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Ubisoft’s CoD rival fights back against the worst feature in FPS games

XDefiant has outlined what the SBMM-free casual modes look like, while detailing ranked and its more competitive edge in the shooter.

XDefiant SBMM casual: a person in a gas mask holding up a grenade pin on their finger, with a bright green hoodie on

Ubisoft’s upcoming multiplayer shooter XDefiant won’t have skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) in casual modes. The developer wants a “fun and varied game experience in the long-term,” and believes that removing SBMM from casual playlists can help with variety, while a ranked mode can still offer a challenge. With XDefiant around the corner, this change should go down well, as it’ll split players between those desiring a fair challenge, and others just looking for a quick, chaotic game.

Combining many Ubisoft ongoing series into one arena FPS game, the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry maker wants to come for Call of Duty with XDefiant. After multiple delays, the XDefiant release date is almost here, and Ubisoft has aimed at one of the most contentious parts of modern multiplayer shooters: skill-based matchmaking.

SBMM is a tool that, in practice, matches you with players of a similar skill level in online games. It’s not a blanket fix though, and every game that uses it will inevitably tweak and alter its functionality, often to the chagrin of players. So Ubisoft has outlined what SBMM will, and won’t look like, for XDefiant.

“Frankly, skill-based matchmaking means every casual game is repetitive – constantly repeating matches that are just as stressful and matched as ranked,” Ubisoft writes. “We believe casual playlists should be fun and no SBMM is the way to do that. If you want that competitive, every second counts, go all-out playstyle – you’ll find our ranked mode to your liking.”

Casual playlists in XDefiant will focus on fast connection times, while matching latency and regions, and ranked playlists will focus on “quality matches.” This means you may have to wait longer, but you’ll only play with others in your rank range. Ubisoft also notes that ranked is not yet in the game and “will be added in a future season,” so while SBMM won’t be in the shooter at launch, it’s coming.

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Even outside of ranked though, casual playlists will put teams together based on their skill rating once everyone has joined. So while SBMM won’t control who gets in, XDefiant will then balance the teams for what it hopes is a “fun match,” Ubisoft says. Lobbies will also be persistent unless everyone leaves, so you’ll likely be playing your next game with some of the same people, just with remixed teams.

Ranked players will also be locked to their input device, and forced to leave if they want to go from mouse and keyboard to gamepad, or vice versa.

If you want to learn more about SBMM and how it can still be designed for varied experiences, former Halo developer and Certain Affinity CEO Max Hoberman has talked about it in great detail; basically, consistently winning or losing, even in ranked, eventually gets boring.

With XDefiant firmly on the horizon, you’ll want to brush up on what else to expect this year and beyond with the biggest upcoming PC games, or you can try some more multiplayer games in the meantime.

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