Elo is NOT (exactly) the Answer

Twice in the last days I had to hear people claiming that the Glory-matchmaking is bad and ArenaNet should use Elo (or, as some people used, “ELO”, which is wrong).

Anyway, I truly believe those people are so wrong it’s silly. It’s like someone claimed “Elo is the best” and they simply accepted it, without ever questioning why or how.

Before going deep into the issue, let me put some detail here:

First, what the fuss is all about. In one interview, Jonathan Sharp described that, when you join a hot-join PvP, it will try to match your cumulative Glory to try to find people around your expertise level.

Second, this is used for hot-join PvP, not competition.

Third, ArenaNet reckons that, although they want to make Guild Wars 2 an e-sport, it requires a good spectator mode, which the initial game won’t have.

Also, you have to keep in mind that, although whatever every Elo lover says, it’s not a measurement of skill. It measures if you beat someone with higher rating, just that. To keep that in perspective, if Moron 1 fights Moron 2 and wins, he gets more Elo; if, in the nest fight, Moron 2 wins, he then jumps over Moron 1. But both are still morons.

Another think to keep in mind is that Glory is earned by doing whatever you need to do to win a game. If you capture a point, you gain Glory; if you kill an enemy, you gain Glory. You can still lose a battle, but if you hold a point and kill some enemies, you still end with your Glory. Obviously, if you do shit and kill just one enemy, but your team wins, you will earn very little Glory.

(Not saying that the Glory system is perfect: If I’m a Guardian and I keep two or three enemies busy while my team captures the other bases, I may end up the game with very little Glory, even if I basically took 2-3 enemies out of the game.)

For a game that you may play with complete strangers, it seems like a very good way to keep you playing with people around the same skill level you have.

If ArenaNet went with an Elo rating for that, how would that work? Would they compare your Elo with everyone in the opposite team Elo? What if there is this guy in the upper limit for the matchmaking who just sits in the opposite side of the map controlling (very skillfully) a point, while you do the same in your corner? Can you really say who of you are more skilled? Let’s not lie here, you can’t, as you two never faced each other.

Then, for that, you’ll end up comparing your team skill against the other team skill. But you’re hot-joining and, even if you personal skills are similar, your skill as a team is not. That’s why there is an “Elo hell” in League of Legends: It measures the skill of a team of complete strangers, which sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t. And the solution for that to hot-join/group up with people you know, people you already have some synergy and, thus, have a combined skill — which is exactly what ArenaNet doesn’t want: segregation (well, it’s you and your friends, but you get the idea).

So, let me be clear here: The Cumulative Glory matchmaking is a good system — not perfect, but good. If they went with an Elo system, they would have to check every single combat you had with everyone and check those encounters instead of the whole fight — as that would measure the group skill, not the personal skill.

And don’t forget: Yes, ArenaNet wants to make this an e-sport, but that would require a good spectator mode. So it doesn’t make sense going into all loops and hoops to get a “perfect” matchmaking system right now, as part of the whole is missing. Maybe the in the future they can come with the perfect single-player, individual matchmaking system, but this is not the time to go straight into it.

(Besides, I also imagine they want some play to go through while they check if there isn’t any exploits in the game, like a Prolly — a protection paladin wearing healing gear in PvP, which was utterly overpowered by getting spell power based on stamina or, in other words, by getting power by increasing survivability — which they couldn’t foresee in their test.)