3 Reasons Why Battlerite Should Abandon Solo Queue

UPDATE: I wrote this back before Battlerite was even in closed alpha testing. Since then, Battlerite has exceeded all expectations and a lot of the assumptions behind this post are now moot. So I definitely see the value of solo queue and don’t want it to be taken away, but I’ll leave this post in its original, unedited form for historicity’s sake.


I’m anticipating a lot of flak for this post because I’m going to make a case against solo queuing in Battlerite. If you get to the end of this post and disagree with me, that’s totally fine — feel free to tear me a new one in the comments.

All I ask is that you read this with an open mind.

Here’s what I’m proposing:

  • One ranked 2v2 queue, teams only.
  • No other queues at all.
  • Unranked games played in hosted lobbies.

If that sounds radical, hopefully I can convince you why this could be the best thing for Battlerite’s growth and playerbase. I’m also willing to change my mind if you think I’m wrong!

1. Solo Ratings Are Unreliable

In order for a solo queue to work, every player needs to have a personal rating, which is some number that describes that player’s skill level relative to the entire playerbase. Without a personal rating, the matchmaking system doesn’t have enough information to find and match up players of similar skill levels.

However, the biggest reason why solo queue is problematic is that a player’s personal rating doesn’t actually tell you much about that player. It’s little more than an illusion of information. As evidenced by other team-based games that have solo queues, personal ratings are actually quite volatile.

For example, if a player has a rating of 1500, what exactly does that tell you? He could’ve arrived at that number in a dozen different ways. Maybe he was powerleveled by someone who carried him from 1000 to 1500. Or maybe he normally averages around 1800 but recently hit a string of unlucky games that dropped him 300 points.

featured-bloodline-sentinel

My main point here is that your personal rating can be influenced by too many factors outside of your personal control. Any time you pair up with an AFK or lagger or troll, your rating drops. If you’re on the other side, your rating jumps up. Either way, it’s not because of anything you did.

Some people say that none of this matters because this variance in personal ratings will even out over time and become more accurate the longer you play — which is theoretically true, but not so in practice. How many games are needed to statistically reduce variance? 10,000? 50,000? 100,000? Only a handful of people will ever get that far.

Personal ratings also fail to reflect your skills with different champions. If someone earned a rating of 2000 while playing nothing but Ashka, that rating might be close to accurate — but only for Ashka. What if they decided to play Croak in their next game? They won’t necessarily be a 2000-rating Croak player.

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Overall, personal ratings can describe your “tendency to win over time” but only in the long term. Plus, they’re too volatile and too unreliable to be used as a measure of skill or as a basis for accurate matchmaking.

The solution? Get rid of personal ratings altogether and focus solely on team ratings. Team ratings are more accurate, more consistent, and less influenced by uncontrollable factors. If Battlerite is going to be a 2v2 game, then ratings should measure your performance in a 2v2 setup. That just makes the most sense.

Cutting personal ratings would mean that solo queues have no basis for matching players of similar skill, therefore solo queues would have to be cut as well.

2. One Queue = Better Matchmaking

I think the best way forward for Battlerite will be to have a single queue: 2v2 teams only. This queue would work in the same way that it did in Bloodline Champions, which is that players would have to pair up, create a 2v2 team, and then use that team to enter the queue. Each 2v2 team would have its own rating.

Some say that this would kill the game, but I honestly don’t think it would. The benefits would far outweigh any cons and the net gain would be positive for Battlerite’s quality of gaming.

For starters, having one queue solves the problem of a fragmented playerbase. Stunlock and Funcom both made a lot of mistakes with Bloodline Champions, and in retrospect, it’s easy to see how their matchmaking system unknowingly cannibalized itself and prevented itself from growing larger.

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Essentially what I mean is that there were too many queues. Ignoring the ones that barely got any play, such as the CTA and Conquest queues, there were still three main ones that did see a lot of activity: Ranked 2v2, Ranked 3v3, and Unranked 3v3 (which allowed solo queueing).

In theory, having different kinds of queues is great because each one caters to a different kind of player — maybe some people don’t like one queue but enjoy another queue — but in practice, this really only works when: 1) the gameplay itself caters to multiple kinds of players and 2) the playerbase is large enough to support it.

Bloodline Champions was a game that appealed to a very niche audience and it’s safe to assume that Battlerite will be like that, too. Players either love the gameplay or they hate it, and those who love it will play it regardless. Having multiple queues doesn’t capture a larger audience for a game like this.

But what it does do is dilute the size of each queue. If you have 600 concurrent players online, does it really make sense to split them up as 200 players in each queue? A niche game like Battlerite can’t afford this kind of dilution, especially because it negatively affects the integrity of the matchmaking system.

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Long story short, matchmaking systems need a large sample size in order to be effective — we’re talking in the range of several thousand players per queue. And realistically speaking, Battlerite will be lucky to have 1,000 concurrent players online at any given time. For the sake of matchmaking, those players need to be in the same queue.

We get two benefits from having a single 2v2 queue: we’ll be matched into games faster and each game will be more accurate in terms of matching skill level versus skill level. Collapsing everything into one queue will mean better quantity AND better quality of matchmaking games.

Then what about players who don’t want ranked games? That’s what player-hosted lobby games will come into play.

This is better than having a separate Unranked queue because, as explained above, solo ratings are notoriously unreliable. Instead, players could host games and set a skill level for that game — such as Newbie, Intermediate, Veteran — similar to how players could set a grade range for hosted games in Bloodline Champions.

Lobby games themselves are beneficial because:

  • You can play multiple games with the same players, which builds relationships and helps newbies enter into the community.
  • You can kick and avoid trolls and obnoxious players, whereas you have no choice to avoid them if you were to play an Unranked queue.
  • You can specify things like “First Timers Only” or “No Ranids” or “24/7 Baako’s Grave” — small little variations that you can’t really ensure with a queue system.

3. Newbies Will Be Fine Without It

The other big argument against the removal of the solo queue is that it will harm newbie retention. While I can kind of see the reasoning behind that, I’m not personally convinced that it would really be that much of an issue.

If you’re wondering how it would harm newbie retention, the idea is that a solo queue makes it easy for newbies to hop into the game and play whenever they want — and that’s absolutely true. There’s an elegant simplicity to the idea that you can just click a button to find your next game. The system handles it all for you.

But solo queuing is ultimately a convenience feature, not a make-or-break feature. Remember that even if a solo queue did exist, it would be for Unranked matches only — so if a newbie is looking for Unranked matches, they can just look to the list of player-hosted lobby games.

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Would this be more work than a one-click button for solo queuing? Sure. Is it such a massive inconvenience that a newbie would throw up their hands and quit simply because a solo queue doesn’t exist? I doubt it. Indeed, I feel that the player-hosted option is superior, especially for newbies.

And as far as queueing is concerned, finding a partner actually isn’t that hard. Even the most socially awkward player can drop a quick question into global chat (“Anyone want to team for Ranked 2v2?”) and be ready to play within minutes. It’s exponentially easier to find one partner than to find two teammates.

So I think my proposal is more than reasonable. Want to play solo? Find a game in the player-hosted list. (And if Unranked queues don’t exist, you can bet that there will be plenty of player-hosted games to join.) Want to play Ranked? Find a partner.

Solo Queue: Yes or No?

I’m certain that this will be an unpopular opinion, so all I ask is that you refrain from posting a knee-jerk reaction to the title. Please read it through at least once. If you see any holes or downsides that I missed, feel free to comment about them!

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Zanetski

He is the lead writer at Battlecrank. You can find him on the Battlecrank Discord.

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