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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 

Call of Duty: Warzone

Activision issuing “hardware bans” to thwart Warzone cheaters

Activision have confirmed that they are handing out “hardware bans” to banned cheaters who keep making fresh accounts.

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Call of Duty Warzone gameplay

Cheaters and hackers have plagued Call of Duty: Warzone since its launch, but on top of account bans, Activision has confirmed that they are issuing hardware bans to thwart repeat offenders.

Cheaters have been a thorn in both players’ and developers’ sides since Warzone launched in 2020. It has been common to run into players blatantly wall-hacking and aim-botting, ruining the game for casual players and pros alike.

Raven Software has been providing regular updates on how many cheaters have been banned, and Activision recently confirmed that 475,000 permabans have been issued since Warzone’s launch. The likely reason why this number is so high is that Warzone is free-to-play. It’s widely believed that even if a cheater’s account gets banned, they can simply create a new one and carry on as if nothing happened.

Activision is aware of this issue and player’s concerns and released an in-depth update on their anti-cheat progress on April 12.

Because so many players have been concerned that account bans are ineffective, Call of Duty staff responded to this, saying that “Removing cheaters and taking away their ability to move to alternate accounts is a key focus for the security teams.”

They confirmed that if you’re cheating, not only could you be unknowingly downloading malware to your system, you could also receive a hardware ban.

To make sure players don’t keep creating fresh accounts to cheat with, Activision said, “We do issue hardware bans against repeat, or serial, cheaters. This is an important part of our effort to combat repeat offenders.”

This means that players who receive a hardware ban will be permanently locked out and won’t be able to simply create a new, free account and go back to their cheating ways.

Helicopters flying to Warzone's Verdansk Stadium

Activision also confirmed that not only are they targeting individual accounts with cheats installed, but also “the commercial market of cheat providers and resellers.” They revealed that they have recently banned “45,000 fraudulent, black market accounts used by repeat offenders.”

Cheaters will likely still make their way into your Warzone sessions, but Activision is making sure it’s continuously more risky and difficult to do.

In the meantime, you can check out our guide on how to spot cheaters in Warzone so you can assist Activision by reporting these players.

Image Credit: Activision

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Report: Activision Blizzard HQ & Treyarch offices set to relocate

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A new report states Activision Blizzard will no longer lease its office space in Santa Monica and are actively searching for a new HQ location.

DoTEsports reports that Activision Blizzard and Treyarch have ended their lease at their Santa Monica HQ offices. The company has had the office under their lease for more than a decade.

Per the new report, the teams that work in those spaces will work from home until further notice.

The company is reportedly in search of a new space. An internal memo, which was sent to staff and obtained by DoTEsports, states the company is actively looking for a new office space in the Santa Monica area.

We have narrowed down the search for our next office location to several properties in the Santa Monica area and we hope to finalize our plans in the coming weeks,” the internal company communication said.

Activision employees have been working from home since March 2020. As of now, the company says they’re on track to return to office by September 1, 2021. The timeline remains unchanged.

Activision’s main headquarters was located in the Santa Monica office on Ocean Blvd in California. Treyarch’s studio space was located right next door to Activision Blizzard HQ in Santa Monica on the first floor of an office building. The two used those buildings for over 10 years now, and are now up for rental and purchase.

Activision has not commented on this information as of now.

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Activision

Investment group calls out Activision for CEO payout

Activision Blizzard’s CEO continues to rake in bonus after bonus, and now investment firms are questioning the decisions.

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An investment firm, CtW, issued a statement report directed at Activision for upcoming bonus pay for their CEO, Bobby Kotick, which is valued at a remarkable $200 million.

The report states that an SEC filing and agreement between Activision Blizzard CEO and the board of directors of the company will allow the CEO to receive a bonus pay of $200 million at the end of this year.

Per the investment group, as released to GameSpot, a loophole created within Bobby Kotick’s employee agreement allows him to claim full bonus payout for previous years regardless of the company’s performance. This loophole is described in the “Shareholder Value Creation Incentive” provision in Kotick’s employment agreement. He can receive a full performance equity payout from previous years – 2017 and on. That is valued at almost $200 million, which is set to be paid out in cash upon the end date of the incentive provision.

Investment group CtW issued a scathing statement over this, as the company just this week laid off less than 2% of its workforce, which is less than 190 people for “restructuring” purposes. The lay offs impacted Activision Blizzard esports department, alongside the company’s King division.

While the increase in Activision’s stock price is somewhat commendable, as we stated last year and continue to assert, this achievement alone does not justify such a substantial pay outcome for the CEO,” director of executive compensation research, Michael Varner, said. “There are many factors that may contribute to a rise in this particular company’s stock price that may not be directly attributable to Robert Kotick’s leadership. The use of video games as one of the few entertainment options available amid the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has been a boon to many companies in the gaming industry irrespective of executive talent or strategic decisions.

Bobby Kotick already makes $30 million a year from Activision thanks to his base salary and bonus yearly pay. He’s one of gaming’s highest paid executives. Activision continues to report record profits with 2020 being the company’s biggest year yet.

Activision has not commented on the latest developments on this payout.

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