Matchmaking

I have played a bit more Overwatch, and the only time the matchmaker seems to put me in a game with even levels is weekend prime time. As I mentioned earlier, either I am good enough to get matched with players 200 levels above me, they are just that bad despite time spent, or the matchmaker algorithm is just saying, “Sure, this is fine, why not?”

This post from Jeff Kaplan has a lot going on. There is a very good bit here and a “eh, whattya gonna do” bit, where the latter is frustratingly fair.

If I were to summarize match results into 5 broad buckets it would be these:

  1. My team won. We beat the other team by a long shot.
  2. My team barely won.
  3. My team barely lost.
  4. My team lost. We lost by a long shot. It wasn’t even close
  5. It was a broken match somehow. Maybe someone disconnected, was screwing around or we played with fewer than 12 people.

(of course there are more cases than this – I am overly simplifying here)
Most players will say that they want a match to be either type 2 or type 3 as I described above. Those sound even. Barely win or barely lose. But I believe when psychology comes into play, most players actually expect type 1 or type 2 to be the result. Even an amazingly close type 3 match can turn into a highly negative experience for a lot of players. And if you keep “barely losing” it’s not a very fun night. Winning is fun and good. Losing is less fun than winning.
So waiting a really long time to lose by a long shot is obviously not good. But waiting a really long time to barely lose is also a negative experience. And if we assume that your chances of winning are 50%, that means that even waiting a really long time for a “better” match means that you’re going to wait a really long time to probably lose half the time…

There are some rather good insights here.

First, we say we want 2 or 3 (a good fight), but in practice we want 1 or 2 (to win). 2 is always good, but all things being equal, most people prefer 1 (big win) to 3 (narrow loss). And we all like to think we are above average and should win more than 50% of the time, even though perfect matchmaking would lead to 50% 2s and 50% 3s.

Second, most people will feel bad about a 3 or 4 and good about a 1 or 2. Despite our ideal of wanting 2 or 3, many (most?) people would probably rate a 3 about the same as a 4 in terms of how much fun they had. Winning is more fun.

Third, given that, the matchmaker really does say, “Sure this is fine, why not?” Because there is no perfect game for you once all things are factored in, and if it were perfect you would have a 50% chance, so why try to wait several minutes to find that perfect game when odds are you are not going to find it any more fun? And you still have multi-minute waits, so how much longer do you want to wait way outside prime time?

There are other good thoughts in that post, like how many random variables there are in the game, notably if you are a highly ranked player because you are a great tank and you feel like playing a sniper tonight. Most of my ranking must be based on playing support, but I don’t always want to play support. Overwatch is probably worse for that than other games; having a couple dozen classes to play introduces more noise.

But again, players like shiny, noisy, and random. Most people would be unhappy with a game where the more skilled player won 100% of the time. You are not the most skilled player out there.

: Zubon

2 thoughts on “Matchmaking”

  1. Amusingly (to me at least) as I write this comment my desktop background (randomly selected from GW2 Screens) is a snap I took of a Dragon ball game that my team lost 500 to 420. I was top scorer on the losing side which more than made up for the team loss. I’d almost always take a losing match in which i played well over a winning match in which I played badly.

    I do agree, though, that a series of close losses can be wearing. Mostly, I feel, it’s because of what you mention at the end of the post. All the battleground-type PvP I’ve ever played, across multiple games, does feature a hefty amount of luck as well as the undeniably influential player skill. If the matches really are all close but you keep losing it tends to feel that your side is just unlucky and being unlucky, in my opinion, is never, ever fun, whereas being unskilled often is a hoot.

  2. You could replace Overwatch with GW2 PvP and it would be almost equally applicable to the discussion that the devs were having with their player subset, unhappy about matchmaking during leagues. They have to deal with a much smaller pool of people to choose from though, so the matchmaker does a fair amount of “oh, why not?”

    The one thing dissimilar is that it can rank your performance at a given class separately, because the classes are fixed while Overwatch class-switching is more fluid. (I have no idea what happens if players queue as one class, then switch before the match to some other class they’re more familiar with though.)

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