When we announced our plans for Season 3, we discussed our plans to deploy a Competitive Skill Restriction in a future update. We have deployed a Party Matchmaking update today to address these issues, but it’s a little different from what we first explained. Originally, the restriction prevented parties from queuing for Competitive matches if their Skill Ratings were too far apart, but the more we worked on the feature, the more we realized that there was a better way to do it. Before we explain what that “better way” is, let’s first discuss how we got here:

First, the Competitive Restriction would have had a negative impact on groups of friends that were not abusing the system, but fell outside the new limitations. For instance, you may have been in a party with friends three tiers below you, then you won a match, ranked up, but your friends didn’t. In this scenario, you would no longer be able to play together. Theoretically, this was a negative side-effect that you’d just have to accept to maintain the integrity of competitive play, but one of the reasons we kept thinking about alternatives.

Secondly, for the Champion players among you, a three-tiered skill restriction would not have entirely fixed the ability of players to exploit the Top 100 Skill Leaderboards. A Grand Champion paired with a Superstar — the lowest-allowed player under the restriction —  would still climb the leaderboards more quickly than two Grand Champions playing together. This isn’t a bug, per se, it’s a logical outcome for the skill system. A Grand Champion and Superstar team is expected to lose to a team of two Grand Champions, so they earn more Skill rating for a victory. But this kind of setup also creates an incentive for fellow Champion players to “smurf” with an alternate, Superstar-ranked account so that ranks can be gained faster than playing legitimately.

Here’s what we’ve decided to do instead:

Improved Party Skill Rating

Our new solution does a better job of fixing the problems at hand. Here’s how it works:

  • You can search for Competitive games in a Party with anyone in your friends’ list, regardless of their current skill tier
  • Instead of averaging each player’s skill together in a Party, Party Skill is now based on the highest-skilled player in the group
  • When skill ratings are updated after a match, the new Party Skill rating will be used to prevent players from ranking up faster by teaming up with lower-ranked friends

What does this mean in practice?  Let’s look at a few examples:

  • A Challenger Elite player and a Prospect Elite player party up to play Doubles together.  Previously, that combination would have averaged out to roughly Challenger II-level.  Under the new system, they will be considered a Challenger Elite party.
  • A Grand Champion player and an Unranked player party up. Previously, they would have matched as Rising Star, and the Grand Champion could earn skill rating despite playing lower-ranked players. This pairing will now match as Grand Champion.  And, more importantly, that Grand Champion player will earn the same skill rating as a party of two Grand Champions would – not the skewed gains seen on the live servers.  And their opponents will gain or lose the same rating as they would against two Grand Champions.

This new system has major upsides. First, friends can still queue Competitive together even if their ranks aren’t quite close enough, and second, when players face off against parties of wide skill variance, the highest ranked player should be near their rank, not significantly above them. Finally, using a low-ranked “Smurf” teammate no longer gives any tangible benefit when ranking up.

Fixing Rank Boosting

We recognize that just fixing matches going forward doesn’t address the existing issues with players who have exploited these loopholes to reach rankings they don’t deserve.

For now, we will take specific action against players at Rising Star and above that have demonstrated a consistent pattern of partying with teammates well below their personal rank.  This pattern is defined as follows:

  • Greater than 25% of matches played with a teammate more than eight skill tiers below the player.
  • Greater than 30 matches played with a teammate more than eight skill tiers below the player.

All players that meet either of the above criteria, and are in Rising Star tier or higher, will have their Skill Tier and MMR set to Rising Star, Division I.  For the purposes of end of season rewards, they will not be considered to have reached Champion unless they reacquire that ranking after these changes.

As always we welcome your feedback and look forward to seeing how you like the new system. Enjoy!