Fortnite

Ninja and SypherPK explain how Fortnite’s SBMM can be greatly improved

by Theo Salaun

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With skill-based matchmaking under fire in Fortnite, Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins and SypherPK examined how softening it could be a simple improvement.

Skill-based matchmaking has been one of the hottest topics in battle royale titles recently. Most recently, Call of Duty: Warzone fans have joined Apex Legends players in mass dissatisfaction with the feature’s implementation.

And, after months of criticism from Fortnite’s playerbase, Epic Games reacted by removing SBMM from its Squads mode this past week. While streamers like Turner 'Tfue' Tenney were hype about the removal, Ninja and SypherPK took some time to examine why it is not the perfect solution.

Epic Games
Fortnite Chapter 2: Season 2 has featured a bunch of additions and some tweaks to SBMM.

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After stomping a squad with a player rocking a default skin, Ninja couldn’t help but remark on the removal of SBMM: “Do you think this is a good trade-off? If a lot of really good people start playing squads again, it’s going to be really, really hard for bad players to get wins.”

And Sypher vehemently agreed, noting that he thinks the change “still has a lot of issues because “it can get out of hand really, really fast”—with the examples of streamers already jumping solo into squads and “dropping 40-bombs and stuff.”

Both eventually came to the same conclusion, that SBMM is important to maintaining reasonable competition but that it should be softened and made more dynamic so that queue times are kept short while lobbies don’t get fully sweaty and full of campers playing like it’s a monied tournament.

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As Sypher expanded, “you can still have skill-based, but it needs to be a lot softer than what it once was … there needs to be certain ranges.” 

And, as for the possibility that lightened SBMM still makes life hard for new players, both agree that there “needs to be a mode where completely new players are in their own matchmaking system until they reach a certain level.” With Ninja specifying that this should be an “open, easy lobby and training area for trash and, not even trash, for brand-new players.”

At the moment, SBMM has been removed entirely or extremely relaxed in squads, and while that has given players some diversity in options, it’s not ideal. The Fortnite pro commented that, since the game’s playerbase is mostly amateur, removing SBMM is “ruining more people’s fun.”

Epic Games
New players need a lobby where they are safe from getting stomped by professionals.

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Game developers are notoriously secretive about their matchmaking algorithms, with Overwatch and League of Legends being prime examples of games that visibly rank their players to ideally even out playing fields.

Using wins, kills and other metrics, developers are able to gauge how skilled a player is and put them against those that are at similar levels. But those effects are less debilitating at higher levels in MOBA-esque games, since top players will simply stick more closely to the meta.

In a battle royale, however, players are forced into lobbies where many are cautiously camping areas to maximize their placement. Since that risk-averse playstyle is less fun, there needs to be a way to compromise between the enjoyment of high- and low-skill players. Perhaps simply softening SBMM provides that compromise.