Let's talk: Lobby auto-balancing

#1Zero IXPosted 1/11/2013 1:48:14 PM
In past CoD titles, the teams would be shuffled in the post-game lobby. I always assumed the shuffling was based loosely on post-game score and that its purpose was to keep things fresh (and the lobby alive) instead of repeatedly pitting the good players against the less experienced ones... but I was never given cause to pay much attention to it.

First off, a quick note on "skill-based matchmaking." If you still don't know how it works, matchmaking grabs the nearest fifty games, assuming those will be the cream of the crop for you ping-wise (which to be fair is usually correct). The lobby you get into is determined by two loose filters: "broad skill" and ping. For example, if your connection setting is set to "Best," it adds a minimum ping requirement that will cause the game to search again if no suitable games are found on the first go.

The broad skill filter is interesting because no one knows exactly how the game calculates broad skill beyond a bunch of guesses, and it's loose because the gap between the best stats in the lobby and the worst tend to be huge, but the filter does seem to increase the chances of there being at least one or two similarly skilled players per lobby to the point of almost guaranteeing it in heavily-populated playlists.

Now, here's what I've noticed: This game clearly attempts to auto-balance the lobby pre-game. I play solo the overwhelming majority of the time so I didn't really notice before, but after playing with my friend for a few nights I definitely saw a trend... it would be me, him, and usually a bunch of god-awful players against one or two better players or (worse) a team of relatively average players. (For reference, we play Kill Confirmed the overwhelming majority of the time.)

This leads to many games being lost because the inexperienced players on our team just flat-out died too much, and often the shoe's on the other foot when we win. While matchmaking's skill-based component is fairly flimsy on its own (after all, parties and connection requirements both effective cap its influence in Public), when combined with pre-game balancing, it has been working fairly well... sometimes unpleasantly so, lol. Even if there are a bunch of people who just got the game in your lobby, it could still turn out not to be a blowout because of one or two "power players" (or "lovely nerds," to quote Vahn) on the other team. (Not to mention awhile ago a guy Tweeted to Vahn complaining about getting strapped with a bunch of bads and Vahn replied that was lobby auto-balancing doing what it was supposed to do.)

Here's my question: How much of this pre-game balancing part of past CoDs? Vahn claims a skill component has been a part of every CoD's matchmaking, but obviously I take that with a game of salt. This game's matchmaking seems demonstrably predictable; if there are four guys with good KDRs and SPMs in a lobby, it'll put two on one team and two on the other the majority of the time if the other players in the lobby are (relatively) equally bad. I don't recall it working like this in past titles at all. So far, this applies more to "small" parties than large ones, because not only do more than three competent players working together gain a significant advantage over a team that isn't, but big parties effectively "break" the skill filter because let's face it... most CoD players are bad, and there's no way matchmaking can find five or six (or even four) guys with really good stats to pit against you (given party and ping requirements) if you're in a team of five or six guys with really good stats.

How has this effected your playing habits?

My next post will detail a couple simple ways to win at a (relatively) high rate in spite of auto-balanced lobbies if you mostly play solo or in a smaller party.
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#2forgotten0285Posted 1/11/2013 1:49:33 PM
holy crap dude wheres the TL;DR at?

I agree that essentially the team with the worst player loses. happens all the time, just gotta deal with it.
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#3gwetmore4523Posted 1/11/2013 1:51:33 PM
I mostly play solo as well and when I first get into a lobby based on looking at quick stats everything is usually balanced fairly well. However if I completely obliterate the opposing team I usually end up with all of players that did the worst in the previous game. This assumes the opposing team didn't dashboard or rage quit either during or after the game ended.
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#4DraconilianPosted 1/11/2013 1:51:51 PM
When playing with a 3 person party, we do multi-team

4 person, we do TDM because we can outweigh the noobs

2 people we do TDM and accept that we will lose most games.

That's how my clan works against this.
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#5Zero IX(Topic Creator)Posted 1/11/2013 2:22:37 PM
I was able to maintain a 2.5 W/L in MW2 by myself, but in BOII, I've noticed my winning percentages are much lower. At first, I chalked this up to a lack of familiarity with the metagame or maps on my part, as well as the lag component. (After all, success in CoD is predicated on one's ability to get consecutive kills, and entering a gunfight that experience tells you is highly favorable only to find that your opponent has a significant reaction time advantage due to lag after the fact can be the difference between winning or losing a game, i.e. it might have been the last kill you needed to kick off your scale-tipping scorestreak chain.)

However, I began to notice a trend because even when I was having a good night and putting up scores of +40-50 every single game, while I was winning more on "bad" nights, scores like that in past CoDs would have been enough to essentially ensure my team would win. The worst session ever was eight consecutive games where I went over 40 kills with five or less deaths and 30+ confirms but lost every single game... and that's in different lobbies! I realized this was happening because even though my partner and I were able to kill the other team's weak players at a high rate, our equivalents opposing us were doing the same to the four no-prestige guys on our team.

For awhile, my W/L felt disparaging close to 1-for-1 compared to past titles for someone who typically play in parties but doesn't quit games and puts the win before KDR. The following steps have got it back on track and trending upwards towards 2.0+ like it should be:

1) Run VSAT ASAP. If you aren't "good enough" to get a VSAT, practice makes perfect. Adjust your pace accordingly to ensure you get it, because it is the most powerful killstreak in the game. VSATs have a cumulative effect; if other players on your team are close to their own streaks, VSAT will give them the best possible chance to get them. BOII is the most momentum-based CoD yet due to scorestreak chaining. Especially in KC, where teammates can feed your scorestreak by collecting your tags, a chain such as VSAT, EMP, and Lodestar or Swarm only requires you to get enough score between kills and confirms to get a VSAT for you to get the EMP and Lodestar, and chances are after the Lodestar or Swarm, you'll be very close to ANOTHER VSAT. This effect is multiplied exponentially if you have even just one other VSAT-capable player with you.

1.5) A highly recommended scorestreak chain for a solo player is UAV, VSAT, and a high streak of your choosing. Lodestar is a good choice because it is unlocked relatively early, is piss-easy to get after a VSAT, and is absolutely devastating on most maps, not to mention if the enemy is being lit up by a VSAT, their chances of shooting you down are slender if you keep pumping those missiles into their spawn.

2) Being aggressive is generally your best bet, especially if you have a fast Internet connection. If the popularity of SMGs and all the videos slamming BOII's "lag communism" haven't got it through to you yet, the guy turning corners first and moving fast will enter more gunfights with an innate, consistent advantage in BOII as opposed to a douche sitting in a corner. I'll tell you a secret: SMG + Stock + Lightweight can feel like the equivalent of having double the health provided you can aim while strafing. You can literally eat enemy bullets. Playing aggressively increases your encounters per minute which increases your chances of running into the other team's weaker players (which tend to be in the majority) repeatedly, expediting your scorestreak.
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#6irishman5705Posted 1/11/2013 2:33:38 PM
TC, that guy who got that response from Vahn was me >___>

Small world, I suppose.
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#7Zero IX(Topic Creator)Posted 1/11/2013 2:37:50 PM(edited)
2.5) If you are going to play slower and focus on middle-range gunfights instead of closer quarters, make sure you do so intelligently, i.e. use an accurate AR. Even if you're shooting from behind cover, your relatively weak SMG bullets will frequently not be able to overcome an enemy AR, who often has the option of simply shooting through your cover. This goes double if an AR user is using Toughness. This isn't to say you should never post-up with an SMG, of course, but if you are using an SMG, don't forget the nature of your true advantage lies in your mobility (which makes lag work for you more often than not). If you prefer a less mobile or generally more tactical style of play, despite what complaining players would have you believe, most SMGs are pound-for-pound weaker at middle ranges compared to ARs.

3) Take the time to create some counter-classes, i.e. if you normally don't play with a Suppressor, the solo or small-party player would do well to keep a suppressed alternate class on reserve for player against teams that are actually paying attention to their mini-maps. Additionally, an anti-air support class with Blind Eye and Cold-Blooded is a must (although ideally you will want to play actively enough to where the enemy won't easily get such high scorestreaks), and if you don't regularly run EMP nades, having at least one class with EMP nades and Engineer on tap is a very good idea. Bad players are like magnets for Sentry Guns and AGRs, and you will lose a lot of tags to them if you don't act fast to remove them. Right after entering prestige a night or two ago, I saw a Sentry Gun placed by the statue in the middle of Slums get over ten kills because the other team was too dumb to deal with it effectively. Don't just stick to the same class the entire match if the enemy is employing tactics you have the means to exploit.

That's all for now.

TL;DR BOII's broad skill filter and auto-balanced lobbies have a subtle but noticeable effect on lobby makeup and winning percentages for solo and small party players.

irishman5705 posted...
TC, that guy who got that response from Vahn was me >___>

Small world, I suppose.


Seriously? Wow. xD
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"An Incandescent Revelation in a World of Darkened Forms"
The bird of Hermes is my name, eating my wings to make me tame
#8MegaTape13Posted 1/11/2013 2:49:53 PM
Maybe I haven't played this game enough to notice any differences, but every CoD game I've ever played has seemed to balance the same:

Me + 5-8 vegetables vs. the rest of the lobby

I know that sound arrogant, but it really does seem to pan out that way 90% of the time, and always has. It's been one of the running jokes with CoD that you can go 40-3 in TDM and still lose.

Parties do indeed break the system, although to a lesser degree these days since parties seem much more common in general, and theoretically that offers an easy balancing scenario for the system. I honestly don't think I've played a single non-FFA non-Merc game of BO2 without a 2+ person party on one team.
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#9Zero IX(Topic Creator)Posted 1/11/2013 2:59:12 PM(edited)
MegaTape13 posted...
Maybe I haven't played this game enough to notice any differences, but every CoD game I've ever played has seemed to balance the same:

Me + 5-8 vegetables vs. the rest of the lobby

I know that sound arrogant, but it really does seem to pan out that way 90% of the time, and always has. It's been one of the running jokes with CoD that you can go 40-3 in TDM and still lose.

Parties do indeed break the system, although to a lesser degree these days since parties seem much more common in general, and theoretically that offers an easy balancing scenario for the system. I honestly don't think I've played a single non-FFA non-Merc game of BO2 without a 2+ person party on one team.


Not arrogant... every time I played with you back in the ye olde Black Ops days, you were an extremely dominant player. I'm just wondering how much of this is blatant confirmation bias on my side and how much BOII's actually been able to successfully shift the paradigm (or reinforce it, I should say).

Due to the nature of success in CoD and the effect a big scorestreak chain can have on a game, I have a hunch that there's a "breaking point" where a guy who can't be stopped from getting his VSAT in an average lobby would need multiple competent players well-versed in the game to counteract his effect which in turn leads to a drastically higher winning percentage for a solo player (most of whom have sub-1.0 W/L)... but I won't know till I'm a (significantly) better BOII player myself. >>
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"An Incandescent Revelation in a World of Darkened Forms"
The bird of Hermes is my name, eating my wings to make me tame
#10duericPosted 1/11/2013 3:04:11 PM
Honestly, I don't pay much attention to the AB. It's always been horrid, IMO. Parties, whether 2 or 6 man, completely screw it up. I stopped checking lobby leaderboards long ago because it simply doesn't matter.

Though I will say that there has never been a game like Blops 2 where I can absolutely destroy a lobby, yet somehow lose EVERY FREAKIN' TIME. It happens so much it's uncanny.
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