Table of Contents
What is Matchmaking?
Matchmaking simply is the process in which a game pairs you against another player. Different games uses different systems to implement this, and different modes of gameplay may use different systems. Matchmaking is intended to pair you against opponents that match you on a set of standards determined by the developers. Ranked matchmaking will aim to pair you against a player who is of similar or equal skill, while casual matchmaking aims to be less strict on who you face.
In Marvel Snap, we currently only have Ranked Mode, though Battle Mode is around the corner and unranked is on the Development Roadmap. Battle Mode will only be usable through shared codes and matchmaking doesn’t apply, so we will focus on Ranked mode in this article. With only one mode to choose from, you would hope the system is working properly. The question stands though: Is the current system actually working to make the best matchmaking experience? To answer this, let’s break it down.
How is it Currently Working?
Back in November, HowlingMines did a great writeup on what Snap’s matchmaking is comprised of. If you haven’t read his article, check it out for a longer explanation of the basics.
To shorten the idea, the basics of Snap’s matchmaking is broken down into three components:
- MMR (Match Making Rank)
- Collection Level (CL)
- Rank (1-100+)
MMR is your hidden score assigned to your account that fluctuates based on wins and losses. Collection Level of course is the rough estimator of game progression. Rank is the visible measurement of how a player is doing with rewards for hitting milestones. Since the release of HowlingMines’ article, new information has come to light from Developer Q/A (which you can read on their official Discord or reading our weekly Developer Update!). In this new information, we learned quite a few things:
- According to Stephen, “Cubes gained/lost affects MMR more than win rate.”
- According to Ben Brode, “We use MMR to some extent, but we also feed you some weak players so you are likely to reach the rank you belong at.”
- When asked why one player can be at rank 70 and another at 100, Ben Brode said “Its possible they hit infinite and then went on a crazy losing streak.” Similarly, Stephen mentioned on a similar question “Odds are you have a High MMR despite your rank.”
This information tells us a few important things. Players who play more reserved and snap less will move less on the MMR scales (thus likely sticking around similar players). Players who snap often will fluctuate their MMR more drastically and are likely see a higher variance of players. Players who hit Infinite cannot have their rank drop, so that factor in matchmaking likely reduces rank’s impact on matchmaking. Being “fed weak players” implies players can be matched above or below their MMR.
With the extra information about Marvel Snap’s matchmaking system, we can piece together the goals of the system. It aims to find you an opponent with similar MMR that has roughly the same number of cards as you. Your rank seems to be the final determination on who you are matched against. If the game cannot find someone close to your rank, it may widen the search. If that also fails, that is where you are likely to see a bot as an opponent.
What Does This Mean?
As more seasons release, more players seem to be confused by why they are paired against certain opponents. New players frequently ask “Why am I getting paired against someone with better cards than I have available?” Based on the information we have, it seems like these players are getting matched up, and are therefore a “weak player” to their opponent. Either that, or their opponent got much luckier with card pulls in the CL track and was able to make more viable decks early. This theory only holds up if the MMR happened to be similar for these players, though.
New players who have a more advanced understanding of CCG’s are likely to snap more and gain more cubes. This leads to more frequent pairings against players with more cards or a higher MMR, which explains why many new players bring up issue with getting paired with opponents with better cards.
Older players often bring up issues with the game pairing them against infinite rank players when they are reportedly as low as level 68 (a 32 rank difference minimum!). As the developers said directly, this is likely due to the fact the infinite player cannot drop ranks, but can drop in MMR. This means the infinite player can hit rank 100, mess around with a new deck idea or play a “bad” deck for fun which may tank their rank. They may then match against a lower rank player because their MMR fell. Since decks don’t effect matchmaking, the infinite player can swap to a meta deck after dropping their MMR and have much easier matchups.
Is the Matchmaking System Working Properly?
In its current state, I would argue that the matchmaking system is conceptually good, but fails in execution, thus making a failing system. I believe the failure breaks down simply into four basic issues.
- Rank cannot fall after Infinite
- CL seems to have low priority in matchmaking
- The current MMR system can be abused
- MMR effects players in different ways based on how they prefer to play
To break this down further, we will start with the rank issue and MMR abuse. To my knowledge, there is no other major competitive game on the market that lets players reach a rank they cannot fall back on WHILE ALSO matching against players in lower ranks. Most other games have a casual mode and not strictly ranked, so I believe this is Snap’s way of letting players mess around without worry. Unfortunately, this means players who reach infinite can break the MMR system, be it intentionally or not. A perfect example of this can be seen by streamers.
One streamer in particular “Valinthyne” attempted a challenge in which he tried to make Agatha Harkness successfully play Galactus (before its Series 5 release) over the course of a 24 hour stream. Valinthyne was Infinite at the time, which meant 24 hours of losing most of his matches did not move his rank. What it did move, however, was his MMR. After playing Agatha for that long, he entered what he described as “MMR Hell” where there were lots of bots and players that were clearly no match for his actual skill. He stayed in this “MMR Hell” for several days as he slowly began to match against players he recognized again and competition turned up.
While Valinthyne did not intentionally drop his MMR, being locked at Infinite meant he dropped to the bottom of the available player base for matches without the downside of losing his rank. This clearly poses an issue, as I’m sure many of the players he faced had that familiar thought of “why am I facing this person?!” But the issue isn’t at the fault of the streamer for wanting to have fun with the deck, but rather the fault of the matchmaking system allowing players so have such influence on their MMR without any drawbacks.
Similarly to the rank issue example, the issue with CL can be seen with streamers. I personally play snap and enjoy watching streamer content. One streamer I frequently run into is OrdinaryHarry. While I don’t stream snipe, I often play back recordings of streamers I faced to improve myself as a player to see what I did wrong or right, or to see what funny reactions my plays may have created! When I see matches where I face OrdinaryHarry, I frequently see our CL being spread apart as far as 1500-2000CL. While I was collecting my full series 3 collection, this often bothered me as I knew I was missing key cards, while my opponent had every card in the game unlocked. This poses a huge issue to me, as my ability to win matches (or play meta defining decks) may be blocked by not having the cards unlocked yet. If that is the case, why am I facing opponents who are not only infinite, but also have access to every card in the game?
One great aspect of the game is the cube system. Everyone loves getting those 8-cube wins, but every player does not snap each game. Some players, like me, play very reserved and often don’t snap until the end of a match (if at all). While snapping early and snapping late are both viable strategies, the rate of which you move MMR changes based on which way you play the game. People who snap often and have higher cube gains or losses will likely have a MMR that moves more aggressively than that of someone who plays more reserved. This often leads to the reserved players facing the same opponents over and over, as they are stuck in the same MMR range as their opponents who also play cautiously. While you could argue facing the same players over and over means you have equal skill, you could also argue that if MMR is barely moving because nobody is snapping, neither player is really moving towards their true rank.
These issues combined together leaves a system that matches players against each other who would not typically be matched together in a skill based setting. Combine these things with the game “feeding” you opponents above or below your MMR and you get what feels to be a system that doesn’t really match your skill. Many games have these matches that pair up or down, or “skill checks” that pair you against weaker or stronger opponents to see what you can handle, but when the basic system is damaged, I believe these skill checks simply become unfair matchups.
As a result, it has become clear that Second Dinner is not seeing enough players trying to climb the ladder and has put out an extra bounty this month for the Savage Land Season: Infinite players will receive an additional exclusive Card Back.
What Can Be Changed?
I believe the strongest fix would be to remove the ability to not drop below rank 100. While a lot of players would be upset that they can’t play casually at infinite anymore, it would allow overall matchmaking to be more accurate. An alternative to this would be not letting Infinite players match against players below 100, but this would shrink the matchmaking pool for Infinite players and make facing bots more common at this level. Many players argue this would also create a “Zero Sum Game”, which means players can only climb ranks if other players lose ranks. This could be an issue as exclusive rewards are locked behind ranks. If less players are available though, bots could still give ranks to players without losing any. Though facing more bots is not a great solution to any problem.
Another option would be to make CL be more strict about pairing you against players with equal base cards as you have. This, too, would likely lead to more matches against bots as you limit the amount of players available. This is an even bigger issue for new players as the game grows older.
A final option I believe could help the issue is to make MMR move more on win/loss than the current cube gained system. This would allow all playstyles to move MMR equally and help to better find players at your actual skill level.
I began by asking the question is the current system actually working to make the best matchmaking experience? In it’s current state, I believe it is not. Marvel Snap’s matchmaking is a functional system that can find you plenty of matches, but often times they may not be the most fair. Even with its issues, I can still find some matches that feel like we are at equal skill. However, I (and much of the community from what I’ve seen) feel the matchmaking system needs some improvements to take the game to the next level. While there may not be a clear, easy fix for the matchmaking problems, highlighting them and discussing can be the key to finding the solution!
What do you think? Does matchmaking need some changes, or is it great as is? Have you experienced matchmaking issues? Make sure to leave a comment below and let us know!
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