Apex Legends dev explains matchmaking system as SBMM backlash continues

Loba in Season 15 Apex LegendsRespawn Entertainment

A Respawn Entertainment developer has delved into Apex Legends’ matchmaking system as backlash against skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) continues. 

The gaming community’s debate around SBMM has become as protracted as the one that surrounds aim assist and controllers. 

SBMM refers to a game’s matchmaking taking into account skill level when determining which players are put in a lobby. It is designed to protect lower-skilled players and ensure they are not put into matches against opponents far superior. 

Its inclusion in public matches, which players argue should be inherently casual, is particularly controversial. 

One game that has used SBMM for a significant period of time is Apex Legends. It has come in for considerable criticism from the player base and continues to do so ahead of Season 15.

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Apex Legends dev explains SBMM ahead of Season 15

The topic was broached by TSM’s Albralelie, who asked the devs for a candid explanation of the game’s matchmaking and specifically why public matches use SBMM.

A prompt response came from Samy Duc, a Technical Director at Respawn. He said: “Matchmaking is the combination of 3 things: a progression system, a matching algorithm [and] a skill rating.” 

The progression system refers to what is “exposed to the player”, specifically a player’s badge. A skill rating refers to the game trying to determine a player’s ability, which Duc said is especially difficult in a BR given the amount of RNG present. The final component, the matching algorithm, refers to how the game chooses opponents players are matched with. 

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Duc offered a lengthier explanation of each, before summarizing: “So what is SBMM[?] It is just matchmaking with skill rating, so by definition just matchmaking… pubs usually do not get a progression system and therefore are less sticky to players compared to Ranked.” 

His overall point was that matchmaking is incredibly complex and, just because it takes into account a player’s skill rating and an estimated level of ability, does not mean it is determined by it. 

In public matches, matchmaking is more relaxed and factors in skill rating and talent levels to a lesser extent. 

Whether the detailed explanation placates players is another matter, but it certainly allows the community to better understand what a complex and frequently thankless task video game matchmaking is. 

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