So what’s changed? A lot of it feels like nothing more than a new wrapper for the same burger, but perception matters — and in this case, the new wrapper is quite appetizing.
The first thing you’ll notice in the new system is that Grades and visible MMR are gone. In their place, we have the tried-and-true system of Leagues and Divisions, of which there are 45 Divisions spread out across 7 Leagues. It’s unclear if hidden MMR exists, and if so, how it works.
Why did Stunlock switch to a League design? For many reasons, I’m sure, but the main one has to be the fact that matchmaking will now only set you up against players/teams within the same League as you. If you’re Bronze, you’ll go up against Bronze. If Gold, then Gold. Or at least that’s the goal.
This is a smart way to control the perception of a match-ups balance. If the four players in a game are Silver 1, Silver 3, Silver 4, and Silver 8, the scoreboard only shows that they’re all Silver. In the old system, this would probably have showed as G8, G7, G7, and G6. Now players can focus more on playing well instead of blaming Grades.
If you’re Gold and there aren’t enough Gold players in queue, you might get matched against Diamonds. Problem? Not at all. If you lose, you won’t lose any points. If you win, you’ll win bonus points. The risk only exists for the players who are higher ranked — and since they’re expected to win, this is a pretty fair system, especially for newbies.
Also, once you reach a certain League, you can’t be demoted to the League below no matter how many times you lose. This is an excellent way to reduce ladder anxiety, which is something that a lot of players — both newbies and veterans — have to deal with when they queue up.
Here’s the interesting thing: when you combine both of those together, you get rankings inflation. And you know what? I’m totally fine with that because rankings only last for one season (two months). Since everything gets reset on a periodic basis, inflation doesn’t matter. We finally have a sense of progression that the old system failed to provide.
I also like that the Division distribution is bottom heavy. A lot of people were taken aback by this at first — Bronze has 10, Silver has 9, Gold has 8, etc. — but it’s a smart move. It being bottom heavy means newbies get frequent progressions while still getting matched with their peers (because they’ll all remain Bronze). Instead of dividing everyone into a bell curve, which is what the Grade distribution looked like, we now have a pyramid distribution that doesn’t discourage those who are below the mean.
This is all great on paper, but not everything is sunshine and roses.
Though Stunlock described the rankings reset as a “soft reset,” the results show that it was closer to a “hard reset” after all. Players who were G15 prior to the patch placed into Gold League. I was G12 before and I placed into Silver 8 with a 3–2 run. It seems like those who were G10 and G11 have been placing into Bronze with the occasional Silver.
Can you see the problem here? If the cutoff for Silver is somewhere around G11, then we can assume that everyone under G11 will be placing into Bronze, which means that 60–70 percent of the playerbase will be matching against each other for the next few days (or even the next few weeks). I don’t envy the former-G8s who are now facing former-G10s every other match.
The developers explained their reasoning on Discord. Their plan was to make sure everyone started near the bottom so that players would have a long road of progression ahead of them. That makes some sense to me, but I’m not sure such a hard reset was necessary.
Imagine being a former-G13, getting a bad string of placement matches with newbies on our team, and ending up in Bronze 1. Wouldn’t that frustrate you? In fact, I’m already heard a lot of outcry from former G9s through former-G11s who don’t understand why they placed into the same League as brand newbies, which is ruining their quality of matches.
Maybe distributing over Bronze/Silver/Gold/Platinum would’ve been a better decision. That still would’ve left a lot of room for progression, but would’ve also been an easier pill to swallow for everyone and would’ve prevented the current period of massively lop-sided matchmaking.
So the question is, how long does this system need in order to calibrate everyone properly? And what happens when we move into Season 2? Will everyone start over in placements, thus resulting in the same chaos that we have right now? I hope not.
But the most important question is, is this system better than the previous one? As far as creating evenly-skilled match-ups, it’s still too soon to tell. In terms of progression, yes it’s better.
Does it make me want to play the game more? Not really. To me, it feels like the same Big Mac in a different wrapper. If they had taken the previous system and extended it from 15 to 50 Grades, I think the end result would’ve been pretty similar. The League-based system is definitely a better wrapper though, and the difference in perception may have been worth the work to implement.
How about you? What grade were you prior to the patch and which league/division did you get placed into? Between Grades and Leagues, which system do you like better?