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Launch Module Update – Feb 27, 2014

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#1 Paul Inouye

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 10:22 AM

Launch Module Update – Feb 27, 2014

The Launch Module, a new means of connecting players together in a more comprehensive and structured manner with the ability to play in a space that suits their own needs.

This Launch Module incorporates changes to how teams are assembled in the Match Maker and how groups are dealt with when queuing for matches. A separate game space is created as well that allows players to take more control of their experience in terms of a player controlled Lobby.

In this post, you will learn about the following:
  • Changes to the Solo/Group Public Match
  • Addition of Free Private Matches and Premium Private Matches
  • How the design and engineering team made certain key decisions on getting the features implemented.
Surprising Stats:

Let’s start with some surprising facts pulled from the game server’s metrics:
  • Out of all matches launched, 84% are solo launches.
  • 16% are group launches. (We omitted our 12-mans because they will be dealt with separately)
  • Of that 16%, 8% are 2-man groups, 4% are 3-man groups and 4% are 4-man groups.

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Fig 1 – Group vs Solo Launches

This was very surprising to us as it was assumed that most launches would have been groups.
That being said, we looked at our overall goal of what we wanted the player experience to be when players launch into our game. Right now we have issues of lopsided teams in terms of Mech builds and overall tonnage. Another thing we kept in mind was the number of team players being mixed with the solo players.
We deem that public matches are where we, the developers, set the rules and expectations of the end player experience. Private matches are where the players set the rules and expectations of the end player experience. (Private matches detailed further down.)

Our Vision for Player Experience:
  • Drop into a match and play against a team of reasonably equal skilled players and equally balanced lance builds.
    • The ideal lance build would consist of 1 Assault, 1 Heavy, 1 Medium and 1 Light ‘Mech to bring the full breadth of play types to the battlefield. We do understand that this isn’t the best lance build within a company since you’d probably want to have your scout lance, skirmish lance, support lance and assault lance. This 1/1/1/1 build however would bring lances together that made a company build a lot more strategically balanced.
  • Teams should not be mixed with multiple groups on 1 team and solo players on the other. An equal balance must be maintained due to the groups having much more communication and can affect how a team performs.
  • As a 12-player group, we want the player to be able to choose who they fight against. This is a major feature for the competitive groups and league players alike.
Here are our steps involved with solving these issues in a way that keeps our vision integrity intact and at the same time address some of the hot topics within the community.

Our initial plan was to implement a fairly rigid tonnage limit into team building. While this did solve the issue of a specific weight class outnumbering the other weight classes drastically, there were some key edge cases that came to light while we went through the design.

Issue 1:
The ability to create lop sided builds still existed. If a team wanted to, they could create a team of 6 Assaults and 6 Lights and still fall within the tonnage limits. This is not the type of gameplay we envisioned when looking at the restrictions.

Issue 2:
Players would not always be guaranteed to play the ‘Mech they wanted. Imagine a 2-man group with the proposed 120 ton limit. If a player and his friend both bought the Atlas with MC because they thought it looked cool, they would not be able to group up and play together since they’d be 80 tons over the limit. 1 Atlas would require the other player to play a Locust and there is no other option. What if the other player didn’t own a Locust? The group would then be at a stalemate and not able to launch.

Issue 3:
Players trying to min/max the system would drive a meta that once again does not fall into the vision of our player experience. Min/max will happen but we can control it to a certain extent.

Our Solution:
Instead of restricting team builds by tonnage and causing these weird edge cases, we decided to implement a team building limitation based on Weight Class. This means for each ‘Mech of a certain Weight Class, there is one on the opposing team. On top of that, we will enforce a 3/3/3/3 team build based on Weight Class as well. That is, a team is to consist of 3 Lights, 3 Mediums, 3 Heavies and 3 Assaults. No more, no less in each class.

This helps keep our vision point of a lance being created using a 1/1/1/1 lance build. 3 Lances, each at 1/1/1/1 giving a team build of 3/3/3/3. This 3/3/3/3 build is also a lot easier for new players to understand and it is also a good way of preventing a single weight class dominating a team’s build.

With this solution, players are able to launch in any ‘Mech they own without having to worry about a tonnage limit restricting their ability to do so. Those two players who wanted to play in a group of 2 Atlases are now able to do so. The Match Maker at this point would simply queue them as a group of 2 Assault Mechs.

Also within this solution is a restriction to the amount at which a team of players can min/max the team builds in terms of tonnage preference of one ‘Mech over another.

Queuing Solo vs Groups:

A big problem we had back in Closed Beta was the fact that a 4-man group in an 8-man team could sway the course of a battle drastically. This became less of an issue when we increased the size of teams from 8 to 12. Just because it was less of an issue does not mean it went away completely. Depending on how the match maker assigned groups to teams, it was still very possible to have 2 4-man groups on a single team and various permutations of team size as well. With the release of the Launch Module, we plan on addressing this on a new level.

Yes, groups will still mix with solo players but on a much stricter level. Each team will have a maximum of 1 group in it. No longer will 2 groups of 4 be put on the same side. It will still be possible that a group of 4 is on one team and a group of 3 or 2 on the other but the Match Maker will try to find groups of equal sizes first and only go for smaller groups if even groups are not available.

Also, the Match Maker will not balance a group of 4 with 2 groups of 2 as it will be hard limited to 1 group per team. A double 2 player group combination does not necessarily balance directly with a 4 player group since they won’t be directly communicating with each other.

Group Sizes:

As indicated in Fig 1, at the opening of this post, 84% of our player base launches solo. When it comes to groups, the highest percentage of groups kicking off is 8% being 2-man groups. 3 and 4-man groups make up 8% combined and are split equally at 4% each.

Now one thing we had to keep in mind when determining the maximum group size was the issue we first had where a 4-man group on an 8-man team could sway the outcome drastically. That being said, the same could be said about a 6-man group in a 12-man team. Instead of just picking arbitrary numbers to limit group sizes, we decided to stick with lore and allow players to form a lance. Ideally we would have stuck with a 3-man group to make the match maker’s job a little easier with the 3/3/3/3 team structure but BattleTech™ has always been about the lance.

We had mentioned earlier that we wanted to allow groups of 2-12. With the above investigation this has proven to be troublesome. Groups of 5-11 would have 2 issues. A group of 5-11 can sway the battle too much in a 12-man team, and groups of 5-11 would have to be matched equally on both teams in order to keep it balanced and to do that would drastically increase wait times for matches to kick off.

When it comes to the 12-man queue, we plan on watching the number of players still playing in this queue. We have a feeling that the majority of these matches are being played by the competitive crowd and that the functionality of Private Matches (explained later in this post) would be used by them rather than public drops. We expect a drastic drop in 12-man public matches but will monitor the match counts to see what will come of the 12-man public queue. Right now, the only way for a 12-man team to earn rewards is in the public queue. If we find that the 12-man public queue is just not worth the overhead, we will probably put rewards into the 12-man Free Private Match but not the Premium Private Match as the Premium version allows too much player customization and opens a large venue for exploiting the system to farm CBills and XP.

Stretch Goal for Matching Tonnage Even More Rigidly

Along with the Class balancing, we are looking into making the Match Maker take into consideration the tonnage of the Mechs it’s polling to put into teams. For example, the Match Maker would not only say a player has a Heavy, but a 75-ton Heavy. If available, find another 75 ton heavy to put on the other team. If another 75-ton Heavy is not found, it will try for a 70-ton Heavy and eventually try to match the tonnage as closely as possible when building the two teams. This will dramatically increase the tonnage accuracy between the two teams in terms of balance. Even though this is a stretch goal, it is the desire of the team to push hard to get this in for the first iteration of the Launch Module. If it does not make the release date, we will make sure it’s in one of the immediate follow-up patches.

What the Solo Public Match Queue Looks Like:

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  • A solo player can still select which Game Mode they wish to drop into.
  • Upon clicking Launch, the player is bucketed into one of 3 tiers based on their Elo score. 0-1000 = Tier 1. 1001-1500 = Tier 2. 1501-2800 = Tier 3. (Keep in mind, these thresholds will be tuned as we monitor games being played.)
  • The now Elo Ranked Player is put into the Match Maker queue and their Mech’s Weight Class is recorded.
  • The Match Maker now looks for any games available that have room for the player’s Mech Weight Class and are in the same Elo tier.
  • When an opening is found, the Player is injected into a Team in that game.
  • The Match Maker fills both teams with 3 Assault Mechs, 3 Heavy Mechs, 3 Medium Mechs and 3 Light Mechs.
  • When both teams are full, the Match Maker kicks off the game and players connect to their dedicated server and play a match.
  • Upon completing the match, players are returned to the front end where they can re-prep their Mechs for the next match.
What the Group Public Match Queue Looks Like:

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  • On group creation, max group size = 4
    • A maximum of 3 Mechs in one weight class is allowed (e.g. max of 3 Assaults, 4th player cannot bring an Assault)
  • When the group leader clicks Launch, they start the queue process.
  • Match Maker calculates average Elo.
  • Average Elo is used to put the group into their respective Elo tier.
  • Match Maker now gets the ‘Mech weight class of each player in the group.
  • Match Maker will check available games for room for the group.
    • If there is no room for the group’s Mechs, the Match Maker will create a new lobby for them to join.
    • One group per team is hard limited so a group of 4 can be matched with a group of 2, but the match maker will not match a group of 4 with 2 groups of 2.
  • All extra slots on a team with a group in it, will be filled with solo launch players fitting the weight class restriction.
12-man Public Matches
  • The 12-man public matches do not change from how they operate right now with the exception that they must adhere to the 3 Assault, 3 Heavy, 3 Medium, 3 Light team build restriction.
Private Matches

Private Matches are where the players get to choose the rules and limitations of a match. There are two types of private matches:
  • Free Private Match
  • Premium Private Match
In the Free Private Match, players can create a group up to 12 and launch into a pre-match lobby. In this lobby, the creator of the lobby (group leader) will have to invite the rest of the players to fill out the full 24-man match. Inviting a group leader to a private lobby will pull that leader and his group into the Lobby provided there is room.

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What this allows players to do is to choose who they play against (a major win for the competitive crowd).
The option available to the Free Private Match creator is the same as the public launch option, that being which Game Mode is to be played. The Free Private Match creator also has the ability to drag and drop people from one team to the other if needed. Both Team Leaders can sort players amongst the 3 available lances on their own team.

The Premium Private Match behaves the same way as the Free Private Match with a few exceptions. These include:
  • Ability to set game mode.
  • Ability to select map.
  • Ability to select view lock (1st person only, 3rd person only, both).
  • Ability to select tonnage limits or remove tonnage limits completely (yes, actual tonnage limits).
  • Ability to set match time.
In order to create a Premium Private Match, the lobby creator must have Premium Time active on their account.

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If the leader of the opposing team has Premium Time active on their account, a final option is made available. This is the ability to create uneven teams (12v10 for example), of varying sizes. This includes the ability to create 5v5 games, or 1v1 games.

The reason for the need of a second Premium Time for this last option is that games that are not full 12v12 cost us extra dedicated servers that normally would be used for full matches. Dedicated servers running 1v1 games are not running optimal player/server loads and are more expensive to run. There was a thought to have all lance leaders to have to have Premium Time but we figured that was just too much and hard to organize so we settled on having the leaders of both Team 1 (who is also the lobby creator) and Team 2 being the only two who would need to have Premium Time active.

Special Note: The use of Premium Time to get access to the more advanced options is currently a temporary implementation. The plan is to eventually move to a pay-per-use model which will fit much better into both the player experience and business model requirements.

Expected Release Date:
With all of the changes to both the Match Maker and Lobby systems, this feature is going to go through extended testing. That being said, we are going to be pushing out the expected release date to April 29th, 2014.

Please post your feedback here!

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