A lot goes into creating a perfectly balanced match Call Of Duty, and many times the lobbies players find themselves in are far from perfect, let alone balanced. This has led to a lot of grumbling in the community, mostly around SBMM and EOMM.
These two abbreviations stand for Skill-Based Matchmaking and Engagement-Optimized Matchmaking. The first is a system that studios use in an attempt to even out groups and lobbies that aren’t too brutal for newcomers.
In a new blog postActivision explains why this is important for players of all skill levels:
“Our data shows that when lower-ability players are consistently on the losing end, they are likely to stop matches in progress or stop playing altogether. This has an effect on the player pool. A smaller pool of players means wait times for matches increase and connections may not be as strong as they should be. This can worsen over time to create a spiral effect. Ultimately, when only high-skilled players remain because lower-skilled players quit out of frustration, the result is an ecosystem that is generally worse off for everyone.”
SBMM seeks to fix this by putting players in lobbies as close to their skill level as possible, but because it’s a flawed system that sometimes means teams are still uneven despite what they look like statistically even on paper. For example, you could have a team made up of mostly similar skill levels, while another team has one or two really good players and four or five chips. This can be frustrating for both high and low skill players on this team as it is very easy for the other team to adjust.
EOMM is a bit more difficult to understand, but essentially it is a system that seeks to increase engagement by making players happy. This is not a confirmed system Call Of Duty but many players have theorized that it exists and some have gone to great lengths to prove it. The general idea is that to keep players engaged, a losing streak – whether it’s a series of game losses or even just a match where you get beaten – results in an easy match or a team suddenly getting a boost in the middle. -match to return (or get close enough to ensure you play just one more game).
In any case, Activision has made it somewhat clear how they prioritize matchmaking Call Of Duty, and skill-based concerns are way down the totem pole compared to ping and various other factors, at least according to the publisher. See what Activision says determines how matches are made. According to the blog post, “Ping is King” – an old phrase many players use when discussing issues with SBMM.
- CONNECTION – As the community will attest, Ping is king. Connection is the most critical and heavy factor in the matchmaking process.
- TIME TO FIGHT – This factor is the second most critical to the matchmaking process. We all want to spend time playing the game instead of waiting for the matches to start.
- The following factors are also critical to the matching process:
- DIFFERENT PLAYLISTS – The number of playlists available for players to choose from.
- RECENT MAPS/WAYS – Taking into account the maps you’ve played recently as well as your mode preferences, editable in the Quick Play settings.
- SKILL/PERFORMANCE– Used to give our players – a global community with a wide range of skills – the opportunity to make an impact in every match.
- INPUT DEVICE – Controller or mouse and keyboard.
- PLATFORM – The device (PC, Console) you are playing on.
- VOICE CONVERSATION – Enabled or disabled.
Activision explains how the ability is factored in as follows:
Skill is determined by 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 metric that constantly updates and reacts to your play. Skill is not only a factor in matching players against suitable enemies, but also when finding teammates.
Of course, it is a difficult calculation. I have some players on my team with a higher K/D ratio, but a lower win/loss ratio than I have. Simply playing with a team can mess up the equation, as one player can be far more skilled than another teammate, and it seems that SBMM is heavily skewed towards the higher echelons of any team. It’s weird when your best players get involved and you start losing all the matches because of it!
Activision also includes an FAQ in which it answers various other complaints and concerns from the community. According to the publisher, they don’t get preferential treatment in streamers or easier lobbies. Buying items in the shop has no effect on lobbies and does not give any mechanical boost to the game. Bots don’t exist in multiplayer (only potatoes!) and so on. You can read the entire post here.
Overall, this is good information, although it really gives us a vague sense of priorities and how they work in general terms. A deeper dive into the actual algorithms at play could be really enlightening. For now, we just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, as with anything else.
PS I have more to say about all of this when it comes to ranked play, but I’m saving that for a separate post because my frustrations with Ranked this year are manifold.