Balanced Matchmaking or Player Cheating?

call-of-duty-advanced-warfare-2Cheaters. You can’t get away from them. No matter how a game is designed, people will find a way to cheat even when the design was intended to help less skilled players. The latest hub-bub of this happening is with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Apparently the “in” thing to do is to stand in the corner and kill yourself to lower your rating. This will get you moved into a match with lower rated players and let you place your domination upon them. You’ll feel like a bad-ass but the other players will feel cheated.

First off, if you are doing this you are a cheater, no mincing words about it. Play the game legitimately and earn your rewards fairly. Don’t take advantage of other players in order to gain rewards or to feel better about yourself. Developing your skills and getting better will ultimately be more rewarding than getting cheap thrills and rewards. Fortunately, Sledgehammer Games is looking to address this with the ever-powerful banhammer.

“Peel back another layer and ask how or why is this behavior possible in modern games.”

Look a bit deeper and try to determine why this behavior exists. The quick and easy answer is that it is just human nature to want the most results from the least amount of effort. Many of us are all for this but we should not be taking advantage of each other to do so. Peel back another layer and ask how or why is this behavior possible in games. Competitive, online matchmaking has been around for many years now and there should be systems to prevent these types of things from happening.

Having not played Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare I cannot speak directly for the matchmaking mechanics, but it seems that poor play will result in you being moved to a more advantageous lobby. The developers theory was probably based on the idea that players should be matched with like skill levels, not thinking people would ‘tank’ in a game in order to do so. Perhaps the error was to move the player into a different lobby whereas games like Halo 3 handled the issue by rebalancing the teams. This method took measures to evenly distribute, as best as possible, good and bad players across both teams. This, for the most part, kept any one team from dominating match after match.

Of course, no system is immune to all tactics. If Halo 3 players became familiar with each other or were clan members, they could enter into the game as a party and never be split up. Memory fades on this point, but it occurs to me that eventually the party would be moved to another lobby as to grant mercy on the downtrodden losing group.

“When it comes down to it though, the easy solution is to not be a cheater.”

When we think about the problem, the solution is simple – punish the cheaters. The problem remains as to how to properly identify those that are cheating.  If you see a player that has zero kills but twenty deaths you might think they are cheating, but in fact it could be someone that has simply never played the game before. I’ll tell you that the first few times I played a Call of Duty game my K/D was in the 0.02 range and it took me a bit of time to get the feel.

Enter the realm of complex mathematics, statistics, and computational algorithms to determine the cheaters. The more statistics you collect on a player’s performance, you will gain more insight as to what they are doing. Tracking the type of damage causing a player’s demise–friendly fire vs. enemy fire vs. self-inflected damage–would be great information to have, but not all games are tracking this. Things like kills and assists are tracked, but even if a game accounts for friendly fire, are they tracking it per-kill and additive through out the game? You could be working with a buddy to kill each other in this reverse boosting scenario and if the game doesn’t count the friendly fire through out the match, you may go unnoticed as a cheater.

When it comes down to it though, the best solution is to not be a cheater. You’ll feel better about yourself and so will others. Think about how you feel when you play a game while somebody is taking advantage of you, and step back even further to think about how you feel when somebody cheats outside of gaming. It is good that studios are addressing the in-game problem, but it is up to each and everyone of us to stop it at its source, ourselves.

Bio Card Paul

Paul Novak is a self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing in the west side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet. Found here at What’s Your Tag? and on the Twitter @dudewantshisrug. Game on with Team XBRO!


  1. People using self-inflicted damage to off themselves in-game should in theory be pretty easy to catch. But what kind of systems could the devs implement to catch players who act very convincingly like newbie players? I’m sure there will always be a work-around to such systems, apart from a reporting system. But those have the potential to become problematic and downright useless as well.

    Maybe they should just make high-level play more interesting than dominance over other players; make it more about the struggle than the reward. That seems to be the under-lying problem turning COD veterans off. At least, it did to me.

    1. How do you make the struggle more interesting? Besides, nobody wants to struggle for anything. You could try to base rewards on time played but then you’ll have people going AFK just to get time in the matches.

      I’ve thouhht that maybe the reward system should be removed. Make it so that everyone has all the weapons and equipment available to them from the start.

      1. If a game is challenging, there’s more intrinsic reward in the act of overcoming its obstacles. But that’s not what COD really built itself on. What it brought to the scene caters exactly to the people who either don’t have the time or the taste for the intrinsic reward that challenge brings.

        Granted, the element of progression really helps to keep a game interesting. But rather than time-based or grind-based progression, I think progression based on the completion of skill-based challenges would be more interesting. Say, instead of earning 500 kills to earn a certain gun or perk, you’re tasked to earn 10 of a certain kind of kill in order to earn that new gun or perk, and make that new gun or perk unique. Such a system wouldn’t just reward you for playing how you always have, only longer. It would challenge you to play in a different way than you may have previously been playing, and it would unveil a new possibilities to you through the new, unique perks you earn.

        A good example in COD would be the Pro Perk system, where-in each perk could be upgraded for extra added abilities, although those were pretty grind-based rather than skill based.

        If you’re interested in a simple, quick example, try Hoplite on your smartphone. You’ll have to buy the premium version for about $2 to its achievement system and the bonus abilities you can earn by completing them, but it’s a great game anyway and the very best example of how skill-based unlockable abilities can really extend the amount of time a game keeps you interested. I actually -just- wrote an article on the topic on my personal blog. that’s why I had so much to share about it, haha. Hope I’m not intruding here.

  2. Cheating, I remember a method at which I cheated on one of the older Call of Duty games. If you held out a specific rocket lancher, and you died, the rocket dropped right in front of you which killed your opponent. I did not do it every match, but it sure was fun. All you could do is try to knife people. Man, good times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: