Scott Mercer Explains Overwatch Matchmaking Rating

A few days ago a fan posted a long winded question in the Blizzard forums essentially asking what the reasoning is behind MMR (matchmaking rating) gain and loss and if Blizzard has any plans to improve the system. They continue by saying:

“At present, there doesn’t appear to be much if any logic to how many points you gain or lose in competitive. This is exacerbated by the fact that the matchmaking system occasionally throws you into virtually unwinnable games.”

Next the user goes on to explain what they think Overwatch’s problems are and how some of them should be fixed. Here is a quick summary:

  1. The matchmaking isn’t taking Pre-made teams into account in the way it should since a team consisting of cooperating friends all in voice chat has a massive advantage over a team of strangers who are not connected. The answer for this is to match the Pre-made teams against players of a higher level to even the playing field, giving larger point values for winning against a Pre-made team, and less lost points for losing to one.
  2. The Pre-made teams with things like 3 cooperating players and 3 strangers shouldn’t be matched up with a team of 6 strangers. It should be more evenly balanced with 3 co-ops and 3 strangers on both sides.
  3. The points for winning and losing seem to be random. They do not seem to take into account the other teams MMR when rewarding or punishing you after matches. If the other team has a higher rating or a pre-made team, you should be rewarded  more points.

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There were some pretty good points made and Scott Mercer, Principle Designer, was quick to respond and explain the whole matchmaking process. Mercer states that the system does try to place groups of equal size on opposite teams WHEN POSSIBLE. When the matchmaker creates a match the % chance of winning is determined for each team and most of the time it’s at 50% for both teams. Sometimes though, you’re not going to be so evenly matched.

“The unfortunate truth is that there is not always a “perfect” match for you, especially at very high and very low skill ratings where there’s fewer players of similar skill. Then you throw in the desire to match groups vs. groups, with everybody having low latency, and doing ALL of this as fast as possible even though it’s the 3 AM off peak… it can get tough.”

Mercer also states that if the game does put you in an unfair match, Overwatch DOES adjusts your skill rating (SR) gain and loss based on your chance of winning. He says for matchmaking groups there are two issues that they try to solve:

  1. How to handle groups formed of players with different MMR’s.
  2. How to model the synergistic effects of players being together in a group.

“With season 2 we prevented players of REALLY disparate skill rating from grouping, but there’s still some skill variance we need to handle. Over time we’ve tested different models to try and see what’s best and are now using what tested most accurately […] As you noted, they (players in a group) have access to voice chat. … This “massive” advantage actually differs based upon skill rating of the group members. Based upon the data we’ve seen in groups of low to mid SR players do see more notable improvements, but it’s not as huge as you might think. Still we do take this into account when we predict the win % for each team.”

Mercer explains that despite how it looks, they do try to match similar sized groups. As for the points seeming “random”, there is actually a reason for the amount you gain or lose.

“The amount of MMR (and SR) you go up or down isn’t simply a matter of whether you won or lost, and what was your predicted chance of winning. There’s a couple of other things at work.”

One of those things, he says, is the matchmakers confidence in what your MMR should be. The more you play, the more certain it gets, the less you play, the more it starts to doubt itself. You win a lot of times in a row, or lose, the less certain it becomes. The more certain the matchmaker is about your MMR, the less it will change. He also states that they DO factor in how well you played the hero you used. Mercer assures us that they do a lot of work to the game based off of our feedback and wants to address the people who doubt the crew are still listening:

“We still are. While it’s a minor factor compared to wins/loses (the best way to increase your SR is still to play together and win as a team!), doing so does help us determine your skill more accurately and faster.”

He also says that they are doing the best job they can to create fair matches, but also wanted to end it with this point:

“‘Fair matches’ doesn’t always mean that every Ilios match goes 3-2 and 100-99 on the final point, or each team gets the payload to the end in overtime on Dorado, etc. Sometimes when two evenly matched teams play, the result can be one-sided. It just means that at that single moment in time the enemy team played better. It’s not always the matchmaker’s, your’s, or your teams fault that you got stomped.”

I think the lesson here is not to underestimate just how hard the creators of our favorite games work for us. How awesome is it that the people at Blizzard care so much about our feedback? Let us know what you think in the comments below. If your weapon of choice to play Overwatch is a PC, then check out our article about the latest patch here and check back with Don’t Feed the Gamers for all things Gaming!

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