[Feedback] Let's anonymize ranked lobbies

Per request of some users on reddit, I’m linking the OG thread [here].

The gist of the idea is that anonymous lobbies would disincentivize dodging, which would lessen the smurf creation, making entire ranked match making ecosystem run much smoother.

The problem that surf accounts create is that the player base of the game is pretty limited. With a small pool of players finding a “fair” match-up can be very hard especially if sizeable chunk of the player base (especially at higher skill level) routinely “lies” about their skill (since Elo system takes some time to converge on true level).

This creates a vicious cycle in which players that routinely get dodged wreck “fairness” for everyone on the ladder, convincing more people of the unfairness of the Match Making, making it more probably that they will dodge an otherwise fair matchup, further driving the problem.

Additionally, there is no benefit to the player knowing his/hers opponent’s rank before the game starts (or even during the game for that matter), beyond the intimidation factor of being perceived as more skillful. But guess what, it works both ways.

So the only “useful” information contained in letting the player know exactly who they are playing against is in letting them choose to dodge… penalty for which is a 5 minute timeout.

Either remove the timeout, embrace the dodgers and smurfs and let community “police” themselves and the MM system, OR, hear me out - crazy idea - actually solve the issue once and for all.

I don’t think the benefit of “showing off” your badge to intimidate your opponent is a worthy sacrifice to make.

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maybe we could all use fake names or something?

Agree with this, just list the player names when the match gets to the loading screen. That’s what AoE 3 de does, when the ranked lobby fills you only see each players icon, not their name, civs they are playing or ranking. The way it is now in age 4 if someone thinks the game will be one sided by looking at what the opponents rank is they might just leave so they don’t get stomped. Goes for 1v1 and team games.

It is just that in terms of “fairness,” ranked has a system that allows us to play with a player who we can predict is of similar skill to us, yeah?

I’m not sure what anonymity solves?

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If I see your name and perceive you to be a better player then I am ( by looking at your profile or looking you up on the external ranking site) I may choose to dodge the game.

I’m trying to solve the issue of players exiting lobbies because they want to win or an easier match-up (against weaker opponents).

I agree that ranked MM provides a measure of fairness, but giving people information about who they are playing against (and thus info that can be used to decide to dodge or stay in the lobby) gives unfair advantage to those that are selfish or just decided that they do know better, which hurts everyone in the long run, including themselves.

Yes, this problem gets worse the higher up the ladder you go, because there are less and less people of similar skill to “fairly” match you against. That might create an illusion that this is a problem only the “elite” faces, but these players just make altaccounts and proceed to wreck MM “fairness” system for everyone else (including the people who dodged them in the first place).

I disagree with the author’s claim that anonymous lobbies would solve the smurfing problem.
People create smurf accounts for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s free
  2. It resets their matchmaking elo to 1000, which allows them to match against other players near 1000 elo
  3. To avoid name recognition, which realistically is only an issue for famous players

Anonymizing lobbies would not address #1 or #2 at all. It would only address #3 partially since names would eventually be revealed and recognizable. If ranked lobbies were anonymized, people would continue to smurf. A more effective way to address smurfing would be to make it costly by disabling free family sharing and unlimited account creation.

I also disagree with the author’s claim that there is no benefit to the player knowing his/her opponent’s rank before the match starts. Playing a match requires a time investment, and I would be reluctant to make that investment without knowing what I’m getting into. If the matchmaking system did not show the opponent’s name and rank prior to a match starting, there would be 2 options for when to reveal the opponent’s name and rank.

  1. Opponent name/rank revealed on the map loading screen, or as soon as the game starts. This would simply lead to players evaluating their opponent as soon as their opponent’s name and rank is revealed, and quite possibly leaving the match immediately after it begins.
  2. Opponent name/rank hidden until the match ends. In this scenario, players would likely play until the end of the match, but may feel additional fear, uncertainty, and doubt while playing. This would likely take a psychological toll on players. At the end of a match, after seeing their opponent’s name/rank for the first time, many players would feel they were abused and had their time wasted by being placed in an impossibly difficult matchup- the sort of matchup they would currently immediately dodge, i.e. platinum vs conqueror.

Depending on how it’s implemented, anonymizing ranked lobbies would replace dodging with either leaving or players feeling they had their time wasted, either of which is arguably worse than dodging itself.

I understand why the author wants to anonymize ranked lobbies. Some players would prefer anonymized ranked lobbies, especially those players who feel confident they can take on anyone. Other players prefer the existing transparent lobbies and the option of dodging, including those who have limited time for playing matches and want to make judicious use of their limited time. What I would say is this- the players who prefer anonymized lobbies may have more fun at the expense of others’ time if their wish is granted, but they seem to be devoted to the game and unlikely to quit the game if their wish is not granted. The players who want to maintain the exiting transparent lobbies and ability to choose which matches they play are probably not as dedicated and committed to the game, and might quit the game altogether if they feel their experience is degraded and their time is misused.

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With all due respect, AoE3’s ranked system is not an example of anything.

What should be done is polish the Matchmaking and then penalize the dodge well, neither more nor less.

P.S: There is no short/medium term solution for the smurfs.

I’m fairly new to this game (but not RTS in general) and this happens to me most in QM, where i practice. I play at a low level, and I’m not sure exiting lobbies totally relates to rank?

On a ranked level, even against a famous name, shouldn’t you be at least a relative skill? There is more than just intimidation and relative community respect to consider. Even if there is smurfing in a ‘smaller’ community, the top level is always the smallest peak of any community, and smurfing is the route in that community to get anonymity. It is a specific problem.

There is no point in me and the people in my Gold rank pool smurfing, or to get that anxious about ability, but there is less pressure. But again, if you’re matched against Beastie or Marinelord, it isn’t because you’re in Gold.

Smurfing at lower rank virtually does not exist, I agree. But dodging is a huge issue through the ranks. Everyone dodges Conquerors, Plats dodge Diamonds, Golds dodge Plats. I don’t knows if it goes any lower, because I don’t remember, never spent much time in Gold and below.

In either case anonymizing player name and rank in the lobby would not negatively impact anyone.

It would however remove smurfing as a solution to finding games, which would result in higher Ranked populations being healthier - no one I know would go smurfing (if they could find matches in the low DIA to CONQ range, but they can’t) just to play in 1k lobbies, they suck. There is no fun in pwning players orders of magnitude worse then yourself, worse so that fresh start places you not in 1k but closer to 800 ELO…

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I don’t know anyone who smurfs because it’s free, everyone that I know HATES the fact that they need smurfs in order to play the game…

Let’s look at the problem through your lens.

As I understand, your main opposition is that you are potentially hurting players by depriving them of the choice to decline to play a specific opponent. I understand. Lets take the example of the less confident, anxious player that you want to leave the possibility of dodging to. And let’s confront it with what’s happening right now on the ladder. He queues up for 2v2 with a friend, MM finds 2 opponents, G3+G2, great we are in Plat, it’s gonna be a fair game… 4:30 a knight says hello, dances dodging all your spearmen, then Longbows arrive and ram one of you to death while always perfectly positioning to snipe the vills. How? Because it’s a couple of CONQ players that just decided to smurf.

We have basically achieved anonymity at higher ranks at the cost of Gold/Plat players, by smurfing. What is more fair, that the Golds/Plats get to play against Conq players in disguise (current system) or Diamonds and other cowardly Conq players do not get the chance to dodge (what I propose)?

Under the current system (anonymity via smurfs) there is as good of a chance that, as a CONQ, I get matched against Golds, as it is that I get matched against closer to my skill level (when playing as a smurf). Under new system if it happens I go against Plat player (I’d play my main in this case) he will not get to decide to dodge the unfair matchup, true. But neither does he now, if I choose to play one of the smurf accounts that I have (I realized how damaging they are and stopped using them a while back).

I can’t take “anyone” for shit, I’m not even a CONQ in solo (yeah in TR I am, I used to sit around #500, no idea where I’m on ladder atm). I just don’t want Diamond players dodging me/us constantly even though they have pretty good chances of beating us if they focus on the game. We are not flawless…

As a parting question, one that nobody answered publicly yet, If it happens that you get matched against a lower ranked player that, were you in his shoes, you’d consider this matchup unfair, would you dodge? Or is it only when you are at an perceived disadvantage do you dodge?

I have never played against a smurf in AOE4 in my life. It’s actually easy to recognize a smurf and dodge them. Just check everyone’s profile, and if they have a win rate > 80%, their account is significantly under-ranked. A normal win rate for someone who is not a smurf should be between 40% and 60%. Anything over 60% is suspicious and anything over 80% is damning and auto-dodge territory. I do get matched up against smurfs every one in ten or twenty games, and I use my dodges when that happens.

To reiterate, I believe smurfing should require purchasing additional accounts, because if someone is preying on others by smurfing, they should at least have to pay some $ and support the game more to do so.

I use my dodges when I want to use them. I have a limited number of dodges I can use before my timeout period escalates too much. It’s the responsibility of the person who wants to dodge to use their own dodge. If the other player doesn’t want to play against me, they can use their dodge and I am fine with that. The way the current matchmaking works is that both parties get to veto a match if they want, and that is very important. Imagine if you had a dating matchmaking app like Hinge or Tinder, and you lacked the right to decline a match. In other words, if the matchmaking system FORCED you to go through with whatever match it came up with. While some people might like that system, many people would loathe it, and avoid it.

I was just saying you could hide info on all the players so people don’t get discouraged and prematurely quit. I don’t see what your problem is.

Im in! I like the way valve handled it in cs go

I think the difference between CS:Go and AOE4, is the former is a f2p game which is monetized by pampering whales and getting whales to pay lots of $$$ for the pleasure of headshotting f2p players who are not allowed to dodge whales. (notice the pun?)

AOE4, in contrast, is a paid game with no microtransactions where the conquerors and hardcore players pay the same freight as the gold league casual players. Statistically, 75% of accounts are gold and below. A policy of anonymity would benefit top/hardcore players to the detriment of casual players despite the fact that casual players collectively paid more for the game than hardcore players. See how that wouldn’t be fair?

I disagree. This is a horrible suggestion. In a competition, the opponent is known. Anonymity has no place in a competitive environment. This will kill the lobby experience & strategy.

We’re not babies that need protection from an intimidating badge. Fix the ecosystem starting by implementing a penalty for dodging. Address the functional flaws in the system instead of potential perceptions of intimidation.


Sorry, but people just have to search aoe4world for the name of the user they are playing with and they know. My favorite game is AoE3 and I can’t stand the ranked system (as long as they don’t change it).

That is true, you could just look them up to see. For 1v1 it wouldn’t take long either.

wtf. ask to improve penalty.
why you asking to change the whole system cause the problem, the only you suffering.

but you should be HAPPY, if opponent who are weaker than you had dodged. Why? Cause you want fair game and to nor kill noobs…

or is it about destroying noobs? while they can’t dodge and have to waste 20 minutes on the game just to loose against someones smurth?

Indeed. I would rather have the option (that I could enable/disable) to extend my queuing time in order to have a better matching. Most of the dodging happen because of bad matching and hiding the profiles make the player’s experience only worse. I understand the player base is not too large and matches are on average relatively long compared to some other RTSes but the thing is this game does not make you wait long before giving you a very bad matching. Quite often you get 300+ ELO gap even though you queued for less than 1 minute.