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Algorithmic Handicapping is Wrong for Online Games

Should covert algorithmic handicapping of online games be legal?

  • Yes

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    0
Hello, Call of Duty community! I am the author of a popular but controversial thread that has been running for years on Blizzard/Activision forums, titled “Algorithmic Handicapping (MMR) is Wrong for Competitive Play.” I have adapted the original post into the second episode of my YouTube series, called Lars’ Lentils. Episode two is titled more broadly, “Algorithmic Handicapping is Wrong for Online Games:”
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv3gOqy4sZk


The video is a deep dive on Match Making Rating as a Bayesian skill scoring framework. I am a player of CoD games myself and I understand there has also been a recent debate in the CoD community about algorithmic handicapping. It's been a while since I played CoD, and Activision has closed their forums down, but I believe my video is relevant to this audience because Activision has likely implemented the Matchmaker in CoD to effect a similar handicapping system.

The episode features gameplay from two competitive matches, with me playing as Rheinhardt. I have done everything I can to make the video watchable, rendered in high definition with a soundtrack by Scattle and The Toxic Avenger.

For making this project not only possible, but imperative, I have to thank the thousands of Overwatch players who have voted and posted in my threads on Blizzard user forums, proponents and opponents both.

Without your participation and your clear majority opinion (which has been over 85% in 5 polls), I would have abandoned my argument long ago, that algorithmic handicapping is wrong for Competitive Play.

Please share the video with your networks, especially influencers of gaming culture. Help me get the mainstream attention that this story needs. Prompt the legislative and regulatory action *that must happen* if we are ever to reverse the trends of corporate usury and consumer fraud that are rife in the world of social media and big tech.
 


KeyboardDemon

PC Gamer: Nearly Dangerous
Hi @Cuthbert589

Welcome to CoDForums.

What a great first post, I definitely want to watch your video but at 34 minutes long it was too much to watch during my lunch break at work.

I do have some thoughts on the matter but I'll wait until I've seen your video and heard your thoughts before I add those comments later.
 
Hi @Cuthbert589

Welcome to CoDForums.

What a great first post, I definitely want to watch your video but at 34 minutes long it was too much to watch during my lunch break at work.

I do have some thoughts on the matter but I'll wait until I've seen your video and heard your thoughts before I add those comments later.
Awesome! Thanks for the kind words and take your time...I know the video is awfully long, but I had no choice. There is a lot of nuance to discuss and documentation that I had to present to support my argument. I hope you and other CoD players will join me in fighting Activision for fair terms of use in their competitive online games. Cheers
 

KeyboardDemon

PC Gamer: Nearly Dangerous
Right, so my initial thoughts before watching the video were that Activision as a company don't have to work in a democratic way, so votes to determine whether they should or shouldn't use MMR, SR, or SBMM if that works any differently to the other 2 options are mute unless they are initiated by their shareholders and major investors.

Now, some might argue that as a customer that has bought games, CoD points, Blueprints, operators etc... it makes us investors in the company, but I am not sure I can subscribe to that school of thought, if I did, then I should consider myself as an investor in McDonalds as I have bought coffee from them.

I watched the video and I liked what I saw, the production values are excellent, the arguments are presented with clarity and backed with evidence, not just anecdotal evidence, it is hard evidence in the form of patents and interview responses. The icing on the cake is that books were suggested for further reading, this goes beyond a typical YouTube video and comes across as a ready for peer review academic paper and thankfully it doesn't come across as a 34-minute rant.

As I watched the video, I remembered how I read an article or maybe a post on here that stated how some actions, when used in CoD has the game increasing or decreasing your a rating, which on watching your video I can only assume is a reference to skill ratings. The key statement was that players that use slide and slide cancelling more often are more likely to be pitched against other players that also frequently do the same. Having read that I changed my play style to not use sliding as much, not because of the skill factor, but because I realized that sliding is noisy, I run with Ninja so don't want to give my position away unless I am trying to bait another player.

There are points that I think would be difficult to use in a legal case though, such as calling in the FCC under claims of false advertising, just because enough players are of the opinion that using the measures described in the Activision Patents might create an anti-competitive platform, Activision could argue that it doesn't and therefore the game is fair. The idea behind it is to place players of a similar skill rating in a match or to make sure both sides have a more even skill rating match, so I would imagine that the best outcome that can be achieved is that Activision will be forced to adjust their metrics to weight players ratings differently. In the end it could become an argument that hinges on a difference of opinion rather than anything else, should it ever get to be presented to a judge.

Not forgetting that if it ever did get to court, Activision have deep pockets and can afford the best legal team to defend them, which explains why many polls have been taken and found to support your cause without making any difference to the MMR/SR usage policies.

I think what would make using MMR/SR unfair is that if players that had spent more on in game purchases were getting higher weighting by the server during player vs player encounters which would stack the probability of them winning because of that. The financial aspects were discussed in the video, but I don't think the video said this is happening, I am not even sure if it suggested that it could happen, but I do know that communities would be outraged by a pay to win model.

I do understand your point of view, I am not someone that considers myself to be a competitive player so I might not be the right target audience for this message and/or video.

I can't even say that I feel certain to have suffered from the use of MMR/SR, as my experience of the tables turning so that odds are stacked against me might also be something that could be attributed to player fatigue. I know I can play consistently for around 4 to 5 rounds of FFA, but then I tend to start slipping, lose concentration and my aim is off, this might be MMR/SR giving me the middle finger and placing me with tougher opponents, but I tend to pass it off as that's the time to take a break.

The thing that I have the biggest problem with is that in some games of FFA where the entire map is full of campers and only a couple of players are moving around. When I get killed there is a camper near every spawn spot, positioned so that they are behind newly spawned players then I end bouncing from spawn to spawn and getting killed before I can even see where I spawned.

I do agree with the point about transparency, if they are going to use measures that determine who my teammates and opponents will be based on arbitrarily chosen metrics, then I would like to know what I can do to influence those metrics so that I can improve as a player. Just like the golfer that wants to improve his swing, I want to get better as a player, if there are measures that can help me do that, then I should be able to see what they are. These are things that would get me to invest more time and energy into playing the game and even more money.

As for your original question about should this measure be legal or not, I don't think this is a legislative issue, the developers should have the freedom to create products as they see fit and the MMR/SR features that they created form part of the overall player experience. It is up to players to decide if they want to accept this and we can vote with our feet, like I did with Battlefield. I really liked playing Battlefield games, I stopped playing after Battlefield 4 because I didn't like the way EA was implementing their loot boxes and micro-transactions, and I have not bought another EA game since.
 

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