Create a casual noob-friendly matchmaker queue (to increase player retention)

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FAF's new player retention is low; about 90% of new players leave FAF within 2 years. Current ladder/TMM options are often viewed as competitive and not conducive to new players. Many custom lobbies are also not conducive to a good experience for new players (people kicking greys, blaming/flaming them, etc).

I propose we make an option for noobs to queue in a matchmaker that is noob-friendly. There are various ways this could be done. One method would be to make an unranked matchmaker that has a beginners bracket that is only available to people with fewer than like 100 games and or less than like 500 rating. This matchmaker could even have the option to play vs AI if a pvp match can't be found quickly enough.

Thoughts?

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@randomwheelchair
The vast majority of new players leaving FAF is a big deal. A lot of those new players leave because of people like you contributing to a more toxic noob-unfriendly atmosphere for them. Here is a link to a forum post on this very subject of new player retention with over 300 responses from numerous players in the ~3.5 months that it's been up: https://forum.faforever.com/topic/1100/why-would-you-have-left-faf/
If you actually want to better understand how the current system is not noob-friendly, you can read that forum to gain some perspective.

Adding a casual matchmaker option wouldn't remove the competitive matchmaker, and over time, the increased multiplayer player retention would actually increase the amount of people playing competitively as well.

To give you some perspective, something like half of all the games played on FAF are currently played against AI. There is a very large pool of potential players that can be integrated into FAF progressively over time. Creating a casual noob-friendly matchmaker option would help advance that process.

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You can pause a game v ai, a big reason to play v ai

Ladder pool is very small when I can play, diluting it further with more choices doesn't sound like a good idea

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Just letting you know that the industry average for games 7 days into their lifecycle is roughly 6 percent. At least for mobile.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.businessofapps.com/news/only-top-games-reach-retention-rates-of-35/amp/

I don’t see how your solution actually does anything to solve the problem you’ve perceived. You’re still going to queue for pvp games in a balanced setting, which will inherently be seen as competitive in nature. It’s not particularly keeping people who play the game that is the issue but actually on-boarding them in the first place. It’s why you’re seeing many people hanging about (in discord) who haven’t even played the game.

An unranked matchmaker would be a pit people would never escape from, as not gaining rating would never eventually force them out of the top of the skill ceiling. Thus allowing people (smurfs too) to endlessly farm new players, which isn’t good. I don’t think isolating a segment of the player base away is good either, you need a plan to convert players eventually.

I don’t see how the slim chance you’ll get an ai game translates into converting pve players to pvp players. Around 500 rating is the highest populated skill bracket. Assuming any percentage of pve players join the system, one would never get to play vs ai in the first place.

You would need to prove that toxicity correlates into a drastic loss of retention. Right now it just looks like a way to attack other people from a position of moral superiority. I urge you to try a popular mutiplayer game like COD and see how that goes for you.

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IMO best returns for this stuff would be doing coop-style scaling missions on traditional FAF maps. Introduce how to do a 2 land fac into air fac start with no hydro. Have the map use a unit cap of like 50 or something (no idea if you could set it to something very precise) so that you can't spam up a ton of units or factories. Instead have players need to build a small force of tanks to kill an ACU walking around mid (that has some aa towers around). This all would be locked on tech 1 and other stuff.

Then you can do similar stuff for a hydro BO. Except this time you get attacked by a first bomber and need to learn how to properly respond to it. Then you go raid the enemy with early LABs.

Then you got a map where you go first bomber and get told what things to go for, you establish a stable base while learning to micro the bomber.

Then you do a map like Loki where you learn to send engies to trees to cut down on the pgens to make 2nd air.

Really tons of possibilities.

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I agree entirely that there needs to be a casual matchmaker, or at the very least a matchmaker that uses global rating. In fact THE MAIN REASON that motivated Geo and myself to even start building the TMM in the first place was to provide a way for new players to get into the game in a casual way. Sadly we have the ladder gods in charge of the matchmaker queues so what we got is yet another competitive rating to obsess about.

I have already proposed a number of interesting ways in which the matchmaker could be used in a casual way. The central idea which also solves the problem of having a small player base that is unable to fill more than 1 or 2 queues is to have a “Mode if the Week” queue that automatically changes to a new set of rules every week. These rule sets could include stuff like:

  • modded games. Nomads, koth, phantom, etc. or non-featured sim mods as well.
  • different game types. FFA, XvXvX, mapgen, asymmetric maps
  • survival maps, or coop vs AI
  • 64 ACU’s
  • crazy rush
  • zone control

Really anything interesting that people have played in custom could go into such a rotating "Mode of the Week" queue that would encourage casual play where rating is not the focus. Yes, automating a rotating queue would need some additional coding work, as would some of the modded game modes, but I would be interested in working on it if the community desire is there. In the mean time some of these ideas could easily be implemented manually. The matchmaker should be a place where people can queue up, relax and have fun, and where new players can learn different game mechanics and discover all that FAF has to offer.

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@biass

An unranked matchmaker would be a pit people would never escape from, as not gaining rating would never eventually force them out of the top of the skill ceiling

I would implement an "unranked matchmaker" simply as a matchmaker with a hidden rating. It would still technically be rated just that you don’t get to see your rating so you can’t obsess about it. This is how I would expect casual queues (for example csgo casual) to be implemented.

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Askaholic I was actually going to ask you if this idea was possible, I also thought a queue that ran party games was a solid idea. It would help players get involved into the game better than immediately forcing people into balanced pvp. I don’t think I would be here if I didn’t play stuff like claustrophobia, etc. maybe it’s something to add? I don’t know if you have working ffa queue yet.

csgo casual is more or less a different game mode, it’s not the same thing. Your solution works fine though imo.

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The notion of casual queues was never discarded by me nor anyone else? It was put in the Soon(tm) pile just as all other additional queues.

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We have the ui space on the client to chuck on more queues. We designed the thing to allow that, I’m happy to see if I can task people to help with the resources (fix the game modes, find suitable maps for it) if you need.

It’s crazy that everyone comes up with the same idea at roughly the same time, the heads of the faf hive mind will be pleased.

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Well I posted this in zulip months ago, but I suppose it got buried and I started working on other stuff.

FFA matchmaking isn’t implemented but I think it’s pretty trivial (sort by rating then take first X people for your game). Adding that would probably give the best value for dev time investment.

Coming up with some concrete ideas for maps and game settings would be a good start cuz then we can make sure to implement everything that’s needed.

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IMO FaF needs 4 things to become complete and really help with the retention. Games vs AI where you can quickly get a game vs AI with friends preferably. A casual matchmaker with hidden rating. Tutorial missions that take place in a carefully adjusted enviroment and teach you specific fundementals 1 by 1. Larger queues in TMM that are introduced as unranked queues and only if the player base allows make it both casual unranked and ranked competitive gamemode.
I also really like the rotating gamemode idea but tbh I don't think it would solve retention issues and new player experience. New players are usually afraid to check out new stuff, gamemodes with completely different rules etc. A casual matchmaker where people wouldn't stress so much about game outcome and where rating isn't visible so you don't get stigmas would in my opinion achieve more.

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With a larger player base I'd be in favour of such a matchmaking idea. My concern though is that you'll only end up with a small number of people queuing at a time (except for very busy periods) similar to the existing matchmakers, and you'll inevitably have some people who are very good at whatever custom mode is highlighted compared to a new player.

That said, one of the biggest issues I have with both the 1v1 and 2v2 matchmakers is that the maps are too much like hard work. That is, if I get a 1v1 map there's a good chance it's some large sprawling map with mexes everywhere that requires me to do a crazy amount of actions a minute to keep up with t1 land spam being mandatory (except on huge maps or naval ones), which ends up being stressful not fun. In 2v2 from what little I've played it's similar, but with the added pressure of a teammate who will be angry that I don't perform as well as they'd like.

I think this is a large part of the reason games like gap, astro, dual gap, pass etc. are popular - you dont have to focus on as many areas of the map at once, and so there's more chance to just have fun, and it's alot easier to get into as a new player. Even setons and isis mirror this to a large extent (ignoring the players who will make your life miserable if you don't conform to the expected way of doing things when starting in a particular slot).

Therefore I like the idea of having lots of different 'fun'/different types of modes that will make a change in gamestyle from the standard 1v1, especially if they include vs AI challenges, I'm just not sure how to solve the issue of too few new players wanting to do it leading to those that do try getting crushed by pros. One possibility might be to showcase it on the news page (e.g. you have a different mode each week, and the news page features it prominently).

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@maudlin27
You make a good point about the sprawling map types chosen for ladder being a large factor in making them more stressful for noobs. I think a decent amount of effort/polling should take place to determine noob-friendly maps that could go in the casual matchmaker.

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It's already being considered when the map pools are being created, the noob map pools have less, smaller and easier maps. Surveys have already been made in the past and they've concluded that, what a surprise, bigger maps are more stressful and worse for new players.

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For the rotation and casual I would suggest a pretty opaque "Quick Match" option.

Based on available players it goes through several pools of options, no option is solo.

  1. 6+ matchable players: Regular but easy Teamgames, Mini Dual Gap?
  2. 3+ matchable players: 2v2, 3-5 vs. AI
  3. 2 matchable players: 2 vs. AI, short campaign missions

I think the Player Councillor should play a big role in identifying popular and disliked options for the "Quick Match" matchmaker, and act quickly if needed or opportune.

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different team sizes in the same queue are not supported at the moment.

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The majority of stuff in this thread is not supported at the moment. The point is to throw out ideas for what might be worth trying to implement.

I quite like that idea of a quick match/adaptive queue that can scale to different game sizes depending on the number of players. That might be a solution for lack of players in larger queues.

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I mean, it depends on the details how the queue should behave exactly, but can't a lot of that be mitigated by just queuing for multiple queues in parallel?