Sunday, 22 December 2013

Dota 2 Match Making system flaws.

I just want to start by saying this isn't my post but something I found on PlayDota, you can find the original thread here.

The current matchmaking system punishes players for doing well, and rewards them for doing poorly in order to average out games, which in turn artificially converges player winrates to 50% no matter how skilled they are. The drawback of this system isn't merely the reflection of player skill (MMR, DSR, DBR), which I find irrelevant, not being an epenis whore like so many of you, but rather what is lost is the game quality for players- the better you do at this game, the bigger the handicap you take, and less enjoyable games are. And that bothers me a great deal. So I will explain what is occurring in the matchmaking, and how it is a dirty socialist system, and how it could be improved to give equal opportunity to each player without coddling to the lowest common denominator.

How the socialist matchmaking works:

Right now, the matchmaking works by taking the 10 closest MMR players it can find that are searching online at the same time. This is a deceptively low number- while you might have "100000 online", those players are divided between afk, spectating, bot games, tutorials, being already in-game and not searching, and then a whole host of server options and game modes that further divide the playerbase. A player might spend 3 minutes searching and 30 minutes playing. When you look at only one or two servers, for one game mode, for only solo queue- you've divided the playerbase so much that the matchmaking has very limited options on matching players. It starts off with a certain MMR spread allotted to each player to be matched to other MMR players, and expands this the longer that player searches.

The result of all this is that there is a large degree of skill breadth in each game. The less players available, the more disparate their MMRs, the more imperfectly matched a game. I should note here, that what is important to understand is that this imperfection is a degree of its inability to match players based on their MMR, not an imperfection with the metrics used to evaluate MMR in the first place. If your gripe is with the appraisals, this is not the thread for you- its irrelevant to the dire flaw in how the MMR is actually used. And what is that flaw?

How the socialism is applied

When 10 players have been chosen for a match with different skill levels, the matchmaking arranges them so that both teams have as close to a 50% chance to win as possible, as determined by this MMR value. This might seem innocuous at first inspection. The teams have been made fair? Whats the problem? The problem is, when teams are *balanced*, it is accomplished by putting good players with bad players to average out the team. A handicap. If you are good, you will get worse allies, if you are bad, you will get better allies- this is statistically on average, across a large number of games.

The better you are at dota 2, the worse your allies will be compared to your opponents.

Now you might think- well thats a truism, isn't it? A good player will have worse allies than himself on average, because he's above average. Trivial. But then comes the fundamental problem. When you balance two teams by giving the good player bad allies, then good players will on average have worse allies than opponents. THATS the handicap- not that the teams themselves are inequal, but that a good player will be disadvantaged compared to his opponents. His allies are worse than them, and he has to work that much harder to make up for their lack, just to bring the score up to 50:50.

And that, gents, is nothing short of winrate redistribution. Taking good players who have gotten where they are by being better than other people, and saying that they should suffer handicaps so that worse players can feel good about themselves and win more. Its a coddling to the lowest common denominator. Its inequal opportunity.

There are those who will say that sometimes handicap will be in your advantage, sometimes against you, and its supposed to even out in the long term, right? It won't. The higher you are above average, the more it works against you. You'll be the good player on a team of 4 shitters more likely than you'll be a good player on a team of 4 pros, weighting them down. This is simple logical necessity for a playerbase with a bell curve of skills available and real world limitations on the number of players it can choose. This isn't a phenomenon that applies "only to the upper crust 1%". While it is indeed us top 1% elite of build creators that get taxed the hardest by Ogaben here, this actually applies to everyone above 50%. The handicap you get on average is proportional to the amount you deviate from middle. Those just slightly above 50% get just slight disadvantage via handicap. The better you get, the more handicapped you get. The inverse is true for the worst players.
  • The matchmaking's ability to find 10 equal players is inversely proportional to the handicap it applies
  • The handicap applied to you is proportional to how far above/below average you are
  • Winrates of good players are redistributed to make bad players feel better about themselves
  • Players have inequal opportunity: If a good player logged onto the account of a 46% shitter, he'd easily win 75%+ of his solo queue games, but on his own account, he'd only win 52%-

So to reiterate the important bit: This is about how good players are handicapped by giving them worse allies than opponents on average. The actual winrate you get isn't what matters. Indeed, in an ideal system with infinite resources, players would all win 50% of their games- the best players would just be matched in games of 9 equally skilled "also the best" players. But the limitations of matchmaking to find suitable players- the same limitations responsible for why match times are ~3-5 minutes- are proportional to the handicap placed on players.

What can we do to overthrow comrade MMR?

The preface for this portion is that we remember our goals. The goal is not to 'get winrates above 50%'. Its not to get winrates as a reflection of skill. I don't care for e-penis thumping. The goal, instead, is to improve match quality and enjoyability, by giving equal opportunity and fairness to all players.

The immediate solution is obvious. Take the normal procedure for matchmaking:
  • Find 10 players of as equal skill as possible
  • Arrange them in teams to enforce 50% winrate
and instead randomize it:
  • Find 10 players of as equal skill as possible
  • Arrange them randomly, same as -SP in dota 1
Why randomly? Because statistically, in the long term, this ensures that all 9 players other than yourself are of equal skill level to each other. Not necessarily equal to you- good players will find the other 9 worse than themselves, but both allies and opponents equally bad. And then they'll win more games then they lose. They'll get above 50%. Again, not for the sake of letting them win more games, but because that is the simple consequence of having some players better than others in a fair game- they should win more. It is only in a game with a ludicrous handicap, like dota 2 right now, that good players are forced down to ~50% winrates no matter how skilled they are, if they play solo queue. This would make the inability of the matchmaking to find 10 equally skilled players no longer proportional to the handicap it gives you, but instead proportional to your winrate above 50%

There are those who say that this would bring turmoil to low level pubs where the amount of one sided games would increase. Fair enough. Thats a legitimate criticism. You'd have fair games *on average* for all players, but in exchange, each game would be more one sided, balanced out only by the law of large numbers. Don't mistake the one sidedness for unfairness- games would be more onesided, but with no artificial handicap, the average would still be more fair to players of all stripes. And while the affairs of the abaisses normally wouldn't bother me, let us amend this system slightly to read- those players above average are sorted randomly, and those below average sorted according to "enforced 50% winrate". Thus securing the best of both worlds. The diamond crust elite at the top, us build creators from whom the knowledge trickles down- would no longer have our winrates redistributed to service the grovelling scum, yet those same masses reliant on valve welfare right now to prop them up would remain so, with bad players propping up worse players. The right to fair matches- to not be handicapped- would be one reserved for those players who exceed the 50% mark. Only when games are sufficiently high level would the handicap be removed.

All this is well and good theorycraft about a hypothetical change, but remember that valve is even more sedentary and slothlike than it is socialist. For each desire to tax the hard working players there is ten times over the lack of progress. More unlikely than death by rejection is the death of silence and indifference. So the question is begged- how do we players respond to this handicap, how do we work around it within the reach of our own device? And to that I present a handy guide to the options available:
  • Stack
Simple enough, you can stack with allies of your choice rather than take those given to you. With good enough allies, you will win far more than you lose, a simple product of valve being *forced* to give you fair games to within its ability, rather than handicapping you. Because valves only method of handicap is to give you allies worse than yourself, as long as you remove the extra player slots on your team from its grubby hands, you can break the shackles of matchmaking tyrrany. No solo queue player has broken 57% winrate. Stacking players exceed 70%. Thats the number one method
  • Feed
Simple enough, just break your winrate. If you truly don't care about your epenis, and have little regard for your fellow man, lose games intentionally until you drop to 50% winrate. Once you are 50% winrate, you'll get fair games. You can lose more later. The drawback here, of course, is the unaltruistic feeding that you have to do to get there.
  • Smurf
Unfortunately, thanks to valves extra precautions taken to shut down smurfing, you have to combine this with the former- feeding- in order to actually get fair games. One of the few tools given you, valve still felt it was necessary to abolish. So as a result, smurfing is highly ineffective unless you take concern not to get detected. My recommendation is to simply let your team play 4v5 while you do something like afk cliff jungle a divine rapier as furion. If you go 40-0 in your first few games, you'll wind up right back where you started.
  • Widen Search Options
Since the handicap is applied inversely proportionally according to the ability of the matchmaking to find equally skilled players, searching in more narrow queues means putting yourself up for a bigger handicap. By searching in queues with the most players, you are more likely to find games with 9 equally skilled players. For example, don't search -CM in solo queue at 3 AM. But do search -AP on 7 PM on a tuesday with 3 servers and languages turned on.

Why Valve hates you

Because of hats. Hats hats hats, as always.
The reality is, its not in valve's economic interests to make the matchmaking equal opportunity or fair. By coddling to that lowest common denominator and letting the worst players feel good about themselves, they get to retain a larger playerbase and in turn, sell more hats. The coins you line gabes wallet with are nothing next to the 48% winrate talentless bottom feeders who turn out in droves to suckle at the teat of valve's matchmaking handouts. Without this handicap, they would drop to 35% winrate. And at 35% winrate, they would quit the game, and there would be less revenue.

This is why the handicap *must* exist. Because its simply bad business to have a game that actually reflects player skill. You make a game where you have to be skilled to succeed, and only that diamond crust is retained. You make a game that will pamper the assholes, and they'll think they're actually competent enough to play it. So to be sure, theres one group that has it in their best interests to oppose the end of winrate welfare, now lets hear from them.