The Trouble with Matchmaking

Loose Matchmaking during Tournaments

We have known for a while that during tournaments the matchmaking is looser than normal. With typical matchmaking, you’ll usually be paired with an opponent that is at your HQ level or slightly higher. During tournaments, however, we noticed that you’ll see opponents that are noticeably, but not dramatically, lower than you are. This is most evident by their turrets and shields. To become familiar with the different turret and shield designs for different levels, see the Star Wars Commander Database.

The other day, one of my HQ level 6 squad mates pointed out that he was routinely getting attacked by level 8 Imperials. I could hardly believe it, and so he sent me screenshots of his defense history. Sure enough, 13 of his last 17 attacks were by level 8 Imps.

Adjusted Base Score and the Matchmaking Formula

Matchmaking is based on your adjusted base score and a matchmaking formula. Your adjusted base score is calculated as follows:

Adjusted Base Score (ABS) = Base Score * (0.00004 * Medals + 0.99)

For example, one of the Imps that attacked my squad mate was Milo, from the squad “Active”. His base score is 1999 and he has 16,416 medals.

ABS = 1999 * (0.00004 * 16416 + 0.99) = 3292

Someone with a lower base score but more medals, or higher base score and fewer medals could have an ABS close to yours.

Matchmaking Formula

The matchmaking formula was published on 11/20/2014. The matchmaking system creates a pool of 200 possible opponents every time you log in. It uses a series of buckets to fill your pool. The first bucket is fairly small and so the opponents are very close to your adjusted base score. If the system can’t fill your pool of 200 with bucket 1, it moves to bucket 2, which is larger and will select opponents that have higher and lower ABS than those in bucket 1. The system will repeat this process, gathering opponents that are less and less similar to you until your pool of 200 is filled. This should only take a few passes of the buckets, but it can “go up to a maximum of 10” buckets (Matchmaking Diary #2).

The matchmaking formula is:

Matchmaking range = ABR +/- 10 * (bucket)^2

“bucket” in this formula is the number of the bucket (1-10). So, for the first pass of the bucket for our Imp opponent Milo, the matchmaking range should be between ABS 3282 – ABS 3302.

Randomization

Due to “Could Not Find Opponent” errors, a randomization variable was introduced into the formula so that the range could be increased or decreased by as much as 10%. Therefore, Milo’s first bucket opponents could have an ABS of 2952 – 3631.

Here’s how that should look:

The matchmaking pool is filled from the center (bucket 1) and works its way out.

The matchmaking pool is filled from the center (bucket 1) and works its way out.

Milo is shown in the center, and his potential Rebel opponents are along the bottom of the image. In his first bucket should be someone like our squad mate, Luke. His base is almost completely maxed level 8 and his medals are capped. The Rebel on the right side is Zapper. He is currently (as of 4/12/15) the highest ranked Rebel, with 21,467 medals. He would fall into bucket #6 for Milo. Also in bucket #6 would be another squad mate of ours, Tuskoona. Like the others, he’s HQ level 8 and has 11,811 medals. Please, note that since Zapper is the highest ranked Rebel, the matchmaking system has no choice but to choose much lower ranked Rebels to match with Milo.

The Rebel that did fall into Milo’s pool was Cyad the Great, with a base score of 1272 and 7714 medals. As I mentioned, the developers said that system should use, at most, 10 buckets to fill the pool. In this case, it took 12 buckets.

It Gets Worse

When I posted my initial analysis of this problem on the SWC Forums (https://www.playdomforums.com/showthread.php?209639-Matchmaking-is-worse-than-I-thought), I expected some backlash from the Empire. Instead, they agreed with me, and it’s actually worse than our example of Milo and Cyad the Great. Here are two bases that level 8 Imps have been matched up with in the past few days:

HQ Level 1 Rebel

HQ Level 1 Rebel

HQ Level 3 Rebel

HQ Level 3 Rebel

More Imps confirmed that they too had seen many of these extremely low level Rebel bases in their matchmaking pool. If they had an ABS similar to Milo, that would be as many as 18 passes of the ever widening buckets.

Why is this Happening?

We have come up with a few theories as to why the system is so broken.

  1. The Empire outnumbers the Rebels.Shortly after Star Wars Commander was released, the graphic below was released, which showed that 52.4% of the players chose the Empire. It is suspected that the Empire makes up a much larger portion today. Therefore, there are more and more Imperials trying to attack fewer and fewer Rebels, and so the system has to look much harder to find opponents for them.

    The Empire outnumbers the Rebels.

    The Empire outnumbers the Rebels.

  2. We are in a tournament. During tournaments there is extra motivation to attack as much as possible. This worsens the problem by the Imps wanting to attack even more, and since the Rebels are spending more time attacking as well, there aren’t as many available to be attacked.
  3. Rebels are riding out their protection. This is a theory based on what the Empire did when they were frustrated that their ATAT broke. When players become frustrated, they try to minimize their losses by using up all of their protection time before they play a series of attacks. When they’re not frustrated, they are more likely to break protection when they still have several hours remaining. So, on a normal day an active Rebel might get attacked 5-8 times, but when they’re riding out their protection, they might only get attacked 3-4 times. Riding out protection could decrease the potential number of opponents in half.

What’s the solution?

  1. Have fewer tournaments. The tournament that just ended came just a few days after the last one ended. Normally their is a campaign in between tournaments, but we’ve had 3 consecutive tournaments. I suggest that tournaments be spaced 2 weeks apart, even if there won’t be a campaign in between.
  2. Make Rebels happier. There is a widespread sentiment that the game currently favors the Empire, even though Chris (a developer) has shown some data suggesting relative balance between the factions (see this thread). I think Rebels will be happier when they can win more often on defense, when the juggernaut AI is fixed, and when adjustments are made to Rebel units so they can use something besides the heavy/med combination.
  3. Shorten protection time. I don’t like this solution, but it would be an effective way to force more high level Rebels back into the matchmaking pool. My solution would be that when you lose on defense, the number of medals that you lose corresponds with the number of hours of protection that you receive. It already does this in a loose sense by giving you 4 hours for every star that your attacker gets on you.
  4. Show repeat opponents. Any time that you see a base (whether you attack it or skip it), the system won’t let you see it again until you’ve seen at least 50 other bases. One interesting and unexpected statistic that Chris shared in the aforementioned thread was that Imps skip more than Rebels do. I think all this skipping forces the system to look farther for an opponent, and I think it would be better to show them those same level 8 opponents a 2nd or 3rd time rather than show them level 5-6 (or lower) bases. The Imps on the forums are complaining about being shown these low level bases, so I think there should essentially be a minimum limit for how far the matchmaking buckets can reach. There should be a hard limit of 10 buckets to be used for matchmaking. If the pool runs dry, then show them the ones they skipped.

Conclusion

These are just a few ideas that might help the problem. Of course, it would be most helpful if there were more Rebels playing the game, but you can’t force that choice. Some Imps have said that if the artwork were better for the Rebels, they might have chosen that faction.

Ultimately, the SWC development team needs to figure out the best course of action. The current matchmaking system is frustrating low level Rebels (who are getting slaughtered) and high level Imps (since it’s boring to steamroll a base with just a few stormtroopers), and possibly causing players to leave the game. I believe that faulty matchmaking and the medal cap are the two biggest problems that are driving away devoted SWC players.

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