In this new regular column, Vainglory Senior Editor BicycleSquid highlights interesting, confusing, complex or obscure aspects of Vainglory. If you’d like to see a topic covered, let him know here.
Ever have a game with someone who just didn’t belong? Yeah, I’m sure you have. And I don’t just mean you weren’t on the same page during the match; I mean their Visual Skill Tier (VST) was waaaay below yours. Why would the Matchmaker place a “Pinnacle of Awesome” player, for example, in a match with someone “Just Beginning”?! Well, there’s actually a very specific reason why this might happen, in the context of the seasonal skill resets.
During a three-month season, you play Ranked matches. When you win, you’ll make Visual Skill Tier progress and climb from “Just Beginning” toward “Vainglorious.” When you lose, your progress bar or tier may decline, depending on the difficulty of your opponent. Throughout the season, you do the best you can, win as often as you can, and ultimately score a trophy at season’s end immortalizing your highest rank. Then, your visual skill tier resets all the way to “Unranked,” and you begin the climb again when the next season starts. This part, players understand pretty well.
But while playing Ranked, your wins and losses also impact your Matchmaking Rating (MMR) — a hidden statistic we track that has never reset. And this MMR, not your Visual Skill Tier, determines the allies and opponents the Matchmaker places you with in Ranked matches.
This explains why you sometimes could match against a player in a significantly lower (or higher) visual skill tier. What you see is that they have a VST that isn’t on the same level as yours. However, the MMR for both you and that player are nearly identical and definitely worthy of a competitive match.
So, why would a player have a high MMR but a low current VST? That player may have poured their heart and soul into Ranked in a prior season, all the way to Simply Amazing or Pinnacle or Vainglorious, but for whatever reason (work, school, vacation) hasn’t put in the Ranked time this season to match prior achievements.
The potential variation between Visual Skill Tier and Matchmaking Rating is the biggest source of matchmaking confusion for players. If you don’t realize matches are based on MMR, then when you see allies or enemies at higher or lower visual ranks, you’ll assume the Matchmaker did a poor job.
MMR is by no means perfect for determining how good a match will be. We can adjust the matchmaker’s behavior, but ultimately we can’t account for human behavior. If you end up with a team with two players who want only to play as lane snipers — or with a player who refuses to rotate or juggle aggro — then that will affect your rate of success. Similarly, if you’re drafted onto a hero you’re still getting comfortable with, that will affect your likelihood of victory. But, win or lose, that will give us more data and that, hopefully, will make our matchmaking that much better over time.
And sometimes, the Matchmaker simply gets it wrong. It isn’t about VST vs MMR; you simply deserved better. We will never hide behind VST as an excuse for poor matchmaking, and there’s a major initiative going on right now spearheaded by SurpriseBirthday to analyze matchmaking quality, test new algorithms and significantly improve matchmaking overall. We’re constantly evaluating matchmaking quality, and we’re not married to any system or formula, including seasonal resets. If we find something that we like better and you tell us it’s better, we’ll go with that.
We know this matters a lot to you, which means it matters just as much to us. But I hope that after reading this, you’ll understand a little better why some match pairings might appear wrong but are actually right on, from a matchmaking perspective.