Merlini’s Mailbag and Solo Queue Clarifications

Woke up this morning, randomly clicked on a video link, and found my solo queue article getting mentioned.  A bit surprising.  Merlini gives it a fair treatment, and you can find it here if you like.  I’d also generally agree with his opinion on Vanguard right now.

Anyway, there are a few things that people have misinterpreted, really more in the reactions to the video than the video itself, so I thought I’d issue a short follow-up.

First, the letter Merlini reads misinterprets the proposal.  It’s not making every form of matchmaking other than AP into solo queue; it’s just making one particular mode (RD was suggested, but it could be any or a new mode) into the solo queue option.  Duplicating every mode would needlessly fracture the playerbase.  The goal instead is to keep the number of matchmaking options constant, but try to elevate one into a distinct secondary option to the current AP juggernaut.

One common response is that the stack win rates are no big deal because the loses are spread out over a large population and therefore barely noticeable.  I’m not going to say that this is impossible, but I think there are a couple factors that make it unlikely.  I’d expect one of two outcomes depending on how the matchmaking system handles it.

The first possibility is that the matchmaker recognizes that these stack matches are relatively likely losses.  In this case, the non-stacking team only takes a minor MMR hit upon losing.  But the non-stacking team was thrown into the match because they were the closest people to the top, and if they’re not losing much rating from losing, they’ll still be the closest to the top.  As a result, these particularly frustrating matches aren’t actually diffuse and instead concentrated in the very slightly less narrow band of players below the top 1%.

The second possibility is that losing to stacks does tank your MMR.  In this case, we have a scenario where the rating of the players in, say, the 2nd to 5th percentile range fluctuate depending on how many stack matches they happen to have triggered recently.  In this case the stomps are spread out, but as a result the ratings of the players in a larger range are now much more volatile than they would be otherwise.  An unlucky stretch of triggering stomp games will be fixed by those players now being underrated and stomping on players a few percentiles down the line.  What this ends up doing is lowering the matchmaking quality in the tier below the stomp tier because they’ll feature more underrated players who are only correcting back to their “true” rating.  So the losses are spread out, but not in a good way if you care about game quality.

My belief is that the only way this isn’t an issue is if the number of highly successful stacks is exaggerated.

Finally, the one thing that stood out to me was that Merlini mentioned that he and other people play ixdl when they’re frustrated with general matchmaking.  I don’t have an intimate knowledge of how ixdl works, but the description of it sounds an awful lot like a privately run solo queue, with the only difference being that since it’s invite only the players have more trust in the system to give them a fair game.  I think a lot of the frustration I hear is basically from people who want the ixdl experience without having to go through the vouch process.  It’s not as though the ixdl could just expand to contain them all because part of the experience is the social element that is maintained through the vouch barrier, so there needs to be additional outlets somewhere.

There’s not really a specific point here, just more of an observation.  Sometimes I wonder if we should just accept that top end matchmaking needs to work differently.  For instance, if top groups are going to deal with 15-30 minute queue times anyway, should we bother using continuous matchmaking?  Perhaps it would be better for Team Matchmaking to just say “Enter the queue whenever you want, matches will be formed for everyone in the queue every 30 minutes.”  In this case you’re waiting longer, but you know precisely how long you’ll be waiting, and you have more confidence that when you do get a match it will be against a more closely matched opponent than if the system just settles for the first “decent” matchup.

In any case, just having a solo queue shouldn’t be considered the long-term fix to any of Dota’s matchmaking ills, perceived or otherwise.  But if people really are burning out from stack fatigue, a short-term fix might be warranted if we want to maintain player population at the narrowest end of the distribution.

For those of you still waiting for actual statistical stuff, I had something ready but decided to delay it in light of Bristleback.  We’ll get back to your regularly scheduled programming either tomorrow or sometime over the weekend.


2 Responses to Merlini’s Mailbag and Solo Queue Clarifications

  1. Ewig Custos says:

    What do you think about long forgotten normal mode as solo queue mode? Is it better or worse than -rd in this matter?

    • phantasmal says:

      Unless I’m thinking of the wrong mode, probably worse. You sort of say it yourself when you call it long forgotten. We wouldn’t want the solo queue mode to be more popular than All Pick, but it still needs to be popular enough to attract a decent sized population.

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