Modern Warfare 3

Skill-based matchmaking in Call of Duty is always a controversial topic, and last fall the teams behind Activision’s still-dominant shooter franchise promised to be more open about how players are matched against each other in their games Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. One a new blog detailing the issue in depthit looks like the Call of Duty team is hoping to clear up players’ No. 1 complaint about the game’s main multiplayer mode and explain how matchmaking actually works.

One of the biggest takeaways from the latest Call of Duty blog: Matchmaking in multiplayer games may not work the way you think.

In a lengthy explanation of how players are divided into teams in online games, the developers said: “The single, biggest priority when it comes to multiplayer is to provide a fun experience for our players.”

“We often see the community refer to our matching system as ‘Skill-Based Matching.’ Call of Duty, like most in the industry, considers skill (or, more specifically, player performance) as a component, but skill is not the dominant variable,” the developers said. “We consider and prioritize several factors to create a lobby.”

According to the developers, these factors are related to contact (“the most critical and weighted factor in the enforcement process”) and adaptation time. Yes, skill is an integral part of the matchup criteria, as is playlist diversity, ensuring that players see a variety of maps and modes.

How the Call of Duty developers define skills is probably the most enlightening insight, as players will likely have a general understanding of how contact and timing will affect alignment.

According to the developers, skill is determined based on a player’s overall performance, kills, deaths, wins, losses, mode selection, and recent matches as a common metric across all multiplayer experiences. “It’s fluid metering that consistently updates and reacts to your game,” say the developers. “Skill is a factor not only in matching players against suitable enemies, but also in finding teammates.”

These skill designations still exist in some form Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfarethe developers note that “continuous improvement is required to provide our players with the best possible experience.”

“We use player performance so that the difference between the most skilled player in the lobby and the least skilled player in the lobby is not so great that players feel their matches are a waste of time,” the developers say. “Our data on player outcomes clearly shows that incorporating skills Call of Duty‘s Multiplayer matchmaking process (as it currently stands) increases the variety of outcomes faced 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.”

Some long-time Call of Duty players and prominent broadcasters have stopped using skill-based matchmaking, especially in casual or quick-play modes. They say it makes games too competitive (or “sweaty”) and takes away the joy of steamrolling a weak opposing team.

The developers say that data shows that lower-skilled players will quit matches (or stop playing altogether) if they are “consistently losing.” And fewer players means smaller player pools and less skill gaps to match against others. “Eventually, the result is an ecosystem that’s worse off for everyone when only high-skilled players are left as lower-skilled players quit out of frustration,” the developers say.

They add: “We also understand that many highly skilled players want more experience, but often feel like they’ve only gotten the ‘sweatiest’ of lobbies. We clearly heard this feedback and will continue to test and actively explore ways to mitigate this concern.”

In the FAQ accompanying the blog, the developers also break down some common assumptions and misconceptions about how matchmaking works in Call of Duty multiplayer. They say that the player badge (time played) is not taken into account in matching. They also said that spending money in Call of Duty does not affect how players match up with others, nor does it affect their “partner” or “content creator” status.

The Call of Duty team also says it has no plans to remove skill scaling as a matchmaking factor, nor does it provide players with the option to opt out of the matchmaking algorithm.

It remains to be seen if this explanation will satisfy Call of Duty players who complain about bumps, “sweaty” lobbies or manipulated badges. But for players looking for more information on skill and how they match up otherwise, it’s worth reading and thinking about for your next matchup.