In a fireside chat over the weekend, Sledgehammer Games' studio head Michael Condrey discussed ongoing matchmaking optimisation for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and cracking down on players who spend entire matches sitting in a corner killing themselves.
It may be hard to get into a match with players you can actually kill — Condrey gets that. In the lengthy post he explains that while matching players by skill is a concern, it's always secondary to ensuring each player can maintain a fast and steady connection to the online match's host.
First, and I can't stress this enough, player connection to the host always takes priority over skill in the matchmaking process — always, no exceptions. Fast connection to a match hosted on our global dedicated servers is the most important component of our matchmaking system. And yes, to a lesser extent skill as a component of matchmaking is important, too. We believe that it adds a level of fairness in the mechanism for team balance and individual enjoyment.
The system in place for Advanced Warfare, Condrey says, is the same one that's been in place for Activision's other Call of Duty titles. Still, the team is committed to monitoring the matchmaking situation and making improvements as necessary.
The system can be a little wonky, but it doesn't excuse the increasingly frequent practice of Reverse Boosting — players purposefully killing themselves over and over again, lowering their stats on purpose in order to be placed in matches where they can easily dominate the competition.
Imagine you're in a multiplayer match, desperately struggling against the enemy team for domination of objectives. What may have been an even match is now a losing battle, because Captain Dipshit the Reverse Booster spends the entire match in a secluded area of the map dropping grenades down his pants. As Condrey puts it:
No one wants to lose an objective based match by effectively being outnumbered while their teammate shoots grenades into their own forehead 100 times in the corner. It's not right, and it hurts you and your team's online experience.
Or maybe you're a newer player, learning the ropes. The matchmaking system seems to work for once, and you're in a group filled with inexperienced players — except here comes Captain Dipshit the Reverse Booster, dropped into your match because of his purposely horrible performance. He's picking off players left and right, racking up big rewards in the process. He's a wolf in sheep's clothing, tossing grenades into the kiddie pool.
I could mix metaphors regarding Captain Dipshit all day long, but you get the point. On top of causing frustration for their teammates and enemies, Reverse Boosters also make players like me who normally suicide accidentally multiple times during an online match look bad. Now I have to tell my teammates "Not Reverse Boosting, just clumsy" instead of letting them figure that out for themselves.
Hopefully Sledgehammer's new policy of banning the living hell out of Reverse Boosters will make everything all better.
Call of Duty is both social and competitive, and we respect and honour that. Part of the competition that is core to our values is that players do not adversely degrade their team's ability to compete fairly. It's not dissimilar from the bans that cheaters and boosters receive, and we have increased our focus on reverse boost banning to combat the growing issue. No one is trying to restrict the fun factor of playing Advanced Warfare with this policy, nor are we actively banning against particular styles of play, like trick shots. However, we have a low tolerance approach to people who ruin the experience for others through cheating, boosting, reverse boosting or being caught with toxic emblems in game.
And we all lived happily ever after, only dying because other people made us.