An Apex Legends developer has explained Respawn Entertainment's commitment to skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) amidst a backlash against the system.
Skill-based matchmaking has become a controversial topic in games. It uses a player's past in-game performances to sort that player into matches against players of around the same skill level. Some players, including prominent streamers, believe it shouldn't be used in public matches, which they say should be treated more casually.
When Team SoloMid content creator Albralelie asked via Twitter why developers choose to include SBMM in public matches, Respawn technical director Samy Duc replied, "Matchmaking is the combination of 3 things: a progression system, a matching algorithm [and] a skill rating."
Players get to see the progression system, and although Duc says players' skill levels don't often change much, they are given feedback such as changing ratings because they tend to life receiving the gratification. The actual skill rating is hard to calculate in a battle royale given the amount of random chance present. The matchmaking algorithm takes these factors into account in deciding how players get matched up.
"How the algorithm is going to make [the] choice to pick your opponent and teammate. Is it going to be the closest member in skill in the queue, is it going to be the guy that waited the longest in the queue because he needs to play before statistically quitting the game. It can get quite convoluted.and it is definitely not easy. On top, you have technical criteria like latency and region," he continued.
So SBMM, he concluded, "is just matchmaking with skill rating, so by definition just matchmaking. What matters is the skill system used and it is where should ask question I think. what does the game favor or think makes you a good player."
"To get back at the question, pubs usually does not get a progression system and therefore is less sticky to players compared to ranked. But ranked can be scary, because people care about their progression number so you have to offer a way for people to engage with the game without having to worry about it/without stress. But is the pure skill rating that different in both game modes, usually not, it is just not the same stake that drives different gameplay behavior which is super interesting in itself (playing to win/playing silly)," Duc concluded.
Duc's ultimate point appears to be that skill is just one of many factors taken into account during matchmaking, and that it receives less emphasis in public matches as opposed to ranked matches.