Apex Legends Updates Matchmaking System
If you're an active member of the Apex Legends community, you're more than familiar with the complaints lodged against Respawn as players expressed their frustrations at the game's matchmaking. Now, in a move that brings hope to fans, Respawn has released a comprehensive, detailed response for how Apex Legends' matchmaking works and how they plan to update it. Those curious can read the entire blog detailing the update, which is admirably hefty and chock-full of data and graphs. Samy Duc (Technical Director) went into detail in the blog, but I'll provide the TLDR takeaways here.
Takeaway quotes from the update blog:
- Apex Legends currently makes matches using your pre-made party’s best player’s skill rating, and our system does consider your pre-made squad’s size when matching you with opponents.
- We are working toward creating fairer matches compared to today as you play with friends of different skill levels.
- We are in the process of retiring our old Skill Based Matchmaking (SBMM) system for a new one that more accurately groups our players based on skill, and thus lets our matchmaking algorithm make better decisions when forming groups. The end goal is to create fairer matches and experiences that are more fun for all.
- We are continuously testing and iterating on our matchmaking systems in the live game to figure out what works best. In fact, many changes have already been tested and rolled out in various regions for Ranked and regular Pub games. And, we’re not done—you can expect more matchmaking refinements to come in the near future.
Respawn uses three key points when considering matchmaking: the progression system, a hidden skill rating, and the matching system itself. (Your account level isn't a factor in these points.) Respawn was somewhat vague on what the hidden skill rating is based on, stating it's "a number of factors." That said, there are "discrete [skill] buckets" that players are grouped into based on their hidden skill rating. This bucket system is in place to help ensure a fair ranking, and there is a specific bucket for new and low-skill players to help them learn the game. These buckets are critical to the new matching system. "The new system is more granular and has many more buckets. This allows our matching algorithm to make better decisions when placing players into matches." The team has said they've found that matches are tighter with their most recent tests.
The current Apex matchmaking system has different skill ratings and matching algorithms for each mode, meaning that matchups in unranked games are decided differently from ranked game matchups. "That needs to end with our new matchmaking system," writes Duc. "Moving forward, all matchmaking will use the same skill rating technology, but each mode will use different tuning values based on what works best for that mode. This will allow us to more rapidly improve Apex Legends’ matchmaking across the board."
The team noted that while they will try and balance out the competitive advantage of premade squads by equalizing group sizes across a match, it's unlikely and difficult to get 60 players of similar skill and equal squad size into a single match, so it is inevitable to mix premade group sizes in a matchup. "In a fully competitive environment, like Ranked, we value having teammates of equal skill, and a lower burden of “carry”, over a perfectly fair match... Because of the inherent randomness and chaos of a battle royale, we think this is the right tradeoff." Respawn's new algorithm will supposedly do "a much better job at compensating for the competitive advantage that premade duos and trios have." Duc writes, "We’ve done the science to quantify this advantage, and we’ve been experimenting with a new system that can continuously learn and update over time." This essentially means that the team has acknowledged that premade groups have an advantage over solos, and they will add this as a skill measurement of a team when evaluating matchups.
The old system has already begun slow phase-outs region by region (there's no roadmap as to what regions go when), as this will allow Respawn to monitor the new matchmaking system launch and deal with updates/patches as they go along. The matchmaking update should be completely global by the end of the year. For my impatient players, it's good to note that the team said that match search times weren't changed by much, if at all, with the new matchmaking system.
Do you think these changes will help the Apex community? The game has continued to maintain a decently sized active player base since its 2016 launch, and the transparency of Respawn to critically address the complaints and provide a roadmap of solutions is a breath of fresh air compared to other studios.