal control theory. In fact,
the differential game problems are a generalization of the optimal control problems in cases
where more than one driver or player. However, differential games are conceptually much more
complex than optimal control problems in that it is not as what constitutes a solution. There are
different kinds optimal solutions for problems such as differential games minimax solution,
Nash equilibrium, Pareto equilibrium, depending on the characteristics of the games (see e.g.,
Tolwinski (1982) and Haurie, Tolwinski, and Leitman (1983)).
We present some results on differential games cooperative and non-cooperative differential
games, and theirs "optimal" solutions. In particular we will study those that relate Pareto
equilibrium and Nash equilibrium (non-cooperative games), although other types of cooperative
and non-cooperative games, for example, commitment games, Stackelberg games, to name a
2. Preliminary in optimal control theory
As mentioned above, optimal control problems are a special class of differential games
played and a cost criterion. In this section we study some basic results on optimal control theory:
dynamic programming and the maximum principle, since these results are determining in
dynamic game theory.


International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

ISSN: 2010-1791

2.1. Statement of optimal control problem (OCP)

In general, the optimal control problem (continuous time) can be defined as follows



is called the state equation and

is called the objective function or cost criteria. This is, in own words, the problem is find the
admissible control , which Maximizes the objective function, subject to the state equation and the
control constraints
Usually the set
is determined by constraints (physical, economic, biological, etc.) on the
values of the control variables
at time . The control is called the optimal control
and , determined by means of state equation with
, is called the optimal trajectory or an
optimal path.
2.2. Dynamic Programming and the Maximum Principle.
Dynamic programming is based on Bellman's principle of optimality (Richard Bellman in
1957 stated this principle in his book on dynamic programming)
An optimal policy has the property that, whatever the initial
state and initial conditions are, the remaining decision must
constitute an optimal policy with regard to the outcome
resulting from the first decision.
Let us consider the optimal control problem (1). The principle of maximum can be derived from
Bellman's principle of optimality (see [45]). We state the principle of maximum as follows

Theorem 1. Let us assume, that exists an optimal couple

for the optimal control
problem (1), and we assume that
and are continuously differentiable in and continuous in
and . Then, exists an adjoint variable
that satisfies


International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

ISSN: 2010-1791



where the so-called Hamiltonian is defined as

The maximum principle states that under certain assumptions there exists for every optimal
control path
a trajectory
such that the maximum condition, the adjoin equation, and
transversality condition (eq. 4) are satisfied. To obtain a sufficiency theorem we augment these
conditions by convexity assumptions. This yields the following theorem.
Theorem 2. Consider the optimal control problem given by the equation (1), (2), (3) and define
the Hamiltonian function like in (7), and the maximized Hamiltonian function

Assume that the state space is a convex set and that is continuously differentiable and
concave. Let
be a feasible control path with corresponding state trajectory
. If there exists
an absolutely continuous function
such that the maximum condition
the adjoint equation

and the transversality condition


are satisfied, and such that the function

is concave and continuously
differentiable with respect to for all
, then
is an optimal path. If the set of feasible
does not depend on , this result remains true if equation (10) is replaced by


International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

ISSN: 2010-1791



Differential games: basic concepts

The general -player (deterministic) differential game time is described by the state equation
and the cost functional for each player

is given by the equation



, where the index set

is called the players' set.

In this formulation we consider a fixed interval of time

that is the prescribed duration of
the game,
is the initial state known by all players. Let
trajectory space of the game. The controls
are chosen by player for all
, here
is named an admissible strategy set for player . Then the problem can be stated as follows
For each
, player
the cost functional (profits)

wants to choose his control

such as to minimize (or maximize)
subject to the state equation (13).

It is assumed that all players know the state equation as well as the cost functionals.
Example 1. In a two-firm differential game with one state variable
time according to the differential equation

, the state evolves over

in which
are scalar control variables of firm 1 and 2, respectively. The state variable
represents the number of customers that firm 1 has at time and
is the constant size of the
total market. Hence
is the number of customers of firm 2. The control variables
are the firm`s respective advertising effort rates at time . The differential equation, in this case, can
be interpreted in the following way: the number of customers of firm 1 tends to increase by the
advertising efforts of firm 1 since these efforts attract customers from firm 2. On the other hand, the
advertising efforts of firm 2 tend to draw away customers from firm 1.
Payoffs are given by


International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

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in which
represent firm i's unit revenues. The second term in the integrand of is a convex
advertising cost function of firm . Feasibility requires that
are not negative. Each
firm wishes to choose its advertising strategy over
so as to maximize its payoff. The payoff is
simply the present value of a firm's profit on the horizon.
Remark. In this game, the rival firm's actions do not influence a firm's payoff directly but only
indirectly through the state dynamics.

3.1. The information structure

In many problems the control function
information structure, which is denoted by


, for each , should be specified by means of an

, and is defined as

is nondecreasing in .

Depending on the type of information available, we can define a strategy space

of all suitable mappings as follows

We also require that

belongs to


of player

Some types of standard information structures that arise in deterministic differential games are
stated in following definition.

Definition 1. In -player continuous time deterministic dynamic game of prescribed duration

we say that s information is


International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

(i) open-loop if
(ii) closed-loop if
memory less perfect state if
(iv) feedback if
, for

ISSN: 2010-1791


The following theorem provides a set of conditions under which the problem given by
equations (12) and (13), admits a unique solution for every -tuple
Theorem 3. Let the information structure for each pair be any one of the information patterns of
the definition above. Furthermore, let
then if

is continuous in

for each

uniformly Lipschitz in

is uniformly Lipschitz in
is continuous in for each

the differential equation (12) admits a single state trajectory for every
, and furthermore this unique trajectory is continuous.


, so that

3.2. Cooperative Games

In this section we fix the initial state

, and hence it will be omitted from the notation.

As mentioned above, the differential games can be classified in two classes: Cooperative
games and non-cooperative games. In a cooperative game the players wish to cooperate to reach a
result that will be beneficial to all.
3.2.1 Pareto Equilibrium
Definition 2. Let us consider a game with players. Let
) be the player cost function,
given the initial state
and that the players follow the multi-strategy
. Let
be the set of admissible strategies for the player

. An admissible strategy
is called Pareto-optimal if there is if it does not exist another

such that

This concept can be illustrated in the following figure


International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

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Figure 1.
We can to see in figure 1, that the pair ( , ) with the cost vector V=V( , ) is not a Pareto
equilibrium, since there exist other points in that are "below" V.

be the set of Pareto equilibrium (which supposed to be not empty). The set of vectors

is called the Pareto front of the game.

The following theorem provides one method to study the existence of Pareto equilibrium.

Theorem 4. Let we consider

and for each

consider the scalar function


If for some vector

there exists a strategy

that minimizes

, i.e.


is a Pareto equilibrium.
3.3. Non-cooperative Games

In a non-cooperative game the players act independently and each one wishes to optimize his
own objective function, i.e. players are rivals and all players act in their own best interest, paying no
attention whatsoever to the fortunes of the other players.


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An important example of non-cooperative games is the problem

3.3.1. Two person Zero-Sum Differential Games
Consider the state equation
We may assume all variables to be scalar for the time being. In this equation, we let
denote the controls applied by players
and , respectively. We assume that



are convex sets in


. Consider the cost functional

which player
wants to maximize and player
wants to minimize. Since the gain of player
represents a loss to player , such games are named zero-sum games (because the sum of their cost
functional is identically zero). Thus, we are looking for admissible control trajectories
such that
The solution
is known as a saddle point but some authors call it the minimax solution.
stand for
and ,
, respectively.
3.3.2. Nash equilibrium
First, we consider the case
Definition 3. Let
to the strategy

(two players)

be a strategy of player 2. We define the set of optimal responses of player 1

Similarly, the set of the optimal responses of player 2 to a strategy

of the player 1 is defined

A multi-strategy

is said to be a Nash equilibrium if


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is a Nash equilibrium if

In our words, in Nash equilibrium, a player can't improve his situation if he alters his strategy
Generalizing to any finite number
Definition 4. A multi-strategy
the following inequalities hold for all

of players we have the following


constitutes a Nash-equilibrium solution if

The interpretation of a Nash equilibrium solution is as follows: If one player tries to alter his
strategy unilaterally, he can't improve his performance by such a change. In this sort of situation
each player is just interested in his own performance, that is, the game is played non-cooperatively.
Definition 5. Let we consider a dynamical game with players and let it be
objective function for the player
since the initial condition of the game is
in the time
. Let it be
, a markovian multi-strategy, that is to say, each
markovian (or feedback). It's said that is a perfect Nash Equilibrium if, for each
any initial condition
, is hold that

it is

where the infimum is calculated above all the marcovians strategies

of the player .

In other words, a perfect Nash equilibrium is a marcovian multi-strategy that it is a Nash

equilibrium for anyone that it will be the initial condition of the game. In this case, some authors
say that the Nash equilibrium is perfect in the sub games (sub game perfect). Observe that to solve
(23) or (24) substantially we would to solve an OCP for each . This suggests that, in principle, we
can use technical like the principle of the maximum or dynamic programming to find Nash
We will formulate the maximum principle for the case
. We will to consider a
differential game with
players, state space
, and actions set
, for
The dynamical model is
for all


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The admissible controls are of open loop,

, where
measurable function of
to . The players wish "to maximize" the objective functions


be the

is a

matrix of adjoints variables which -th file is

In this case is defined the Hamiltonian as follows

Let us suppose that

is a Nash equilibrium and that
is the corresponding path, then are
hold the following necessary conditions for each
the adjoints equations are

the terminal condition is

and the maximization of the Hamiltonian is

We can note that this reduce the problem to one border problem with two border conditions
that in some instances it can be solved explicitly. For example, Clemhout and Wan (1974) consider
games three-linear, called thus because the Hamiltonian is linear in the state, in the controls, and in
the variable attaches. Also, Dockner et al. (1985) identify several types of differential games that
they are soluble, in the sense of the fact that they can be determined balances of Nash of open loop,
either explicitly.
Example of perfect Nash equilibrium
Let us consider a differential game with
players and finite horizon . To save on
notation, denote the control variables of the two players by and instead of and . The state
space is
, the initial state is a fixed number
, and the set of feasible controls is
for player 1 and
for player 2. The objective functionals are


International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)

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The system dynamics are given by

Let us first try to find open-loop Nash equilibrium of the above game, that is, a pair
are the strategies for player 1 and player 2,
respectively. If player 2 chooses to play
then player 1's problem can be written as
Subject to


is assumed by player 1 to be a fixed function, of the integral in (27) is equivalent

to the maximization of

, so that problem above is equivalent to

the problem
Subject to


and this problem has the optimal open-loop strategy

, where

is the unique solution of


We also have that



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. Finally, the state trajectory generated by this solution is given by

Note that the formula for

now depends on player 2's control path

still to be determined.

Now consider player 2's control problem. If player 1 chooses

can be written as

, player 2's problem

Subject to


Denoting by the costate variable of player 2, the Hamiltonian function for this problem is
given by
. Maximization with respect to
. If
, independently of . These properties imply that the maximized Hamiltonian function is
given by

The adjoin equation and transversality condition for player 2's problem are


this can be written as


The boundary value problem consisting of (28) and (31) has a unique solution which is given
from (29). The function
is easily seen to be non-positive and
strictly increasing on
It depends on the parameters
and whether
for all
or whether
) can be smaller than
for some
. Because of the monotonicity
, however, we know that in the latter case there exists a number
such that
for all
Careful analysis of (31) reveals that such a
number exists if and only if


, in which case is given by

In all other cases let us formally set

. We summarize our results as follows. There exists
a candidate for an open-loop Nash equilibrium, given by



International Journal of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Vol 4, No 1 (2013)


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are specified as above.

To verify that the above candidate is an open-loop Nash equilibrium it suffices therefore to
prove that
is an optimal control path in player 2's problem. This, however, follows from
theorem 2 by noting that
for all , which shows that the maximized Hamiltonian
) of player 2's problem is a concave function with respect to . This concludes
the derivation of an open-loop Nash equilibrium for this example.
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