“SBMM” – aka skill-based matchmaking was a trending phrase on Twitter this week as the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War beta went live and players resorted to killing themselves over and over again in a bid to improve their experience with the game.
SBMM relates to the way matchmaking works in video games, and it has become a hot topic within the Call of Duty community in recent years. The idea is by deliberately gaining a negative kill / death ratio in matches, Black Ops Cold War’s SBMM will essentially demote you down its skill ranking, and then matchmake you with players more your level (or you’ll do better against).
The issue flared up with the release of the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War alpha, which saw players complain its SBMM was too harsh and lobbies were “like COD League Finals”.
But the issue was exacerbated with the release of the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War beta on PlayStation 4 this week.
What’s interesting is it looks like Treyarch has tweaked the game to prevent players from killing themselves as soon as they respawn. As noted by Dexerto, Treyarch has made players invulnerable to all damage for a few seconds when they spawn in. Treyarch has yet to comment on this change (it wasn’t in the beta notes the developer published), but it is being taken as a bid to protect the game’s SBMM.
Meanwhile, the Call of Duty community noticed a significant change from the Black Ops alpha to the beta: lobbies now disband after each match, forcing you to matchmake all over again. Some players have reacted negatively to this change, which is seen as triggering the SBMM more often than it would if lobbies stuck together across multiple matches.
Treyarch has yet to address the issue of SBMM, apart from a few tweets from a developer. In September, Treyarch developer Martin Donlon waded in to debunk the myth that previous Call of Duty titles did not have SBMM. “SBMM is one of many many tuneable parameters in a matchmaking system,” Donlon added. “It’s funny watching people talk about it like it’s a big switch that can only be turned on or off.”
The upshot of all this is players are calling for a ranked playlist for people “to sweat in”, as it’s known – and it sounds like this is on its way to Black Ops Cold War (Modern Warfare does not have ranked play). During a recent interview, Treyarch’s David Vonderhaar was asked about it. “Do you know a Black Ops game without a hardcore competitive agenda? Can you think of one? I cannot,” he replied.