Call of Duty gets transparent about matchmaking

We all know the drill, SBMM bad. That said, there are reasons some things are in place, and the Call of Duty PR team took to the blog to give us the rundown. What you’ll find below is pretty transparent, and while not a lot will change overall in the experience, the dev teams are looking at ways to adjust and tweak skill-based matchmaking in multiplayer. All of those details are below, read up as you prep for next week’s incoming second season.

With the launch of Modern Warfare® III Season 1 late last year, we committed to a conversation with our community about Matchmaking.

Today’s intel is intended to kick off that dialogue and is a new beginning for what we hope will be an ongoing conversation about matchmaking, sharing our process and learnings with you to answer questions (and concerns) we’ve seen within the community.

This blog focuses on how matchmaking works across Multiplayer only. We will be continuing the conversation about matchmaking in other modes (such as Call of Duty®: Warzone™ and Ranked Play) at a later date.

For players that have heard the term but aren’t familiar with what we’re referring to: Matchmaking is a multi-factor process to place players on teams – with and against each other – to compete in online games.

The single, biggest priority with respect to Multiplayer matchmaking is delivering a fun experience to our players.

While we have many years of testing and learning as part of our matchmaking process, we are continuously working to deliver the best experiences possible. For that reason, we continue to test and look forward to more enhancements to come.

We often see the community refer to our matchmaking system as “Skill-based Matchmaking.” Call of Duty does consider skill (or more specifically player performance) as a component, as do most in the industry, but skill is not the dominant variable. We consider and prioritize several factors to create lobbies.

Matchmaking Overview

Call of Duty Multiplayer matchmaking is composed of many factors:

1.    CONNECTION – As the community will attest, Ping is King. Connection is the most critical and heavily weighted factor in the matchmaking process.

2.    TIME TO MATCH – This factor is the second most critical to the matchmaking process. We all want to spend time playing the game rather than waiting for matches to start.

3.    The following factors are also critical to the matchmaking process:

·      PLAYLIST DIVERSITY – The number of playlists available for players to choose from.

·      RECENT MAPS/MODES – Considering maps you have recently played on as well as your mode preferences, editable in Quick Play settings.

·      SKILL/PERFORMANCE– This is used to give our players – a global community with a wide skill range – the opportunity to have an impact in every match.

·      INPUT DEVICE – Controller or mouse and keyboard.

·      PLATFORM – The device (PC, Console) that you are playing on.

·      VOICE CHAT – Enabled or disabled.

Every time a player begins matchmaking in Multiplayer, for example, the process needs to work through all these factors to find other players (all of which are also being analyzed) to quickly assemble a lobby that is stable and competitive.

These factors have resulted in a process that we believe provides the best player experience and creates a stronger community for Call of Duty worldwide.

Let’s get more technical on a few of these factors:

Measuring Connection for Matchmaking

Whether you’re playing for fun with friends or looking to climb the leaderboards, connection is the most important part of the online Call of Duty experience. Connection dictates the speed at which the game can transfer information from every player to and from our servers.

Call of Duty’s matchmaking process evaluates a metric we call “Delta Ping,” which is the difference in round trip time of the data between your best data center (almost always the one closest to you) and the data center onto which your lobby has been placed (based on all players in a lobby). To reiterate, we always try to maximize the times we place players in data centers that are closest to them.

Call of Duty uses a client-server model to host matches, where the time it takes to share information between the player (client) and the data center (dedicated server) has an impact on the overall feel of a match.

The Call of Duty netcode, which we’ve discussed in the past, works to reduce the effect of latency, but cannot completely eliminate it. The matchmaking process seeks to reduce the overall amount of latency by prioritizing stable connections or low ping – with a shortened wait time in mind.

Measuring Time to Match for Matchmaking

Any form of matchmaking takes time.

If the wait time in a lobby is excessively long, players typically recycle the process by canceling out of matchmaking search and restarting it, or even quitting. This does not quicken the matchmaking process and in fact can even be detrimental.

For example, in the popular Modern Warfare III “Rustment” playlist (consisting of Rust and Shipment in rotation) – players often leave lobbies and/or matches early on, hoping to requeue into Shipment instead. This creates a vacant spot on a team during an early stage of the match. As the matchmaking process may prioritize backfilling that spot, this could result in players perceiving that Rust is disproportionately selected over Shipment. TL;DR – trying to cherry-pick maps may have an unexpected result.

Our goal is to ensure that players spend more time playing matches rather than waiting for them.

Measuring Skill for Matchmaking

While skill is one of several factors in Call of Duty Multiplayer matchmaking, we know the community wants more information about how it fits into the process.

Skill is determined based on a player’s overall performance: kills, deaths, wins, losses, and more, including mode selection, and recent matches as an overall metric across all Multiplayer experiences. This is a fluid measurement that’s consistently updating and reacting to your gameplay. Skill is not only a factor in matchmaking players against appropriate enemies, but also when finding teammates.

Call of Duty has historically considered player performance among other factors as part of our matchmaking process. Our work in this area dates back as early as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007). Skill is implemented across the video game industry, and we recognize that continuous refinement is required to deliver the best possible experience for our players.

We use player performance to ensure that the disparity between the most skilled player in the lobby and the least skilled player in the lobby isn’t so vast that players feel their match is a waste of time. Our data on player outcomes clearly indicates that the inclusion of skill in Call of Duty’s Multiplayer matchmaking process (as it currently stands) increases the variety of outcomes experienced by players of all skill levels. In other words, all players (regardless of skill level) are more likely to experience wins and losses more proportionately.

Our data shows that when lower skill players are consistently on the losing end, they are likely to quit matches in progress or stop playing altogether. This has an effect on the player pool. A smaller player pool means wait times for matches increase and connections may not be as strong as they should be. This can compound over time to create a spiral effect. Eventually, when only high-skilled players remain because lower skilled players have quit out of frustration, the result is an ecosystem that is worse overall for everyone.

Game data indicates that having some limitations on the disparity of skill across the players in a match makes for a healthier ecosystem. We also understand that many high skill players want more variety of experience, but often feel like they only get the “sweatiest” of lobbies. We have heard this feedback clearly and will continue to test and actively explore ways to mitigate this concern.

Future Communications

In addition to today’s blog, our technology team is developing a Ping and Matchmaking white paper for those inclined to get into the more granular information about Call of Duty matchmaking. Stay tuned for more on this publication.

To conclude, we wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from the community.

Community Questions

Does Call of Duty consider player engagement (time played) as a factor in matchmaking?

We do not consider how often, or how much, you play when determining matchmaking.

Does the Call of Duty matchmaking process impact any in-game elements such as hit registration, player visibility, aim assist, damage, et cetera?

No. Our matchmaking process does not impact gameplay elements.

Does spending money on Call of Duty content (such as bundles, Battle Pass, or BlackCell) change how players are matched?

Money spent does not in any way, shape or form, factor into matchmaking.

Does Call of Duty use bots in Multiplayer matchmaking?

Call of Duty Multiplayer does not use bots as part of the general matchmaking process. If this changes in the future, we will inform the community.

Do partners or content creators get special consideration in general matchmaking?

No. We do not change the matchmaking process based on who owns the account. In specific cases, such as for events like Call of Duty Next, we may be required to customize how lobbies are formed; however, these events usually take place in private matches and do not impact general matchmaking.

Have you ever considered an opt-in/opt-out system for the matchmaking algorithm?

Our data suggests that splitting the player base with an opt-in / opt-out matchmaking system will have negative consequences on the overall player pool. That means, potentially, longer wait times based on the type of matchmaking selected (plus add into that playlist, map and mode history, platform, and more) and matches with poor connections.

Have you ever tested removing skill as a consideration from matchmaking?

We have run tests over the years to determine if removing skill as a consideration from matchmaking makes sense. We will continue to launch these tests periodically. To date, the data remains consistent with what we detailed above – players tend to quit matches or stop playing if they’re getting blown out, resulting in a negative overall experience for all players in the lobby and the general player population. We purposefully do not disclose when these tests occur because it may impact feedback or the data we see during these tests.

Have you considered removing skill from matchmaking in specific general multiplayer game modes?

We have considered this in the past and we will continue to examine if this idea makes sense as part of an experimental playlist or in specific modes. We have nothing to announce on that front today.

Thank you for your feedback and for being part of our community. We’ll see you in the lobby!

Stay tuned to GamingTrend for more Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III news and info!

Lead Video Game Editor | [email protected]

David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

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