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Promoting Fair Play and Social Interaction: The Role of Matchmaking in Multiplayer Games

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In live game development, matchmaking and multiplayer features hold immense significance, as they play a crucial role in shaping the player experience and ultimately determining the success of multiplayer games. These features are responsible for hooking us up with fellow players, creating a virtual hangout where we can compete, connect, and have a good time. It's about bringing players together, matching them up based on their skills and preferences to ensure the fun never stops, and the game keeps going strong.

In this chapter of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Launching Live Service Games, we explore matchmaking and multiplayer aspects of live game development, their importance and impact on players, and technical areas that may require some extra attention. 

Understanding Matchmaking and Multiplayer

Matchmaking connects players with opponents or teammates of similar skill levels, creating balanced and fair matches. This ensures that players can compete on a level playing field, promoting healthy competition and avoiding frustration from encountering significantly stronger or weaker opponents. It helps to keep players challenged and motivated to improve their skills, thereby contributing to long-term retention and a thriving player base.


The multiplayer aspect of games allows players to collaborate, cooperate, or compete with one another in real time. This creates a dynamic and unpredictable gaming experience that can be immensely gratifying.

There are different types of multiplayer games that cater to various preferences and playstyles. Some multiplayer games fall into the cooperative category, where players team up to beat the campaign or tackle challenging missions together. On the other hand, there are match-based multiplayer games like Halo or Call of Duty, where players engage in intense competitive battles. For those seeking a more immersive experience, there are large-scale MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games like World of Warcraft, where players can interact in vast virtual worlds and undertake epic quests together.

Even in games that might not primarily focus on multiplayer, such as Elden Ring, there exists a semi-multiplayer aspect. In titles like Elden Ring, players have the opportunity to visit other players' worlds, creating a unique blend of single-player and multiplayer elements. This hybrid approach allows players to share experiences and occasionally collaborate, enhancing the overall gaming journey.

Regardless of the type of multiplayer gameplay, the multiplayer feature fosters camaraderie among players and encourages them to strategize, communicate, and work together. This collaboration not only enhances the gaming experience but also leads to deeper engagement with the game itself.

Importance of Matchmaking Systems

Matchmaking systems are the secret sauce of multiplayer gaming, making sure players come together smoothly and keeping the competition on a level playing field. Below are several reasons why having a strong matchmaking system in your live game is an absolute must.

Enhancing Player Engagement and Retention

Well-designed matchmaking systems enhance player engagement and ensure long-term retention in multiplayer games. By carefully connecting players based on their skill levels, preferences, and other relevant factors, these systems create a more enjoyable and challenging gaming experience.

Reduced Player Frustration

Without proper matchmaking, players may encounter opponents who are significantly stronger or weaker than they are, resulting in either overwhelming defeats or unchallenging victories. 

Imagine you're all pumped up for a gaming session, ready to conquer the virtual world, but then you end up facing opponents who are too powerful or too easy to beat. Not a fun match. That's what happens without proper matchmaking. Such imbalanced matches can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction, causing players to lose interest in the game. A well-designed matchmaking system mitigates these issues, making the gaming experience more enjoyable and consistent.

Continuous Learning and Progression

Fair matchmaking encourages players to continuously learn and improve their skills. When players face challenges within their reach, they are more likely to try to develop their abilities. This ongoing learning process creates a sense of progression, where players can see tangible improvements in their performance over time, further reinforcing their commitment to the game.

Impact on the Player Experience

Matchmaking and multiplayer features plays a major impact on the player experience, influencing engagement, social interaction, competitive thrill, and overall satisfaction in the dynamic world of multiplayer gaming. Discover how these features take gaming to a whole new level.

Enhanced Social Interaction

Matchmaking and multiplayer features have an innate ability to connect players socially, transcending cultural and geographic differences through incredible shared experiences. This social interaction creates a sense of belonging and camaraderie. The shared experiences and interactions within the game build strong communities, turning the gaming environment into a virtual social space.

Social Bonds and Friendships

Multiplayer games allow players to team up or compete against one another in real-time. Through these interactions, players can meet new friends, forge healthy rivalries, and find mentors or someone they'd like to take under their wing—even if they are located in different parts of the world. These connections not only enrich the gaming experience but can also extend beyond the game, strengthening the overall social fabric of the community.

Engaging and Dynamic Gameplay

Multiplayer features keep games fresh, injecting an element of unpredictability into gameplay that is virtually impossible to replicate through other means. The actions of other players can significantly impact the experience, creating excitement, surprise, and emergent gameplay scenarios. This dynamism keeps players engaged and invested in the game over the long term.

Competitive Thrill

Matchmaking ensures that players are matched with opponents of similar skill levels, leading to intense and competitive matches. The thrill of challenging opponents and striving to outperform others can be highly motivating, encouraging players to return for more.

Skill Development and Learning

Multiplayer environments expose players to diverse playstyles and strategies. As they encounter various challenges, players can learn from others, adapt their tactics, and improve their skills. This continuous learning curve contributes to a sense of achievement and progression, fostering player satisfaction.

Impact on the Overall Success of Multiplayer Games

Incorporating matchmaking and multiplayer features in your live game can offer several benefits. Keep reading to learn more about how matchmaking and multiplayer features affect a game.

Player Retention

A robust matchmaking and multiplayer system creates a more enjoyable and immersive gaming experience, increasing player retention. When players feel engaged, connected, and challenged, they are more likely to continue playing the game over an extended period.

Word-of-mouth and Community Growth

Satisfied players are more likely to recommend the game to others, leading to organic community growth. Positive word-of-mouth and active communities attract new players, further fueling the game's success. Multiplayer games often have dedicated fan bases that form communities around shared interests and experiences. Matchmaking systems enable players to connect with others with similar gaming preferences and skill levels, laying the foundation for these communities. As players repeatedly encounter familiar faces in matches, they develop a sense of belonging and camaraderie within the game's community.

Monetization and Longevity

Engaged and dedicated players invest in the game through in-game purchases, subscriptions, or microtransactions. The revenue generated supports ongoing development, updates, and improvements, ensuring the game's longevity and continued success.

The multiplayer aspect of games plays a pivotal role in driving these transactions. The competitive nature of multiplayer games encourages players to invest in cosmetic items, allowing them to stand out within the gaming community or among friends. These purchases, such as unique skins or personalized accessories, offer a way for players to create distinct visual identities.

Additionally, multiplayer modes often incorporate progression systems with rewards tied to achievements, motivating players to invest in purchases that expedite progress or grant access to exclusive items. The social dynamics of multiplayer experiences further stimulate transactions, as players seek virtual items to enhance interaction, such as expressive emotes or gestures. Overall, the combination of competitiveness, personalization, and social engagement within multiplayer games forms a foundation for player-driven transactions, ensuring ongoing development, updates, and improvements that contribute to the game's long-term success.

Designing Effective Matchmaking Systems

Critical considerations in matchmaking design are crucial to ensuring fair and engaging player experiences, as they address challenges in skill balancing, match criteria determination, and overall system effectiveness, leading to the success of multiplayer games. Below are some variables to consider.

Player Skill Balancing

Creating skill-balanced matches is essential for providing all players with a fair and enjoyable gaming experience. However, it can pose several challenges due to the diverse skill levels within the player base.


  • Skill Variability: Players can vary widely in their skill levels, from beginners to highly skilled veterans. Ensuring that matches are balanced for all skill levels can be complex.
  • Population Size: Smaller player populations in specific regions or off-peak times can make it challenging to find perfectly balanced matches.
  • Smurfing and Account Boosting: Some players deliberately create new or lower-ranked accounts to exploit the matchmaking system and face less experienced opponents, disrupting gamebalance.


  • Skill-Based Matchmaking (SBMM): SBMM algorithms assess player skill through various metrics, such as win/loss ratios, kill/death ratios, or performance in recent matches. The system then attempts to match players with others of similar skill levels, promoting fair competition.
  • Dynamic Adjustments: Matchmaking systems can continuously adjust player ratings based on their performance in recent matches. This allows the system to adapt to changes in player skill over time and maintain better balance.
  • Anti-Smurfing Measures: Implementing anti-smurfing measures, like requiring a certain number of matches before accurate skill assessment, can help minimize the impact of artificially low-ranked accounts.

Match Criteria Determination

Determining appropriate match criteria involves considering various factors that affect the quality of matches and player experiences.

Factors to Consider

  • Ping and Region: Ensuring low-latency connections is crucial for providing smooth and responsive gameplay. Players are usually matched with others from the same or nearby regions to minimize lag.
  • Player Preferences: Considering player preferences, such as game modes, map choices, or playstyles, can lead to more satisfying matches and higher player engagement.
  • Party Size and Composition: Balancing teams based on party size and skill levels when players group up can promote more equitable matches.
  • Waiting Time: Longer waiting times allow for more precise skill-based matches, but excessively long waiting times can lead to player frustration and disengagement.


  • Match Quality vs. Waiting Time: There is a trade-off between the quality of matches and the time players have to wait for a game. Tightening skill requirements may lead to longer waiting times, while loosening them can result in less balanced matches.

  • Skill vs. Connection Quality: Striking a balance between matching players based on skill and ensuring low-latency connections is essential. A compromise may be necessary if there are no closely matched players nearby.

  • Playlist Variety vs. Focused Experiences: The breadth of available playlists brings with it another trade-off. A diverse range of gameplay experiences caters to varied player preferences. However, an excessive number of playlists can fragment the player base, leading to smaller populations in each playlist. Developers must consider the balance between offering a rich variety of experiences and ensuring a healthy player pool for engaging matches, and reasonable queue times.

Addressing Technical Complexities

Addressing technical complexities in multiplayer games is essential for providing seamless gameplay experiences, maintaining server performance, and fostering a positive gaming environment. Take these technical complexities into account.

Latency and Network Synchronization

Minimizing latency and ensuring smooth online multiplayer experiences are critical to providing an enjoyable and responsive gameplay environment. Latency is the delay between a player's action and its corresponding effect in the game world. High latency can lead to laggy gameplay and negatively impact player experiences.

Techniques for Minimizing Latency

  • Server Locations: Placing game servers strategically in different regions helps reduce the geographical distance between players and servers, decreasing latency.
  • Client Prediction: Implementing client-side prediction allows players to see immediate action feedback without waiting for server confirmation. The server later reconciles any discrepancies to maintain game state consistency.
  • Lag Compensation: Lag compensation techniques adjust game events based on players' latency to ensure that their actions are accurately represented in the game world, reducing the feeling of lag.
  • Bandwidth Optimization: Minimizing the amount of data transmitted between clients and servers by using efficient data compression techniques can also help reduce latency.

Importance of Network Synchronization and Latency Compensation

Fair gameplay is maintained in multiplayer games through network synchronization and latency compensation, ensuring consistent game state and interactions for all players. These mechanisms facilitate real-time interactions, providing a seamless and immersive experience, which enhances player engagement and allows for better responsiveness and immersion in the gaming environment.

Scalability and Performance Challenges

Handling large player populations and maintaining performance in multiplayer games can be daunting, especially as player numbers grow.


  • Increased Server Load: More players mean a higher server load, which can lead to performance degradation and potential server crashes.

  • Matchmaking Efficiency: As the player base expands, finding suitable matches quickly and efficiently becomes more challenging, leading to longer waiting times.

  • Server Infrastructure Costs: Supporting a growing player population requires a robust server infrastructure, which can be expensive to maintain.

Strategies for Optimizing Scalability and Performance

  • Cloud-based Solutions: Leveraging cloud-based server solutions allows game developers to scale server capacity on demand, adapting to fluctuations in player numbers.
  • Load Balancing: Distributing player traffic across multiple servers using load balancing techniques helps prevent overburdening a single server and maintains optimal performance.
  • Efficient Code and Network Architecture: Optimizing game code and network architecture reduces the data transmitted between clients and servers, decreasing the strain on network resources.
  • Sharding and Instancing: Sharding the game world or using instancing allows servers to host specific groups of players or game instances, further improving performance and player experience.
  • Dynamic Matchmaking Prioritization: Prioritizing match quality for solo players while relaxing group criteria can help balance quick matchmaking and fair matches.

Enhancing Multiplayer Experiences

​​Enhancing multiplayer experiences involves effective player grouping, team balancing, and proactive measures to manage player behavior, fostering a positive and engaging gaming environment. Keep reading for more on enhancing multiplayer experiences.

Player Grouping and Team Balancing

In multiplayer gaming, grouping players through party systems and solo queues enhances social interaction and teamwork while promoting fair competition. Additionally, implementing dynamic team balancing and matchmaking adjustments leads to improved gameplay experiences, reduced player frustration, and balanced skill development, as players face appropriate challenges and engage in exciting, closely contested matches.

Managing Player Behavior and Toxicity

In multiplayer gaming, promoting positive behavior and mitigating toxicity are essential for maintaining a healthy and respectful gaming community. Positive reinforcement, communication tools, and in-game reporting systems encourage good sportsmanship and teamwork, fostering a positive atmosphere. To tackle toxicity, developers implement reporting systems, community moderation, and penalties for offenders, while also integrating anti-cheat measures and regular updates to protect fair gameplay and the integrity of the game.

Incorporating Player Feedback

Incorporating player feedback is a vital aspect of game development, especially concerning matchmaking systems. Player feedback provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of matchmaking mechanisms, enabling developers to understand player preferences, pain points, and overall satisfaction levels. By actively seeking and incorporating player feedback through surveys, in-game feedback mechanisms, user behavior analysis, community engagement, and A/B testing, developers can make informed decisions, refine matchmaking algorithms to create a positive and engaging multiplayer environment and improve player sentiment and emotional investment by giving them a voice and tangible sense of impact.

Player feedback bridges the gap between developers' intentions and player experiences, impacting player enjoyment, challenge, and retention. Understanding how players perceive and interact with the system empowers developers to fine-tune matchmaking mechanics to meet player needs better. Regular surveys and in-game feedback forms provide structured feedback, while user behavior analysis reveals patterns and trends. Engaging with the gaming community and utilizing A/B testing allow developers to collect quantitative and qualitative insights, fostering a sense of community and enabling real-time engagement with the matchmaking process. By valuing player perspectives, developers can create compelling multiplayer experiences, promoting fair competition, meaningful interactions, and player satisfaction, ultimately contributing to the game's overall success and longevity. Game developers should define their standards for "good" (e.g. balanced MMR, or fast matching time) and optimize the matchmaking system towards their desired outcome.

The Need for Matchmaking and Multiplayer Features

In a nutshell, matchmaking and multiplayer features are the heart and soul of creating awesome gaming experiences that go way beyond just having fun. These elements bring us together in dynamic virtual worlds, sparking competition and bonding among players from all corners of the globe. By carefully considering the right design factors, tackling tech hurdles, and listening to player feedback, developers can level up the matchmaking game, guaranteeing fair play, smooth gaming, and less drama. With all the cool new tech trends on the horizon, the future of matchmaking and multiplayer is looking brighter than ever, promising more epic moments and forming tight-knit gaming communities that are here to stay.

Are you venturing into the realm of live game development? Check out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Launching Live Service Games, your comprehensive resource for understanding the intricacies of the game development process.

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