When we caught up with Heroes of the Storm director Dustin Browder and lead producer Kaeo Milker at Gamescom, they’d been away from the office for over a week. But before they left, they’d peeled the game’s engineers off every other task and put them to work on matchmaking improvements.
“I think matchmaking is one of those perpetual challenges for games,” Milker told PCGamesN.
“It can always be better, right?”, offered Browder.
“But everyone should know from our perspective, we hear them, we feel it too, we’re all playing the game as well,” continued Milker. “So that’s something that is our highest priority right now actually.”
Blizzard most recently tweaked Heroes matchmaking to tell the game to factor in how many games you’ve played. As millions of new launch players met beta veterans with thousands of matches to their name, the dev team were hearing “complaints in both directions”.
“There have been some pretty positive changes on that front,” said Milker. “But there’s a lot more stuff in the works and I think we will continually improve that and have some short-term wins, and then longer-term systems that will build on that as well.”
Where next? Browder pointed out that Heroes currently looks at your win-loss ratio to determine matchmaking, without distinguishing between the individual performances of teammates. A more nuanced approach would make a big difference – particularly to players with fewer than 500 games under their belt.
“Us sneaking a look at what actually happened in that game would be a way to get you to your level faster,” said Browder. “And then if you do have 500 games and somebody new comes along, if we did a better job with him you’ll get a better match.”
There’s a balance to strike, however – between accuracy and speed.
“There is a limit to how long a human will sit there and wait,” said Browder. “We can’t hit that limit. So far the feedback about the queues has been good. But there is a moment where we could cross a line, where it’s like, ‘Argh, this is terrible’.
“If everybody would sit there for three hours, I could promise you the perfect match every time. Nobody’s going to do that. You’re always walking the line between finding something reasonably quickly, and finding something as good as you can.”
But the game’s leads know that a bad match is good for nobody. Not even the winners.
“If you get matched against players who are significantly worse than you and you have this game where you’re winning, that’s not really fun,” said Milker. “I don’t think anyone necessarily enjoys that.”
“If you’re a bad person you might enjoy it a little bit,” added Browder. “But I promise you by your third game you won’t.”
What’s been your experience with matchmaking in Heroes of the Storm?