Yesterday Bungie announced that the return to Destiny 2 of skill-based matchmaking (or SBMM) was imminent. The studio shared details about upcoming changes in matchmaking via a This Week at Bungie post. They also added “loose SBMM”, a Control playlist, to the Season 18 launch on August 23. This is the “first iteration” in a more significant overhaul of matchmaking, which will continue through Season 19.
The lengthy post explains why the change is necessary, presumably in anticipation of the inevitable backlash from PvP tyrants. Bungie demonstrates the massive gap between the best players and the worst under the current connection-based matchmaking system. The shocking stat is: “In Control,” more than half of matches have a skill gap of at least 900 between the best and worst players. This is significant enough that the outcome of any match is known even before the first shot is fired.
Bungie’s internal stat, the skill number, is what we are referring to. It considers everything: kills, rounds won, round losses, loadouts, mods and reaction times. Bungie claims that once you reach 600 points, there is virtually no chance of the lower-skilled player ever winning a 1v1 match.
SBMM was previously enabled for Control and other Destiny 2 PvP mode. This was controversial because Destiny 2 relies on peer-to-peer connections to connect with players rather than dedicated servers. It was a decision that favoured skill over quality, which led to many instances of lag and teleporting players. The long queue times also affected players at the skill spectrum’s top (and bottom). However, I felt that some of the backlashes were stoked partly by influencers who earn their living making PvP compilations with killstreaks against lower-skilled opponents. It’s much more challenging to beat players with equal skill than at flashy pub parties that use seasonal weapons and fancy pub dance moves.
Content creators have already begun to weigh in, with opinions ranging from reasonable to borderline salty.
SBMM was removed all except the Elimination playlists and Survival playlists in June 2020. In the years since the community has been increasingly frustrated with the current form of matchmaking–unsurprising given the stats above.
Bungie isn’t returning to the old system altogether. Bungie said they would prefer to sacrifice match fairness to maintain connection quality and speed. Our initial loose SBMM playlist for Control will work slightly differently. It begins with a more comprehensive acceptable skill range, then slowly increases on both acceptable skill level and connection quality.
Matchmaking times will probably increase, especially for those part of a pre-existing team or at the extremes of the skill curve. “We hope the tradeoff for matches that don’t get too sweaty or lopsided will be worth it.
There will undoubtedly be some problems with matchmaking. The current system is not sustainable for regular PvP players. According to some reports, there are more blowouts than ever before. This could be due to several reasons. New players are particularly disadvantaged in loadout options and building craft information. Bungie’s data seems to agree with my personal experience: 25% of matches end in mercy on some maps and more than 50% end with the best player receiving 20 more kills.
Destiny 2 is not the most competitive PvP title. This is due to its randomised loot system, which can make it challenging to ensure the best perks and weapons. It’s important to note that almost all games have some skill-based matchmaking. This is because you don’t want novice players beaten by more experienced pros. Even though the old system was not perfect, it’s still a popular topic. Any way to make PvP less painful and frustrating will be a win for the long term.