The complexity of the nucleolus in compact games
ACM Transactions on Computation Theory
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
© 2014 ACM.
The nucleolus is a well-known solution concept for coalitional games to fairly distribute the total available worth among the players. The nucleolus is known to be NP-hard to compute over compact coalitional games, that is, over games whose functions specifying the worth associated with each coalition are encoded in terms of polynomially computable functions over combinatorial structures. In particular, hardness results have been exhibited over minimum spanning tree games, threshold games, and flow games. However, due to its intricate definition involving reasoning over exponentially many coalitions, a nontrivial upper bound on its complexity was missing in the literature and looked for. This article faces this question and precisely characterizes the complexity of the nucleolus, by exhibiting an upper bound that holds on any class of compact games, and by showing that this bound is tight even on the (structurally simple) class of graph games. The upper bound is established by proposing a variant of the standard linear-programming based algorithm for nucleolus computation and by studying a framework for reasoning about succinctly specified linear programs, which are contributions of interest in their own. The hardness result is based on an elaborate combinatorial reduction, which is conceptually relevant for it provides a "measure" of the computational cost to be paid for guaranteeing voluntary participation to the distribution process. In fact, the pre-nucleolus is known to be efficiently computable over graph games, with this solution concept being defined as the nucleolus but without guaranteeing that each player is granted with it at least the worth she can get alone, that is, without collaborating with the other players. Finally, this article identifies relevant tractable classes of coalitional games, based on the notion of type of a player. Indeed, in most applications where many players are involved, it is often the case that such players do belong in fact to a limited number of classes, which is known in advance and may be exploited for computing the nucleolus in a fast way.
Part of E. Malizia’s work was supported by the European Commission through the European Social Fund and by Calabria Region
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from ACM via the DOI in this record
Vol. 7 (1), article 3