Patch 1.15 Matchmaking and Ladder Explanation
With Patch 1.15 we have attempted to make several improvements to our matchmaking and ladder systems, as well as correct certain known flaws with our old systems. The main purpose of the matchmaking system has always been to try and match players of similar skill together, as playing an equally skilled opponent provides the most enjoyable game experience. We also want the matchmaking process to be fast, so players spend less time waiting for a game and more time playing Warcraft III.
Previously our matchmaking system attempted to match you in a game with a player within 6 levels of your own level. Although this rule worked in many cases, it led to several problems. High-level players could not reliably find players in a reasonable time frame due to the very low population of high-level players, and low-level players were often matched against highly skilled players who had just created new accounts. Battle.net now attempts to match players based purely on skill, without regard to each player's XP or ladder level. Under this new approach, Battle.net determines a player's skill based upon the player's wins and losses, as well as the quality of opponents faced. Battle.net does not simply use a player's win percentage when determining that player's true skill. Battle.net treats new accounts as having "average" skill, even though a new account is level 1.
While Battle.net's internal player skill ratings provide better matching of players, the skill rating is not suitable as the lone means of determining the "best" players on a realm's ladder. We believe the best players not only possess great skill, but also consistently demonstrate that skill over a long period of time against a wide variety of opponents. The best players on any ladder should be level 50, yet in the past there were very few level-50 players outside of the solo ladder on Kalimdor. Furthermore, a level-30 player on Kalimdor did not necessarily have the same skill as a level-30 player on Lordaeron, simply because of the higher population and availability of games on Kalimdor. In consequence, we've made changes to how XP is gained when a match is played so that realms with different population sizes have a more consistent distribution of player levels.
When the 1.14 ladder system awarded XP from a win and removed XP for a loss, the XP amount was modified by the relative levels of the players involved. Since Battle.net currently has a more accurate representation of a player's skill than simply each player's ladder level, the XP gained or lost after a gain is no longer modified based upon relative level. Of course, defeating a highly skilled player will still result in a larger XP reward than defeating a lesser skilled player, and suffering a defeat to a more highly skilled player will still result in your losing less XP. Yet there are additional new factors that can modify the awarded XP. To try and better distribute the wide range of players and skills on the ladder, Battle.net also translates your current skill level to an expected ladder level (ELL).
The most highly skilled players are expected to be level 50; players of average skill are expected to be around level 30; and even the least experienced players of Warcraft III are expected to be level 10. If your current level is lower than your ELL, that Battle.net will increase the XP gained from a win and reduce the XP lost when you are defeated. However, if your current level is higher than your ELL, then Battle.net will reduce your XP gained from a win and increase the XP you lose from a loss. Battle.net also modifies the ELL based upon the number of games played in that game type. Players who have not played many ladder games will have their ELLs capped at a low level. As you play additional games, your maximum ELL will increase.
Q: I was really high level in 1.14. Now when I win a game, I get very little XP, but when I lose a game, I lose a great
deal of XP. Why?
A: Two factors are at work here. The first factor is that we didn't want to destroy all the work that players had invested
to achieve very high levels on the Battle.net ladders, so we did not reset the ladder. Instead, Battle.net gave each player
an initial skill rating based upon that player's previous ladder rank. Thus, high-level players initially had a very high
ELL based on skill, but they didn't necessarily have as many games played as Battle.net expected them to have played. The
lack of expected games played therefore reduced the ELL of some high-level players below their current levels, and
Battle.net compensated by reducing the XP gained from a win and increasing the XP for a loss. This is by no means a
permanent condition, however. With an increase in the number of games played, these high-level players will begin to
receive more XP from a win. The second factor is that we wanted to make it easier for high-level players to find matches.
Because a high-level player can now be matched against a wider range of opponents, there has been an increase in the
number of games that high-level player will fight against lesser-skilled opponents. Battle.net does not give a player
much XP for a win against someone of lesser skill.
Q: Why am I fighting a level-40 opponent when I'm level 9?
A: Battle.net no longer matches based upon opponent level. Prior to 1.15, opponents were no more than 6 levels apart. The new skill-based matchmaking system tries to match opponents of equivalent skill together, no matter what their current levels might be. Perhaps the level-40 player has recently had a string of bad losses, whereas the level-9 player has recently won several games in a row. Such matches will be rare, but they can happen.
Q: I get very little XP for winning an FFA game. Why is that?
A: The current ladder system treats the FFA ladder in a nearly identical fashion to the solo ladder for determining your ELL, including the number of games a player is expected to have played. However, FFA players usually have fewer games played due to the longer game time of FFA games. Thus, their calculated ELLs are typically way below their current ladder levels, and Battle.net reduces the XP gained from a win to compensate. The higher XP reward of winning an FFA game further exacerbates the problem, especially for players who were already highly ranked in 1.14.
Q: What are you doing to fix the problems that exist?
A: We are going to immediately tighten the matching of players into games, especially when one of the players is highly skilled. Skilled players should then begin facing fewer trivial opponents. We will also be revising the XP and ladder systems in the future and making additional adjustments to those systems, especially for FFA games. We do not currently have an ETA for when those changes will be complete, but we will make an announcement when the changes have been made.
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