Hello everyone! I’m Shelt and I’ve been working at Stunlock Studios (SLS for short) since the very beginning. My title at SLS is Creative Director. It’s a very fuzzy role, but within game development it often ties into the overall design vision of the game and its features.
I’ve been given the honor to share some of my work and thought process with you guys for this Dev Blog post. This post will be focused around matchmaking and the new ranking system, where I will give you some insight into our vision, summarize our first season and what you can expect in the future.
Designing and implementing a matchmaking system is a super exciting task, but also one of the most difficult in skill-based competitive games. A small difference in skill can make a huge impact on the match balance. Also having to take estimated skill, visual placement, server regions, champions, archetypes, game type, ranking type, party size, queue times etc into consideration when matching players doesn’t make it any easier. Finally, we also have the player needs; some players gladly sacrifice match balance for faster games but others do not.
As many of you know we launched our first season and new ranking system that introduced leagues and divisions in December 2016. This system was designed to be more visually understandable, appealing and with improved rating changes.
During the season several concerns were raised by our community which we tried to tackle along the way. I’ll go through some of them to explain our reasoning and solutions.
“Players got very low placement results”
Our first intention was to place people a lot lower than their estimated skill to give them a guaranteed positive progression. We wanted to prevent players from getting a better placement position than their end result for the season.
This algorithm was very hard on the players and many of you felt like you were treated as the worst players in the world by being placed in low bronze, even though you felt good at the game. We completely understand this and a hotfix was made to increase the initial placement.
“Players often got matched with people outside their own league”
This is a very interesting topic. What we did before was to value our estimated skill of the player (their hidden mmr) more than their visual position (their League placement) when it comes to matchmaking. Because some players are more active than others, the visual position could vary a lot even if we estimated the players to be equally skilled.
We got a lot of complaints on bad matchmaking and we applied a hotfix which made the visual placement more important than our estimated skill when matching players. We got some great responses from that hotfix, telling us games finally felt a lot more balanced. The ironic thing is they actually became slightly worse. Here are some match result data from the Solo Ranked Queue taken before and after the hotfix was in place.
We were aware that the match balance would statistically fall, but as we also guessed, the visual perception played a big part in how players experience match balance. We will keep a close watch on both community feedback and the match result data throughout the season to determine adjustments needed going forward.