When you hit the “Public Match” button in Vainglory, Deep Blue calculates 50 Petaflops and tells you the meaning of life. Then it randomly matches you and the
best worst available players at the time (sometimes it feels that way, right?). In a perfect world, there would be five other players that are exactly the same skill tier as you and it would be the perfect match. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, otherwise Kim Kardashian wouldn’t have a career.
How Matchmaking Works
Matchmaking is a very complicated machine, and the developers have stated many times that they will not divulge information regarding it. This is to prevent the abuse or gaming of the system. However, we do know some basic things about how matchmaking works.
Everyone’s account has a hidden score called an Elo rating. This is a system that was developed to help rank competitive chess players. This rating has different ranges that determines your skill tier (Pretty Good, The Hotness, etc). Using this rating, the matchmaker tries to find players that have a similar rating, so that the match is as “fair” as possible. When you win, you gain Elo. When you lose, you lose Elo. How much you gain or lose depends on the difference between your team’s average rating and the enemy team’s rating. If you beat opponents with a higher average rating than you, you get more Elo. If they were lower rating than you, you get less. Simple, right?
There are other factors regarding Elo gain and loss, but that is something that only SEMC knows. Doer has said that little has changed for solo queue since NA launch. But party queue, on the other hand…
Back in January, I was having a tough time playing with friends. We’d form a full party and get slaughtered every time. I had a hunch that in order to offset the “benefit” of playing with people you knew, the matchmaker was finding harder opponents for you. Then one night Kraken confirmed this for me.
This is still the case, although the amount may not be as drastic as it was previously. The developer Doer has mentioned on the forums that the bump is not significant enough to make matches uneven.
There is a rumor going around that the highest tier member of a party is weighted more heavily for matchmaking. Doer has said that this is absolutely false. For matchmaking purposes, party Elo is still averaged. That means that a Pretty Good, and two Hotness, might match against two Hotness, and a Simply Amazing solo queuer (due to the slight bump). However, it has come to light that new measures against “Elo smurfing” have changed how party Elo is gained or lost.
It was revealed by EdTheShred on Twitter, that parties of any skill tier variation will cause less Elo to be gained. This is undoubtably to counter the Elo smurfing I mentioned earlier. The threshold of skill tier variation is one skill tier range, as confirmed by Mejlis. That means that a party of Hotness and Simply Amazing players will get reduced Elo for winning. Elo smurfing was a huge problem in Korea and the community demanded this change. The newly added experience bar is another counter measure against smurfing. Before you can even enter a public match, you must go through all of the training and reach level three of experience.
There is an endless stream of matchmaking complaints on the official Vainglory forums. In fact, they have their own sub-forum. I’ve also been unhappy with matchmaking due to some of the teammates I’ve had. However, complaining on the forums doesn’t solve anything. We need to identify the problems, come up with helpful solutions, and send match data to the proper support channels. Here are some of the issues that I’ve seen.
1) 2:57 timer
These matches are not even. But they happen when the number of players in queue is scant and a player has hit the dreaded 2:57 timer. Whenever anyone’s queue timer hits 2:57, the matchmaker disregards the skill tier disparity and finds the best available players for a match. When it’s very late at night and there are very few players, this can lead to matches such as the above.
I was watching XenoTek ‘s stream the other night at around 2AM Pacific time. He’s a Vainglorious Bronze player and an amazing Vainglory streamer. His party would hit the 2:57 timer every time. These matches were complete stomps. He’d get matched against players in Pretty Good through Simply Amazing and obliterate them.
There was another high tier party online at the time. However, this party included a guild mate from GankStars, whom he did not want to queue against. So he waited until that guild mate was in a game before queueing. When asked about it he said, “2:57 is toxic, but there just aren’t enough players at the highest tiers. As guild mates, we are all trying to gain Elo, and it doesn’t make sense for us to take it from each other”. I totally understand where he is coming from. After the matches, he would thumbs up the enemy team and say “Sorry brother” on stream. I know he genuinely felt bad for the uneven match, but there isn’t anything he can do about it right now. He has to play someone.
2) Smurf accounts
Matchmaker can only match you based on the skill tier of your account. Smurfing (a new or different account with a lower skill tier) causes matchmaking to fail. A Vainglorious player could be on a Pretty Good account, causing a highly unfair match.
There are many reasons people have multiple accounts. Maybe it’s very late and high tier matches are very unfair (see above). Or there’s a new hero on free rotation and they want to practice this hero they’ve never played before. Brad Chmielewski of the Shatter The Vain podcast said that, “maybe it’s 3am and I just want to play one last game and don’t want a super tryhard match.” These are all legitimate reasons for multiple accounts.
Smurfing becomes a problem when a player specifically plays at a lower tier in order to stomp new players. It’s toxic and can cause new players to have a terrible experience, possibly even leading to them deleting the game.
3) Elo inflation
After every new patch there is a period where things have changed and everyone is still figuring things out. Some learn faster than others. Some never learn. This can lead to matchmaking issues for the first couple of weeks after a new patch. This particular patch had it even worse, as many players may have gotten to higher skill tiers using overpowered heroes such as Vox and Skaarf. They may have also been carried by others using those heroes. Doer mentions this on the official forums.
In order to try and brainstorm some solutions to these problems, I asked Vainglory Twitch streamer xmaveric if he would be willing to discuss matchmaking and provide his thoughts on the matter. We had a great conversation and we came up with some possible solutions to the current state of matchmaking. Keep in mind, these are merely brainstorm suggestions, they are not perfect.
1) Opt-out of wide skill tier gaps as a setting
One of xmaveric’s suggestions was to add an in-game setting that allowed you to opt-out of any matches that were more than a full skill tier above or below you. This would prevent Simply Amazing from playing Vainglorious, Pretty Good from playing against Not Bad, etc. The caveat is that if you check this box, you understand that your queue may take longer than three minutes. (No more 2:57 matches for you).
I’m not sure how I feel about this. While matches against two skill tier differences usually aren’t very fun, if everyone used this setting, then I can see Vainglorious players having a very difficult time finding a match at certain hours. I know in League of Legends, the highest tier players can end up waiting an hour for a match. I feel like this setting would be useful for everyone except the highest tier players.
2) Casual and ranked queues
SEMC has stated that a casual and ranked queue system is in the works. In other games, such as Hearthstone, there is a split between casual and ranked play. If you want to try out a new hero, do a new build, or just not play as serious a match, casual queue is for you! The developers have said that currently they don’t feel that the player base is large enough to be divided this way and still have satisfactory queue times.
I believe that a casual queue will cut down on the smurfing. Why smurf when you can try out your new hero in casual, and still earn cards and glory towards new heroes and skins! You would be able to play without affecting your skill tier rating.
Xmaveric and I discussed how we thought a casual vs. ranked queue would work. If casual queue provided cards, glory, and experience, then what would the benefit of ranked mode be? I felt that giving more of the same rewards as casual would just drive people towards ranked queue. An idea came up about having ranked “seasons”, and if you achieved a certain rank you got a special reward unique to that season. They do this in Hearthstone, where upon attaining a certain rank you can earn a special card back. Then xmaveric had the best idea ever: Cosmetic pets.
Is this not the greatest idea ever? Pets could be specific to a hero, or just a season. There are so many rewards that could be given in ranked queue without deterring casual players. Also, because skill tier shows on your friends list, it’s a lot of bragging rights. Some players will gravitate towards ranked queue for that reason.
Casual and ranked queues will help the game blossom, as soon as the player base is ready to support it.
One thing to remember, Vainglory is rather new. It’s been out for just over seven months since its North America release in November.
In order for the matchmaker algorithm to work, we need a large pool of players. League of Legends now boasts upwards of 67 million monthly players. Back in 2011, there were only 3.6 million monthly players, a full two years after it’s release in 2009.
With time, as Vainglory’s popularity grows, Android releases, and the player base increases, matchmaking will get better. You can help the cause by telling all of your friends to play Vainglory! Heck, tell your Mom, your Dad, the neighbor across the street. If they have an iOS or approved Android device, they can play! Also, make sure to tell PlayoffBeard that keldegar needs the Kandi Twirl Koshka Tier II skin unlocked for being awesome.
Play to Have Fun
In the end, Vainglory is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. Don’t focus too much on skill tier and winning, just make sure you’re having fun playing the game. Thank you to xmaveric for your input on this article! Any questions or comments, you know where to find me! You can find xmaveric on Twitch and Twitter. He’s also made this awesome streamer tools website!