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Additional details on Activision’s new matchmaking patent

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Earlier today, we reported the details about Activision’s new matchmaking ways to encourage players to buy more microtransactions. The patent that Activision was granted this month, which the company filed in 2015, talks about how Activision thinks they can use matchmaking to encourage the matchmaking system to be more evolved in the game’s systems.

The first new change Activision is considering is creating a game score for potential matches. Activision has a new scoring engine 122 which can create scores for how players felt during a match based on many variables. “In other words, a match score may indicate a predicted level of satisfaction of players that are placed in a potential match.” 

Activision defines the variables that a score can be generated on by the following criteria. They use this criteria to generate a match score for how a player felt after a match.

  • Latency between players (e.g., a delay time for data communication between players’ gaming systems or platforms such that lower latency is preferentially matched)
  • A player skill level
  • Ateam composition (e.g., a role played by each player of a potential match)
  • A presence or absence of preferred players (e.g., clan members, friends, etc.)
  • A time that a player has waited to be matched (e.g., a player having a longer wait time may be preferentially matched)
  • A location of a player (e.g., players geographically close to one another may be preferentially matched.

The patent states that the matchmaking system could then assign a general coefficient to each of the variables depending on the importance of each. It claims that a game designer can pick which of the variables should be the most important for the game.

Here’s an example:

“The coefficient may be expressed as a multiplier, a percentage, and/or other value that can be used to weight a match variable relative to one or more other match variables. The coefficient may be set to zero (or an equivalent metric) such that the given match variable is not considered when generating a match score. For example, if the latency variable is assigned with a coefficient of zero (or other value that indicates that latency should not be used), scoring engine 122 may ignore the latency variable when generating a match score. In this manner, a game designer or others may determine which match variables will be used to generate match scores and/or weights for the match variables. Alternatively or additionally, the game designer or others may remove match variables from consideration altogether (and/or add new match variables).” 

The patent says that a game designer can change the coefficient assignments that are prioritized. “A game designer or match administrator (e.g., a computerized or human game session moderator), for example, may tune one or more coefficients based on what the game designer or match administrator believes are more important match variables.”

The new scoring engine can be adapted to changing conditions based on the game designer’s intentions, but also adapt directly in game based upon conditions. For example, if a player is placed into a set of matches which they perform poorly, the system can alter the matchmaking so that you can match you with lower skilled players. “If a player has been getting killed at a rate higher than the player’s historical rate, scoring engine 122 may dynamically tune a coefficient associated with a match variable related to skill level to match him with easier opponents, higher-skilled collaborative team members, game sessions that are more suited to the player’s gameplay style (e.g., a map that favors snipers), and/or other coefficients that can affect the outcome of a match score.” 

There is also a potential scenario where the score engine 122 can change which servers are being used depending on the cost of the network of the server being used. This engine is supposed to be very adaptive to how the system and game evolves over time, and be changing to the game designer’s requests and player’s stat changes.

Another instance of this system is reducing wait times. While there are a lot of different variables, as we detailed above, the score engine 122 can also remove the variables and just put a player in a match that can be found if they have waited for an extensive period of time. The match will be lower quality for the player, but the player will be in a match instead of a prolonged wait time.

“For example, scoring engine 122 may lower the threshold match score (assuming higher match scores are associated with higher match quality) when a given player has been waiting to be matched for a predetermined period of time. In some instances, the system may progressively lower the threshold match score as the player continues to wait to be matched until the player is eventually matched. In this manner, the system may allow a player to be matched using lower quality matches if the player has been waiting to be matched.” 

The patent also details how Activision can use the scoring engine 122 to deliver to the players information on how they are being matched for a specific game. “For example, an exemplary match description may include the following: likely two other clan members included in a gameplay session, 100 millisecond average latency, five-versus-five gameplay, average “good” skill level, spread of skill level, map, player styles, and/or other information.”

This new system can also generate a quality score after each map. The quality score can be dependent upon how long the player stayed in the match, player stats in the match, how often players may have died, and more. The quality score tells the system what the next match should be. Beyond this, the engine can find out business decisions on each match; how much revenue was generated after a match completed and why numbers would be lower than expected.

The engine is also working to create player specific profiles, where it can learn how each match went and how the game can be tuned to ensure a better experience. It generates a player profile, and how to determine a profile of the player:

“For example, player information may include, without limitation, a style of gameplay (e.g., aggressive), a role preference (e.g., an explicit indication by the player of such preference), a role actually played, a duration of gameplay sessions, a number of gameplay sessions played in a given login session, in-game items used or purchased by the player, membership in a clan or team, preference to play with clan mates or friends, demographic information of the player (e.g., geographic location, gender, income level, etc.), win/loss records, scores, and/or other information that may be used to determine whether a player will enjoy a given gameplay session, a match, and/or a game.”

The next part of the patent talks about how Activision can use the profile created to then apply it to the game.

Here’s one implementation in-game:

“In an implementation, using subsets of the player profile information, analytics and feedback engine 124 may tune matchmaking in real-time for a given player. For example, if a player is determined to be on a losing streak within the past several gaming sessions, analytics and feedback engine 124 may cause a coefficient related to player skill level to become more important. This may result in, for example, the player being pitted against lower-skilled opponents and/or teamed with higher-skilled players to increase the chance that the player will win or otherwise perform better.”

There’s another engine being developed into this system called Pipelining Engine 126. This can create a soft reservation for players that can help tune how they play the game. This engine can analyze player progression and then predict a certain game mode to help the player advance forward. It can also predict when your friends come online and set up a soft reservation for their players. It can actually create a system that lets players who want to play with friends that are already in a game to be matched and set up for another game.

“In an implementation, pipelining engine 126 may continuously place players who are currently logged on and/or playing in a gameplay session into potential matches, assess the potential matches as described herein, and make soft reservations for potential matches having match scores that exceed a match threshold score. For example, pipelining engine 126 may match a player who is already playing in a current gameplay session so that the player may join a subsequent gameplay session when the current gameplay session ends (e.g., the player completes the gameplay session and then joins the future gameplay session) or is otherwise exited by the player (e.g., the player quits the current gameplay session early to join the subsequent gameplay session). In this manner, a player may be pre-matched with other players for a subsequent gameplay session while the player is still playing in a current gameplay session.”

There is also a way to schedule gameplay sessions in a way to reduce wait times. A first player can actually continue to play a different match while a soft reservation is being used to mark their two friends to possibly play together in a future match. It will determine the time required.

“If the two friends of the first player are currently playing in a gameplay session, which has not yet completed, pipelining engine 126 may make a soft reservation for the three players to play together in a future gameplay session. 

In the meantime, the first player can continue to wait until the two friends are available or may join a gameplay session that pipelining engine 126 determines will likely finish at approximately the same time that the two friends’ gameplay session is expected to finish. For example, pipelining engine 126 may determine that the two friends will complete their gameplay session in ten minutes and may match the first player into a gameplay session that is expected to be complete in ten minutes. In this manner, all three friends may be expected to become available at around the same time.”

All of this is working together with the matchmaking system to create a gaming experience for fans in future games. As we detailed in our earlier post from today, this system can be bonded with the microtransaction system to influence games based upon revenue and business decisions, alongside player feelings and stats in each game.

Again, Activision has not said which games will utilize or do use this system.

Bungie’s CM has shared on Twitter that this system is not in Destiny, but did not specify what could happen in the future.

SOURCE: US Patent Office 

Activision

Sledgehammer Games open new UK Studio to support CoD: Vanguard seasons

Sledgehammer Games have announced they are opening a new studio in the United Kingdom to support Vanguard’s live seasons.

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The developers of the upcoming Call of Duty: Vanguard, Sledgehammer Games, have announced they will be expanding with a new studio in Guildford, UK.

Sledgehammer Games has grown drastically over the past couple of years, opening a new studio in Melbourne, Australia in 2019, hiring 150 new people to the team in 2020, and opening another new studio in Toronto in May.

With only a few weeks until Call of Duty: Vanguard’s launch, Sledgehammer Games has now announced they’re opening another studio in Guildford, England, to support Vanguard’s live seasons and “future projects.

Call of Duty Vanguard character using 1911

Sledgehammer Games announced on October 14 that they’re growing yet again with a new studio in Guildford, which will support the existing studios in the Bay Area, Melbourne, and Toronto.

“I’m just really excited to bring our studio brand to the UK, along with the incredible franchise we get to work on,” said Andy Wilson, COO of Sledgehammer Games.

“It’s another opportunity to do our own small part to grow the industry, in a place where there’s a huge number of talented developers. As we have done in our other locations, we will be looking to build partnerships with schools and universities to help nurture and grow the next generation of talent. It’s not just about finding people who already work in the industry, it’s about providing pathways for those who are looking to get in. I remember that daunting feeling very well and it makes me happy to be providing opportunity, especially as we emerge from a historic pandemic.” 

Sledgehammer is looking for team members in various roles, including Technical Artists, Senior Level Designers, and VFX Artists.

They said they are looking for “various levels of seniority” but will also be “prepared to create roles when great talent comes along.”

This news comes soon after Activision officially announced their new kernel-level anti-cheat software, RICOCHET, which may even detect Cronus users.

Expect more Operators, maps, weapons, and more from each season of Call of Duty: Vanguard, with the first bringing a new Pacific-themed Warzone map.

Source: Sledgehammer Games

Image Credit: Sledgehammer Games

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Blizzard Chief Legal Officer resigns as Activision Blizzard lawsuit controversy continues

Turmoil at Activision Blizzard continues as new investigations & details surface on the harassment lawsuit.

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The turmoil over the lawsuit for Activision Blizzard continues as a high profile executive of the company has announced their departure.

Blizzard Entertainment’s Chief Legal Officer, Claire Hart, has shared on her LinkedIn that she’s left the company on Friday, September 17.

Hart said in her message on LinkedIn that “the past three years have been full of unexpected twists and turns, but I feel honored to have worked with and met so many great people at Blizzard and across the Activision Blizzard businesses.”

She did not comment on whether her departure was related to what was happening at the company currently. Activision Blizzard also declined to comment beyond confirming her departure.

The news of her departure comes as this week the company confirmed new investigations by the SEC over the company’s handling of the lawsuit scandal.

This week, the situation heated up as Activision Blizzard is now under investigation by the SEC for potentially misleading investors over the brevity of the lawsuit and harassment that occurred at the company.

Activision Blizzard confirmed that they are cooperating with the SEC as part of their investigation into the company.

The lawsuit from California State, which surfaced in July, primarily focused on Blizzard Entertainment’s harassment and scandal issues, including sexual harassment, inequality amongst staff pay, and more issues.

Blizzard’s President of J. Allen Brack was the first executive to leave the company, resigning at the end of July. He was replaced by Mike Ybarra and Jen Oneal as the new co-leaders of Blizzard Entertainment.

So far, Activision Blizzard has refused to met employee’s demands to chart a better future for the company. An employee group, A Better ABK, has been formed to provide their feedback to the executive team.

In other news in regards to Blizzard, the Executive Producer of Overwatch 2 is departing Blizzard this week.

Chacko Sonny, who was highly respected at Blizzard and seen as the person to chart Overwatch’s future following Jeff Kaplan’s departure, told staff in an email that he’s leaving, per Bloomberg. Sonny was perviously one the masterminds behind Call of Duty ELITE service back in 2011.

We’ll continue to update as the situation unfolds.

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Activision Blizzard provides update on workplace initiatives as US government opens investigation

Activision Blizzard is now being investigated by the SEC over sexual misconduct and discrimination allegations, as fallout from initial lawsuit continues.

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The fallout on Activision Blizzard over the initial revelations of workplace harassment at the company continues as the company is now facing new legal challenges from U.S government agencies.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has issued a report stating that the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Committee, opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard recently over the workplace harassment and pay inequality issues.

The SEC has also subpoenaed Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to appear in court, along with several other Activision Blizzard senior executives. Specific names beyond Kotick were not shared.

The SEC is investigating whether Activision Blizzard’s failure to provide proper information in regards to the harassment and inequality situation prior to it becoming public via the California state lawsuit on July 21, 2021 caused investors to lose money over a drop in the company’s stock prices.

The WSJ states that, per documents and files they’ve reviewed, the SEC is asking for information dating back to 2019.

The agency is specifically inquiring about the communications of senior executives over the harassment and diversity situation and what decisions were made at that time.

Activision Blizzard’s Chief Communications Officer, Helaine Klasky, confirmed to WSJ that the SEC is investigating the company and confirmed they are cooperating with the SEC.

In addition to the SEC, the WSJ reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been investigating Activision Blizzard separately since May 2020 over workplace misconduct and discrimination.

Per reports, Activision Blizzard and the agency are in talks over a settlement agreement which would see the company pay millions of dollars in fines.

Activision Blizzard has been under fire since the California DEFH lawsuit came to light on July 21, 2021.

Employees of the company formed a group, known as A Better ABK, to list their demands and how they want to proceed forward with the company, following a company wide walkout in July. So far, the company’s executives have not met their demands.

Activision Blizzard provides update

Since these new investigations have come to light, Activision Blizzard has issued a statement revealing some progress that the company claims to have made over the last two months.

Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, said, “We are deeply committed to making Activision Blizzard one of the best, most inclusive places to work anywhere. There is absolutely no place anywhere in our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind. While we continue to work in good faith with regulators to address and resolve past workplace issues, we also continue to move ahead with our own initiatives to ensure that we are the very best place to work. We remain committed to addressing all workplace issues in a forthright and prompt manner.”

Activision Blizzard confirmed investigations are underway by the SEC and the EEOC, which were reported by the WSJ. The company says that they are “cooperating” with the investigations.

Kotick also said that the Company continues to productively engage with regulators, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) with the goal of improving its workplace policies and procedures and ensuring compliance.

The Company is actively engaged in continued discussions with the EEOC and has cooperated with the EEOC’s investigation concerning certain employment practices. It also confirmed that it is complying with a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) subpoena issued to the Company and several current and former employees and executives regarding disclosures on employment matters and related issues. The Company is confident in its prior disclosures and is cooperating with the SEC’s investigation.

In addition, Activision Blizzard states that they have made several changes to the company and the company’s culture. They state that there have been many exits from the company and have “refreshed” their HR team.

Activision Blizzard recently announced the hiring of Julie Hodges as their new Chief People Officer, who will be responsible for HR. Hodges begins her role on Sept. 21. She replaces the current head of HR, who has left the company.

Activision Blizzard has made a number of important improvements including significant changes to personnel, exiting a number of employees, and expanding compliance resources. In addition, the Company has refreshed its HR organization and, this week, will welcome a new Chief People Officer, Julie Hodges, who joins the Company from The Walt Disney Company. The Company has also expanded training, performance management, and anti-harassment resources.

We’ll continue to provide updates on the situation with Activision Blizzard.

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