Call of Duty YouTubers team up to get to the bottom of SBMM in Modern Warfare

By Sherif Saed, Thursday, 21 November 2019 12:07 GMT

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s SBMM is once again causing a stir among players, only this time a pair of smart YouTubers decided to involve science.

Skill-based Matchmaking (SBMM) has, without a doubt, consistently been one of the most controversial topics in the Call of Duty community. It’s often blamed for so much of what players believe is wrong with the games they don’t like.

Modern Warfare’s multiplayer is the most controversial in years, so the arguments around SBMM are stronger than ever this year. The short version is that there’s a belief that matches are more competitive than usual this year because player skill is taking precedent over connection quality in matchmaking, which many say ruins the experience.

Because answering SBMM-related questions could risk compromise the likely complex algorithms at work, Call of Duty developers rarely publicly comment on specifics. So two Call of Duty YouTubers decided to do the work themselves to investigate whether there’s a reason why “lobbies are so sweaty” in Modern Warfare.

TheXclusiveAce and Drift0r pooled their efforts to play across six accounts in different skill brackets and record the data in a massive doc. Each one alternated between three accounts; one on the low-end, another average, and one extremely competitive.

To perform this test, both recorded the stats of the players they ran into, as well as the connection quality (ping) to the servers hosting these matches. To avoid the inconsistencies of the in-game ping tracker, the pair used Netduma routers to directly ping the host server. Their findings were illuminating.

First, neither have found any evidence that matchmaking assigns higher priority to player skill over ping to server. In all cases, players were arranged first based on connection, then on skill level. This dispels one common misconception about SBMM.

The other major finding is the most interesting. Based on data across the six different accounts, the game appears to take player performance in the last five matches when matching them up with others in the sixth. However, the thing to note here is that public player stats such as K/D, W/L and score-per-minute don’t quite factor into that.

Instead, there appears to be a hidden skill-tracking algorithm that assigns ratings based on past performance in the last five matches. K/D appears to factor more heavily into that than other stats, but that is still a small .83 coefficient. Using this information, matchmaking then decides who to bring in your lobby. In other words, doing well for five matches moves you to a higher bracket.

At that point, you either triumph and advance into the next, or do poorly and drop to a lower-skill bracket, only to start doing well again, and so on.

The pair agree that, in its current state, SBMM is a bit too aggressive. XclusiveAce more specifically called for the removal of “strict” SBMM in public matches, and you can watch the video above to hear his argument.

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