Skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) has been a controversial subject in recent years but veteran multiplayer developer Josh Menke recently confirmed the feature has always existed in the Call of Duty franchise and assured that it’s getting “better” with each generation.
When you search for a multiplayer game in any online title, you’re entered into a matchmaking pool. This system is responsible for getting you into a lobby with certain teammates and enemies.
When multiplayer titles first started gaining popularity, the process was much simpler. “You just logged into a game and you tried to find a server to join on your own,” Menke, a multiplayer designer with experience on both Halo and CoD explained.
It was a manual system where players had to “scroll through a list to try and find a game that looked good.” In the years that followed, “[developers] started to automate that,” Menke said.
As a result of this automation, SBMM has become an extremely contentious talking point. But although this controversy has only exploded in recent years, the feature has been in effect from the very beginning, he claimed.
At its core, SBMM aims to get you in lobbies with players of similar skill. A number of different factors are weighed up on the fly as everything from hours played to total wins may be taken into consideration. The end goal being competitive games, rather than lopsided stomps.
“[Modern Warfare 2007] did have some skill-based matchmaking,” he confirmed. “All of them always have, it’s just the math and science has gotten better over the years and caught up. If you grew up on it back then, your expectations are very different than if you have it now.
“You’ll have players who play Call of Duty, that will be like, I don’t like skill-based matchmaking, but then they go play Valorant and it’s fine.”
While various publishers may have emphasized different elements of SBMM in their titles, Menke argues “the way it should be done” is by “gathering real-time stats.”
Whichever side of the argument you fall on, it’s clear SBMM has been around for the long run and isn’t going anywhere soon.