Halo

How to Effectively Fix A Problem In Video Games

With a new semester in college beginning, I’m hearing about critical thinking. The basis for this phrase is that a person who is good at critical thinking, can be good at thinking outside the box. This aspect applies to both creating an idea or fixing a problem. In essence, this makes problem solving and critical thinking a fantastic combination for people looking to further themselves in the world. The people who are the best at their jobs are going to be those who are the best problem solvers and bringing the best part of critical thinking to the table. With two games having a broken matchmaking and a flawed understanding of the problem at hand, this concept has come to mind a lot. The games I’ve noticed problems on are Battlefield 1 and Halo 5.

Both of these games experience the same problems, but I’m going to focus on Halo, as they’ve at least identified that there is a problem within their warzone matchmaking. My biggest complaint with the problems in Halo is that they have existed for years, since at least Halo 3, potentially into Halo 2. As a player that has switched from playing as a random (playing alone) to playing in maxed out fire teams, I’ve experienced both ends of what it’s like to be dominated by a full party and dominating a group of randoms. Even before I felt my critical thinking skills were competent, I worked out the source of the problem and thought up my own solutions. This makes 343’s attempts to fix the problem irritating, since it fails to really come close to understanding the problem. Even if they fix a minor portion of the problem in Warzone, they will not affect Arena at all. So what’s the problem 343 is facing?

Basically, the way matchmaking systems are created, do not account for a group of buddies against people who have most likely never played together. As a result, the group of friends is much more coordinated and experience a heavy advantage. This can result in coordinated runs for a flag, an uneven match up when someone goes for a power weapon, or even just a simple rotation around a map that is very effective. From the beginning, it has been a frustrating problem that has only gotten worse as time goes on. With the increase in social interactions between gamers, the number of parties is growing with each release. Throw in the fact that it feels great to win, there’s an incentive for farming, along with a lack of control on the problem, it’s almost like throwing gasoline on a fire. I’ve been playing Halo while typing this and it’s basically just a pile of crap. Some games are good, most are bad.

So now that we’ve identified one of the major problems, how do games commonly get to this problem? It all starts with assumptions. The first is the assumption that your matchmaking based on skill is working, when it truly isn’t. The second is to assume that people will have mics and communicate effectively because of any number of reasons – not the case. Third, developers have to assume that your system will be abused,video games often lack preventing over abuse of a working system. Ex: spawn killing. Last, the assumption that a fire team of people can be comparatively matched with a group of randoms/a mixture of smaller teams. Let’s dive into some more problems, hopefully the assumptions being made are clear without being stated.

Let’s Go Streaking!

Each cause and it’s corresponding effect starts with an assumption, and that’s a bit of a unfair jab considering you can’t test out the full game without launching it. The entire thing is pretty much an assumption. With that information, developers should carefully plan for fail safes to their assumptions. In relation to skill based matchmaking, this means monitoring the success of the rankings players are receiving. The way I view a fix for this is by analyzing the losing streaks and winning streaks a player has. If a player has larger losing streaks compared to their winning streaks, your system is failing. This cannot be found by checking a person’s win lose ratio. My ratio on Halo is not awful, but I have experienced some massive losing streaks. I imagine the reason it evens out is due to the points where I win 2 lose 1 for a few games. Shortly after Halo 5 started doing the daily win REQ packs, I kept track of how long it took me to win both. Part of this was because I was attempting to limit the amount of time I spent gaming. No exaggeration, the worse I had was losing 20 games in a row. Somehow, this massive streak would not indicate any problems to the system. Even if I was on the opposite end, with a winning streak of 20, the system would not take any steps to make winning harder.

Quitting Is For Quitters

During my losing streak, and pretty much any time I play, there was a tendency to have a quitter on my team. While Halo is maintaining it’s competitive aspect, it isn’t updating the system to keep up with games like Battlefield, where you can quit at any time and not overly effect your team. This doesn’t mean there haven’t been attempts to curb quitters, it does result in occasionally being banned. Problem: this does not prevent quitters from ending up in games with people who do not quit. Additional problem: if all my teammates quit while there are still 20+ kills left for the other team to win, and I quit, my quit has the same level of worth as their quit. This angers me to no end, I really hate quitting. I hate wasting time more, and lowering my K/D as a competitive player hurts. The two parts to fixing this is to take notes of the certain parts pertaining to a quit. Did each person quit within 30 seconds? That’s a bad quit. What was the score at the time of quitting?  A heavier quit should be enforced when the score is closer. Catch, the score difference should not result in no penalty for quitting. Were you the last person to quit? No penalty at all, given that the score difference was concerning and the delay between each quit indicates being forced to quit. Realistically, this would involve a point system. As part of matchmaking based on skill, people within a certain range of quit points should be paired up with each other. This HAS to extend farther than just one team though, otherwise one team will have a huge chance of winning from the start. A solution like keeps quitters with quitters, and really helps maintain a healthy matchmaking system.

A Very Particular Set of Skills

Much like the penalty for quitting, the way a person’s skill goes up and down is also way too focused on a team. I understand that the game wants to make sure the player isn’t lone wolfing it to the point where they really don’t need a team, but that does not mean my skill is on the same level as my team. As a person who now mainly plays as a random, I’ve noticed just how hard it is to control my skill rank. If I get placed on a team that doesn’t put in the same level of effort as me, I will get docked when we lose. I could go 15/0 and still drop in skill because my team didn’t win. How is that even fair? I can’t control my team, and even if I got a mess of assists in there, followed my team around, or any number of things, the loss would indicate to the system that my teamwork sucked, and therefore, I deserve a lower rank.

The fix is a little complicated, but it has the potential to be perfect. There will be some point where I will be at the perfect level for my skill. Let’s assume my perfect skill level is an Onyx 1500 (could be true?). Winning games should not eventually lead me to being an Onyx 2200, because I will be out played. If I consistently rank up due to a win, while I barely break above a 0.0 K/D, I do not deserve to be ranked up. On the flip side, if I lose while doing great, I do not deserve a drop in skill. Therefore, winning while breaking a 0.0 K/D means I should go up, losing while breaking a 0.0 K/D means I should either move up, or maintain my current position. If I lose while failing to break a 0.0 K/D, I deserve to go down. If I win while failing to break a 0.0 K/D, I do not deserve to go up. A flaw that people may see is that it appears as if I don’t think a person will never have a bad game. However, if you have a bad game, that means you can quickly get out of the rut and get back to where you belong. All this jumping up and down each game is a disaster, and it really feels as though I’m simply trying to climb a ladder without finding the perfect niche for my skill. A fix like this would also prevent “boosting” someone who really doesn’t belong at a rank. If I have surrounded myself with good players, this does not mean I am good.

That fix may go against what a developer would believe. For any reason, I may eventually get better. It’s actually bound to happen, the instant I pick up a game will definitely be worse gameplay than me after weeks or months with the game. The fix mentioned above will account for that, as I play better, the system will take note of wins where my K/D is above the average. Combined with a current matchmaking system that required multiple wins to actually move up, small flukes will not damage or falsely raise me.

I love both Halo and Battlefield, they are pretty much two games I will always play as they release more. With the fixes mentioned above, maybe even a little critical thinking about what is in front of a developer, developers will begin to get down the core problems of their systems. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

 UPDATE:

I decided to hop on with some old friends of mine after this fix 343 put in place. It was interesting to hear from the fireteam basically the exact words I’ve said in matches. The games are now less core’s being blown up, but there is a lot of difficulty in playing because a game could be won or lost based on your randoms. In reality, it has been like a band-aid: the win-loss ratio for most players has probably gone down significantly, but the real problem is still there. The fact that people are getting poor matchmaking is a problem they will not fix without some additional pieces.

I would like to tag on another piece of information that I forgot: the final flaw in Warzone only. The REQ system is a nice way for power weapons to be introduced in Warzone, but it is massively broken in a not so noticeable way. And no, it is not the pay to win part. The problem is the way you get access to those weapons once you’re in a match. The winning team will always get the better weapons before the losing team. It’s simple, if you get a kill, the bar moves up, if you get a base, the bar moves up, if you kill a boss/AI, the bar moves up. All of these are attributes of a winning team, and once you’re winning you do not need power weapons to help you win. I understanding that it is hard to create a system where the losing team gets weapons first and it’s even worse to create a system where everyone gets weapons at the same time, but the current system will always result in a winning team getting an edge. Especially when additional weapons and vehicles are added that are too powerful. The fix in my eyes is the rate at which you can get a weapon after calling one in. If I call in a sniper rifle, that should probably be the only one I get for 5-10 minutes. Being able to always have a power weapon while the other team is still a few levels behinds just creates a down spiral early on in the game. To end on a note that emphasizes the positive things: this is the mind set all developers need when creating a game. It may even require going into the system without friends, to experience what 75% of your buyers will experience. Going in with friends and using the test lab will never get the same experience as those lone users.

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