Elemental Evil was the biggest Module to date and exclusively a PVE one, so you would expect (and devs actually gave hints in the past) that the next major updates could include changes to the PVP system in some shape or form. And boy it’s needed. The sad truth is that PVP is in a worse state than ever. That’s a fact. It’s not about class balance or various exploits, but more that Cryptic tries to serve both casual and competitive PVP at the same time and while doing so, fails in both areas.
Let’s get some historical perspective here first. Originally PVP has been the two Domination maps without matchmaking and without a leavers penalty. By introducing the two mechanics soon after Module 2, the devs hoped to fix the two major concerns surrounding PVP:
- Players would just quit if the match wasn’t going their way
- Matches were highly imbalanced and routs most of the time
One thing caused the other: Because PUGs weren’t protected from frequently getting stomped by premades or highly geared players, frustration grew over time and led to more and more players quitting matches. Players rightfully claimed that only one out of ten matches were enjoyable. Another factor played a part in the problem: Because Cryptic nerfed the glory gain for the inferior side to combat bots, losing really is highly unrewarding and essentially a waste of time. The presented solution was a decent one. Theoretically every player should get a balanced matchup more times than not and hence the necessity to leave the match outside simply being butthurt would diminish.
A few Mods later, we know it hasn’t quite worked out that way. The first visible sign of matchmaking working back in Mod 2 was that queue times literally exploded to 30 minutes and more. Rumor has it that Cryptic made an initial change to the matchmaking to reduce the wait, which also meant softening the system so that more players of different skill and rating would get matched up in case no opponents of equal competition were available.
If you want to know when the system failed, look no further. Because Neverwinter has always been a casual game, Cryptic had to avoid high queue times to not drive away their main customer base. I guess the hardcores could have lived with such a hindrance if it meant they indeed were getting quality matchups, but the outcry on the message board quickly showed that the majority couldn’t.
Nevertheless, the first results were acceptable. I was sporting a GWF back then and actually got more even matchups than before. I remember it being 4 out of 10, but other reports were closer to 50%.
But with a decreasing PVP population, partly because the additions to the gametype are rare or haven’t exactly been a success like open world PVP, matchmaking had more and more problems finding equal competition and therefore simply matched up anybody available. This led to the situation that we’re currently back where we started: Only one out of ten games are competitive and enjoyable.
It’s actually even worse. The lowbies get stomped again but can’t forfeit to quickly get another match because of the leavers penalty. Meanwhile premades and other highly geared and skilled players are bored to death and have no tools to arrange a matchup. In Mod 2, premades would sync queues and in case they missed each other, just leave the match and try again. That’s no longer possible.
This raises a legitimate question: If the matchmaking can’t produce, what’s the benefit? Time has run out, because the system that should have solved everything is already outdated and does not fit the current requirements any longer. The devs still need to decide whether they want PVP to play a major role or not, because currently neither tier of players get what they need.
The solution might not be as hard though. With the introduction of GG PVP as regular queue, they have a great opportunity to divide the competitive players from the casual ones.
GG has no matchmaking anyway right now so it would make sense to scratch the leaver penalty as well and make this map your everyday PVP experience with nearly instant queues, but low competition. In a second step introduce a premade Domination queue, that can only be entered with a full team, and a solo Domination queue, that can only be entered alone. The premade queue would allow teams to battle each other again while the solo queue would be the only one contributing to the ELO rating and would feature a harsh matchmaking algorithm. Why does need the ELO a solo queue? One of the main criticisms of the system has been that it does not measure individual skill accurately because it’s a team environment. While you don’t know whether or how much the algorithm accounts for good teammates (maybe it doesn’t at all), a solo queue would be the most unbiased representation of skill.
That way you could have it all. Premades fight premades, the ELO rating and matchmaking would be significant, but at the cost of probably long queue times, and all casuals or those that want to team up with friends for a quick match could join GG.
However, some change has to happen, because PVP is dying a slow death ever since Module 3 and at some point you better stop the bleeding.