Back in October 2017, it was revealed that Activision is working on a new matchmaking system that would pair players together in order to encourage microtransactions. And while this system has not been implemented in any game as of yet, another publisher is searching into getting rid of fair matchmaking in multiplayer games. That publisher is no other than EA who has already implemented its dynamic difficulty adjustment in multiple games.
But let’s start from the beginning. Spotted by YongYea, EA is using a dynamic difficulty adjustment for its games. This is a technique for adaptively changing a game to make it easier or harder.
As Electronic Arts claimed:
“In this paper, we propose a DDA framework with a global optimization objective of maximizing a player’s engagement throughout the entire game. Using level-based games as our example, we model a player’s progression as a probabilistic graph. Dynamic difficulty reduces to optimizing transition probabilities to maximize a player’s stay time in the progression graph.”
EA concluded that it has successfully developed a system that applies this technique in multiple games and has observed up to 9% improvement in player engagement with a neutral impact on monetization.
Now some could say that there is nothing wrong with dynamic difficulty adjustments as long as these implementations are fair for all players. However, imagine if such mechanics appeared in games like Dark Souls or Nioh. These games would immediately lose their appeal. Not only that, but we don’t know whether other titles suffer from bugs of that DDA implementation. Remember all those scripted moments in FIFA that made you swear that there was something wrong with the game? A lot of players claimed in the past that the game was deliberately upping the difficulty (or to be more precise, it was making their teammates dumber). Since we don’t have access to its source code, are we sure that EA has not done something to dynamically adjust the difficulty behind players’ backs?
Not only that, but Electronic Arts is also looking into getting rid of the fair matchmaking in multiplayer games. Current games rely on offering a fair machmaking system. However, EA’s employees/researches suggest a different system that would end fair matchmaking. As their research reads.
“In this paper, we propose an Engagement Optimized Matchmaking (EOMM) framework that maximizes overall player engagement. We prove that equal-skill based matchmaking is a special case of EOMM on a highly simplified assumption that rarely holds in reality. Our simulation on real data from a popular game made by Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA) supports our theoretical results, showing significant improvement in enhancing player engagement compared to existing matchmaking methods.”
While this unfair matchmaking system has not found its way to any game yet, it’s obvious that EA is interested in this, especially since a simulation supported its theoretical results. Whether future online games, like Anthem, will suffer from this ‘engagement optimized matchmaking‘ system remains to be seen!