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Terrible Matchmaking is Killing Heroes of the Storm

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By alexander hinkleyDate: Jul 14 2015 Views:

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Heroes of the Storm is a really fun game. In a previous article, I even wrote about why I think it is better than League of Legends. The game was only released about a month ago so it is still very new and not without its fair share of problems. That is to be expected of any newly released online game, especially MOBAs. But there is one particularly egregious issue with Heroes of the Storm that is literally threatening to kill the game off and that is its shoddy matchmaking.

Heroes of the Storm

The matchmaking system in this game is broken. Choosing the hero you want to play before you even get into a match seems like a good idea on paper since it allows players to be who they want every time without the fear their favorite hero will get stolen by a teammate. In practice, however, it too often causes team compositions to be unplayable. How are you supposed to win a game when your team composition is just a bunch of support heroes and you have no tank and no damage dealer? This issue is made even more prevalent by Blizzard’s daily quest system which often rewards players with bonus gold for playing a specific type of champion for a certain number of games in one day. When the daily quest is playing support heroes, this motivates players to pick supports and can lead to there being too many on your team.

The current method of matchmaking causes far too many game losses at hero selection. Although having inferior team compositions still weigh heavily into the outcome of some matches in other MOBAs, in those games you can communicate with your team on which roles each person should play or at the very least see who your teammates are choosing and then pick a hero accordingly. For example, if you notice your team has no tank, then you might want to pick one! If you lose because of a bad team comp in those games, it’s still technically your own fault. In Heroes of the Storm on the other hand, it’s completely out of your control.

Heroes of the Storm

The matchmaking rating system Blizzard is using behind the scenes to match players with opponents of supposedly similar skill also seems critically flawed. I am not sure exactly what algorithm they are using to determine the MMR for each player, but it seems that games are more often complete blowouts (whether they are in your favor or not) than they are close games. Over the past few days I have played sixteen games of Heroes of the Storm. Ten of them were one-sided blowouts. That’s well over half! One would expect a few lopsided matches here and there but over half of them? This is an unacceptable number. Nobody likes getting owned and even dominating your opponents isn’t all that fun because there’s no challenge. You feel like you’re just wasting your time after awhile.

Perhaps it could be said that my experience is uncommon, but judging from the official message boards I don’t think that is the case. The Heroes of the Storm forums are littered everyday with numerous complaint threads about this matchmaking system. Nobody likes not being able to formulate a team composition with their actual team and nobody likes losing the game before it even begins (or undeservedly winning one before it begins, for that matter).

I think that part of the problem seems to be that your MMR changes far too drastically in the span of just one match. Looking at my own match history on HotS Logs, I am gaining or losing almost 100 MMR per match. That is a pretty large fluctuation. The MMR range itself also seems unusually wide. Once again looking at HotS Logs statistics, the player with the top rated Quick Match MMR listed on the leaderboards is Master ranked and has an MMR of a whopping 4,764. The lowest rated Bronze player? -780. Negative MMR? That doesn’t even make sense.

Another issue with the matchmaking system is the way people are punished for leaving the game. Rather than putting them in a timeout where they have to wait to enter queue again, they are placed into a sort of “leaver’s island” in which they are forced to play with other players that also recently left games. This is an unfair punishment because it also affects everybody else that player might have in their party. If your friend left a game last night and went to bed, then tries to play with you tomorrow, you have to get matched up with other leavers! How is that fair?

Heroes of the Storm

Not only does the leaver’s island system lengthen the queue times by absurd proportions (a friend and I once searched for a game for over ten minutes because he previously left), but when you do find a game you are in it with players who are basically trolls. Apparently Blizzard forgot to take into account that some players leave because they legitimately had something to do or got disconnected. In those situations this punishment is unfair to them, and subsequently any friends they try to queue with. The game they previously abandoned clearly was ruined by their absence but why should future games also get ruined in a twisted attempt at punishing them? Just have them wait to enter matchmaking, like every other game does.

Heroes of the Storm is undoubtedly a fun game when it’s working properly but the crippled matchmaking system is sucking all of the fun out of it. It has gotten to the point that you pretty much need to enter queue with friends just to ensure you have proper team composition. Things shouldn’t be that way. Blizzard needs to address this faulty matchmaking system and they need to do it before too many players get turned off and give up on the game. The problems could be fixed with just a few simple changes: have players choose heroes after entering a match not before, force players who left a previous game to wait not place them into a separate leaver’s queue, and tone down the MMR ranges so there isn’t so much variance between games. If Blizzard fails to act on this issue, they will be squandering the massive potential of HotS and the game will simply fade into oblivion like all the other MOBAs that tried to make a name for themselves.

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