Gaming

What is SBMM in gaming and why is it so controversial?

Published: 16/May/2020 12:51 Updated: 16/May/2020 13:48

by Joe Craven

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Skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) has been a major topic in the gaming community of late, but what is it, what games use it, and why do so many players have issues with it? 

What is skill-based matchmaking (SBMM)? 

Skill-based matchmaking refers to how a game decides which players to put into your lobby. When you search for a lobby in any video game, it uses a very complex algorithm to find other players and fill up your lobby – this is called matchmaking.

However, different factors can be used to decide which players get put in your lobby. Location and connection are usually the most important factors, meaning that players geographically closer to you are more likely be put in your match, to reduce lag and heighten connectivity.

Skill-based matchmaking, however, does not necessarily discard factors like connection, but also puts emphasis on finding players similar to you in terms of skill level.

For example, in Call of Duty, the matchmaking algorithm is believed to take into account your stats, like time played, score per minute, and Kill/Death Ratio (KDR), and put you in a match with players who are similar in these areas. This generally results in lower-skilled players being matched with other lower-skilled players, and higher-skill players being matched with other high-skill players.

What games use skill-based matchmaking? 

In short, we don’t know every game that uses skill-based matchmaking. A lot of developers like to keep their matchmaking systems under wraps for various reasons.

Regardless, a host of the world’s most popular games have been confirmed as using some level of skill-based matchmaking. These include Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone.

Epic Games/Infinity Ward
Both CoD & Fortnite use SBMM.

Why is skill-based matchmaking controversial and unpopular?

There are a number of reasons why SBMM is disliked by players. Many argue it punishes higher-skilled players. If a player is higher-skilled, they are put into lobbies with other talented players, preventing them from showcasing their skills and dominating weaker players.

Some also contest that it stops games from being casual. If a higher-skilled player is put with other high skill players, they cannot play the game casually, and are required to invest more focus and effort. This is particularly relevant in games that have both public and ranked modes.

A lot of players think Ranked modes should have SBMM, but public matches should be more casual. Fortnite, which has both a ranked mode and public matches, has SBMM in both. This has proved massively unpopular with a number of its most prominent players, including many streamers, like CouRageJD.

Epic Games
Fortnite has a designated Arena mode, but still has SBMM in its public matches.

Why do developers/publishers use SBMM?

If it’s unpopular with a lot of players, then why is SBMM used by developers? There are a number of potential reasons, but a couple bubble to the surface. First off, it protects lesser-skilled players from being annihilated in every game they play, and eventually quitting. If a player is still learning the mechanics of a game, putting them into a lobby with exceptionally talented players wouldn’t be very fun for them.

Also, it keeps matches more challenging and competitive. If each team has similarly skilled players, the game will be closer and, in theory, more enjoyable. Contrast this to a game in which one team is being dominated, it will be far more difficult for a member of that team to enjoy the game.

This is ultimately where the clash comes. Higher skilled players want to be able to dominate lesser skilled ones, at least occasionally, whereas game studios try to protect worse players to encourage them to keep playing. Despite its controversy, more and more games appear to be moving towards SBMM as a primary part of matchmaking.

Apex Legends

Apex Legends dev hints at Mastiff changes coming in update 8.1

Published: 25/Feb/2021 14:28

by Jacob Hale

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As the Mastiff continues to cause trouble all across the Outlands, an Apex Legends dev has hinted that changes to the divisive shotgun are coming in the next update.

With Season 8 now in full swing and Fuse a popular pick in the Legends rotation, the team at Respawn are now looking at how they can better balance the game as it stands right now.

There are already suggestions that the Locked & Loaded loot changes could be made permanent after seeing a lot of enjoyment from fans. The issues players were facing with broken skin textures has also been fixed.

Now, the team are looking at some of players’ biggest complaints, and the Mastiff could be about to meet its maker.

Warp Zone skin on the Mastiff shotgun in Apex Legends
Respawn Entertainment
The Mastiff can cause some serious damage in the right hands.

The Mastiff is absolutely the best shotgun in the game, with decent range and some serious firepower behind it, making it seriously infuriating to play against.

There have been calls across the Apex community to at least nerf the weapon, with some players even now calling the game “Mastiff Legends,” it finally looks like their prayers are being answered.

After a fan pleaded for the upcoming 8.1 update patch notes to feature some kind of promise to fix the Mastiff issue, Respawn producer Josh Medina replied with a very telling emoji, as if to confirm our pleas were working.

As suggested in the original tweet, with the Patch Notes document coming in at over 3000 words, we could be in for some major changes to the game altogether.

That said, the Mastiff is one of the main features that most players want to see changed, and this could mean we’re getting it.

Whether this means a nerf or it being put instead into care packages remains to be seen, but it looks pretty likely now that something is happening.