Thursday, January 29, 2015

Matchmaking on a Global Scale

More communication!

(by TechMech)

As shared last week, going forward we expect to post a lot more about what the team is doing right now, and how that will affect the game over the next several months, even before they have fully completed the work. We are starting this series with MoK's initial write-up about the outline of the new Matchmaking system. Followed by blog posts that share more details about the new engine and console game releases, and finally, sharing much more information about the new hardware deployment that's going on at the moment. So a slight change in publishing order, with Matchmaking going out before Engine and Console post.

First up: MoK and Matchmaking

Matchmaking on a Global Scale

(by MoK)

At end of 2014 we ran lots of surveys and in depth APB statistics on matchmaking, since it's pretty clear that our matchmaking system requires some serious overhaul. As a result of that review, the team and I have designed a matchmaking solution that addresses the core problem without diminishing a fundamentally strong mechanic.

In short, while the matchmaking system works exceptionally well inside a single district, the core problem is that there simply isn't a sufficient number of equally skilled teams inside any one 100-person district at any one time. And our attempts to regulate that using individual skill thresholds (silver, gold etc.) per player has not worked, since what matters in the end is the strength of the combined team, not the individual player.

We know from the team stats that when a good and evenly balanced match does take place between two equally strong teams, the outcome of the match is pretty much a 50-50 coin flip, which is exactly what we are looking for, and the condition that hits you like a "shock and awe" attack due to the level of action you are surrounded by. However, if no good team match up is available in your current district, then the next reasonable match on that one server may in fact be very lopsided, and after some timeout period the system today will simply start that less than ideal match, just to make sure people aren't idling around.

To fix this, our new matchmaking system will use a hybrid cross-district team system calculating "team skill" levels for all active teams in the game. What matters going forward is the cumulative strength of your team, and teams will be automatically assigned to the best possible opposition, even if that opposition might be playing on a different district server. There are a bunch of technical issues involved in solving that, so more details will be shared when we are closer to launching the system.

The design goal is to offer a better experience for veteran players by connecting and assigning them to teams where the combined team rating is far more equal to the competition, eliminating the need to dethreat to find competition.  This fundamental goal also lets new players to progress right from the beginning at a pace they feel comfortable with and provides an added level of security against abusive and negative behavior in game.

While this will be a radical departure from the present system, at no time will our loyal and experienced players feel that anything they have rightfully earned be lost, or has been dumbed down.  Rather the new matchmaking system will encourage fair competition, yet will still be accessible enough to let new players mature into the serious competition of tomorrow, without getting noob-stomped along the way.

Till next time.

/Ricardo “Mok” Viana

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Preview of upcoming 2015 APB blog posts

Today’s post is not a traditional blog post, but a quick preview of items are going to cover on the blog over the next couple of weeks.

Blog Preview 1: Engine Upgrade 

The First Rule of the Engine Upgrade - is that we don’t talk about the Engine Upgrade.

However, I will be breaking this apparent First Rule in order to share one of the very BIG things that has been going on “under the surface” in APB since early 2014. This “something” has forced us pick a specific date for the engine upgrade release, and then to not talk about it.

Today I can say we WILL be able to share more information about this project "VERY SOON™". As in “days," not weeks. And then it will all make sense. And it will also make sense how the Engine Upgrade relates to what's coming.

Here is a preview image. You will recognize it as one of APB’s startup 3D scenes. The upgraded engine has a new light system that makes lights appear to be part of the scene itself, and not "painted on." In this case, the mobile light rig throwing a yellow-ish hue, from what appears to be portable Sodium Vapor lights, onto the crime scene. Which also features a lot more visual enhancements.

Stay tuned for more information, and timeline for the conclusion of this VERY LONG project, in the next blog entry.

Blog Preview 2: What Players Want! (hint: better matchmaking and a "better" community)

At the end of 2014 we ran several surveys of what our players liked/disliked about APB Reloaded. First the good news; players overwhelmingly like the APB game play by an 83%-17% margin. That’s great news!

But players’ top concern; getting a good match, where they can actually enjoy that game play. Matchmaking loses the “what do you like in APB” question by a 40%-60% margin, with 60% of players calling matchmaking “poor."

Solving matchmaking is complicated in APB, since unlike other games it uses players already in any given 100-player district to trigger new matches, and the selection in each district is naturally limited, especially when it comes to groups and teams.

Therefore in this upcoming blog post, our lead designer Ricardo ("Mok") will share how the team is heads down working on a revamp of all match handling in APB, resulting in a much more global match making system, to give you exponentially better matches.

On the Community side, while we cannot fix the personalities of a few crazy trolls that hang out in the APB community there are some new systems on the horizon that will let us moderate live chats and control the in-game experience much more effectively. These improvements are rolling out over the next few months and should improve the in game experience immensely, hopefully leading to fewer newbies being harassed in game, and happier newbie and "not-yet hardened" players.

Blog Preview 3: Status of New APB Servers 

We have been going through iterations and iterations of different hardware and different configurations, and we think we have finally worked out a solution that will work well and can be deployed starting in our Frankfurt location (yay!). This will also be the permanent solution going forward for all our servers globally, and over time will replace the current range of configurations we have today. This final blog post in the series will examine the new setup, and then show some of the performance metrics we have collected on all the different options over the past few months.

Stay Tuned and check back for the these blog entries VERY SOON™