Warzone Skill-Based Matchmaking

Demystifying what "Skill-Based Match Making" really is and how it affects Call of Duty: Warzone gameplay

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What Is Skills-Based Matchmaking in Warzone?

Just as any sports or competitive game league usually has different tier levels (e.g., major league, minor league, etc.), Call of Duty has developed their own version of this with their skills-based matchmaking algorithm. It’s now well-established that there is much rhyme and reason to the way online players are matched up in Warzone, Cold War, and other CoD titles.

But according to what standards are these matches set up? Attempts by the CoD community to contact Activision for answers have turned up short – thus, the exact WZ-stat-tracking metrics and ranking algorithm used by Activision and the Infinity Ward development team remains unknown to the public at large. Nevertheless, intrepid Warzone players have extensively tested their SBMM theories to help the CoD community infer the main principles behind Warzone’s SBMM algorithms.

Additionally, independent Call of Duty leagues have taken it upon themselves to develop their own SBMM systems to provide greater control over the social gameplay dynamics during their own battle-royale and tournament matches.

How Z League Does SBMM

Z League’s goal is to enable Warzone players to stand the greatest chance of honing their skills by giving everyone a decent chance of winning as they progress through the ranks within their tier level. To do this, we’ve enlisted the help of data scientists and computer engineers trained at the likes of Google, Coinbase, and ivy league universities to create our own skill-based matchmaking system.

Our advanced stat-tracking algorithm analyzes each player’s historical Warzone stats to connect players of similar skill levels. Customized skill-based divisions (at one point, over 80!) provide weighted difficulty levels such that any given player stands a fighting chance of securing wins and progressing through the ranks – and the more players and tournaments involved, the better our SBMM algorithm becomes.

The result is a more enjoyable gameplay experience for expert, casual, and new gamers alike who don’t want to feel out of their league – especially when they’re spending money and time trying to play amongst good company. Rather, we want the competition to be a fair and true representation of who’s got the talent to rise to the top.

Unlike Activision’s SBMM algorithm, Z League players are less able to simply create new profiles in order to “game” the system, making it much more likely that the WZ stats analyzed by Z League’s own SBMM software are true representations of each player’s actual talent. We also make it impossible for cheaters to run bots and otherwise flood the system with garbage data, because we want all players to enjoy a genuine challenge – not feel like they’re up against a digital roll of the dice.

Download the Z League app, where you can register for tournaments, post your highlights, and find teammates using the LFG feature!

How Warzone’s SBMM Compares to Other Games

Having begun as a side-mode of CoD Modern Warfare, Warzone’s matchmaking is largely based on the matchmaking practices of other CoD titles. Activision’s black-box algorithm appears to put the greatest emphasis on Kill/Death ratio, but Warzone lacks a visible ranking system similar to games like Rainbow Six Siege and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Whatever the exact ranking process is for individual players, Activision’s SBMM puts players into lobbies that seem more heavily influenced by factors such as the number of players in a region than these mystery rankings or even the more easily known K/D ratios, because there is often still a wide disparity of skill levels within each lobby. On the contrary, the lobbies seem more based on fulfilling player quotas (150-strong matches) and ensuring low ping than pure skill level.

For open-ended battle-royales, a bit of this is to be expected; even the most popular games can’t keep players waiting too long as the system forms the perfect match-ups, or many would start to drop out. On the other hand, scheduled matches – such as with organized esport tournaments – give event organizers greater ability to set matches with higher emphasis on metrics- and skills-matching.

Warzone’s Stat Trackers Explained

Generally, Activision’s method for tracking WZ stats likely takes a number of factors into account, such as:

  • Kill/Death Ratio (appears to be of primary importance)
  • Lobby Rankings (likely more important than specific player rankings)
  • Number of Regional Participants
  • Limits on Latency
  • Size Quotas

Because the exact nature of Activision’s own proprietary SBMM must be constantly guessed at, individual CoD leagues have advanced and improved on the idea with their own SBMM systems. Our own league strives far beyond the generic stat-tracking to provide greater fun and better matchups. At League Z, our specific approach to stat-tracking is a little different from the generic methods in a few significant ways.

Image via Activision

No Temporary Kill/Death Caps

We don’t use Kill/Death caps the way most esports hosts heavily rely on. The reason for this is that we’ve found them grossly misrepresentative as applied, where players who only incur one death will be amalgamated with those who incur many deaths, but made up for it with equivalently higher kills. For example, how do you know a K/D ratio of 2.0 means that they had 6 kills and 3 death, or 2 kills but only 1 death per game? Who is better – a player who gets 5 kills but dies twice (2.5), or a player who only gets 3 kills but dies only once (3)?

Full History Over Short-Term Performance

Alternatively, we incorporate K/D ratios into a player’s full historical data to achieve a more accurate picture of their skill. This avoids the tendency of those who get a couple of good games in a row being suddenly pitted into a much higher tier level without warning – at which point their immediate stats (and learning-curve sharpness) begin suffering badly. League Z’s SBMM system always emphasizes long-term skill development over temporary status.

Skill Level Before Quotas

We also adjust the size and number of divisions according to the amount of competition in order to maintain skill levels first, quotas second. For instance, we may reduce the size of the divisions (especially at the top and bottom) if not enough teams of comparable skill levels sign up by game day. Instead, we lower the division sizes to keep both beginners and experts from brushing shoulders a little too hard with intermediates.

Play Evenly Matched Warzone Tournaments With Z League

The impact that Activision’s proprietary SBMM has on CoD gameplay is huge, but it leaves something to be desired by many players’ standards. However, others see it as a solid fundamental idea and have refined the concept in more logical ways to create more appropriately controlled gameplay environments. If you’d like to test your metal, get involved in the fast-paced and exciting world of Warzone tournaments with Z League. As one of the world’s premier esports organizers, we love bringing together people who share a love of gaming onto a social platform, all while boosting competition in a fair and logical way. We show our good faith by actively monitoring for signs of cheating and ensuring that all participants experience a learning curve as perfectly suited for their skill level as possible.