On November 22nd the DotA 2 matchmaking system was changed. For better or for worse, the new system has partially done away with numerical MMR. In its place is now a badge system that looks to quell the woes of many players who were getting tired of the constant grind. Also looking to boost game quality and reduce the number of account buyers and smurfs. The first week of the Seasonal Ranked system has come and gone in a whirlwind. Instituting a new system is one thing, but is it actually working?
The roller-coaster of re-calibrating
With a new system in place all players were forced to re-calibrate their matchmaking ranking. Resulting in a pub environment that really felt competitive again. During calibration there was a much higher emphasis placed on winning rather than just stacking up kills and items. Cores were showing up to fights and even supports were being picked!
A large part of this can be credited to the structuring of the medal system. Before there was mention that numerical values had been, mostly, done away with. This is because it was replaced by an interesting badge system.
These medals are all tied to numerical MMR values, according to the DotA 2 Wiki, but they have done a very good job of grouping players based on skill. This was a large knock on the previous system as games would almost feel over before they began if one team’s average MMR was much higher than the other. Being the high MMR in a game either made you a target or focus for blame. Overall, the grind for MMR could become a toxic environment with every +/- 25 being held close to the chest.
Initially, the sticker shock of re-calibrating set the community ablaze. Many people were saying it felt like supports were being favored and calibrating in at higher rankings. There are many reasons this could be, probably the most obvious being that a team with a support is much more likely to win than a team with five cores.
What was most glaring were the massive losses some professional players were taking in MMR. Check out Sumail’s surprisingly calm reaction to losing 3K MMR. Well aside from throwing a little shade at his Evil Geniuses teammate, Arteezy.
A slightly less uphill battle
Now the task of climbing through the rankings seems much more doable. Instead of focusing on climbing a full 1000 pts in MMR, manageable goals are tangible with the new badge system. If you calibrate at Archon 2, for example, it’s much more feasible to say “I want to get to Archon 4 by (insert time here).” This can be echoed for all the rankings as players can now focus on climbing within their badge group with stars before transitioning into the next badge.
Your MMR still matters and you can still see it. So for those of you who really care about the number, have fun. But what is interesting is that the badge system takes into account both ranked and unranked MMR. While solo MMR is weighed more. This is a great change. It allows for a player’s ranking to be largely based on their individual skill, rather than who they are stacking with. A sort of regression to the mean for DotA that has deemphasized the grind of climbing MMR. Honestly, this is a quality of life change to those who may not have the time to grind game after game to go up in ranking. Allowing for a fair representation in skill no matter how much time is committed to climbing.
This is not to say the new system is without any hiccups. Losing 3K MMR like Sumail did is probably an issue that needs to be corrected. As calibrating in at Divine 5 does not feel like such a high ceiling. Though it just doesn’t seem to matter that much when you’re already at the highest badge? So far, the new matchmaking system has been nothing but a positive. It will be interesting to see what adjustments are made for the next season.
Featured image courtesy of Dota2.com
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