During the beta, we heard a plethora of reports that suggested that players were deliberately dying to influence the skill-based matchmaking algorithm. Additionally, influencers came out in droves to denounce SBMM in Vanguard, calling for its removal before the game's launch on November 5. Ultimately, though, is it that bad? How does Call of Duty: Vanguard's SBMM work?
Before we begin, we need to first deliver some rather painful news: yes, Call of Duty: Vanguard features skill-based matchmaking. The much-maligned feature is staying put and caused quite a bit of grief in the beta. This is a bit of a shame, to be honest, seeing as we have wanted the removal of this feature for many games at this point.
How Does SBMM Work in Vanguard?
SBMM in Vanguard will reportedly work just the same as in Black Ops Cold War. This will result in players being matched up with opponents of a similar skill level, rather than a similar in-game tier or something of that ilk. Now, we're sure that a number of you are scratching your heads, stroking your beards, and wondering "But how does Call of Duty: Vanguard determine your skill level?" Well, that's where the crux of the issue resides. That's the core problem with this system.
I'm shocked at how many replies I get and see asking if SBMM is going to be in #Vanguard. I get that not everyone spends a lot of time on social media channel and don't follow all the news.— MW2 OG (@TheMW2Ghost) August 21, 2021
So, YES. It'll be in the game and it'll be the same as it is in Cold War.
The main problem with this form of SBMM is that the game detects your skill level based on how you are performing in-game. This not only opens the game up to potential smurfing, but also results in players being regularly distributed into completely unbalanced matches. To further exacerbate the problem, popular dataminer and Twitter leaker TheMW2Ghost said the following, confirming that the game may also feature Engagement Based Matchmaking:
Along with Engagement Based Matchmaking. The same unethical systems we've had to experience in MW19, and Cold War. The high-tuned SBMM isn't nice at all, but EBMM is the real nasty one here.
The most egregious thing about EBMM is that it plops certain users into lobbies that include other players who have bought multiplayer cosmetics. Basically, this is an intensely unethical system used to entice you to purchase microtransactions. This was a massive problem in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and will continue to be an utter pain in the butthole.
How Was Vanguard's SBMM in the Beta?
SBMM does admittedly feel more forgiving in Vanguard than it did in BOCW or Modern Warfare 2019. Throughout our grinding of the beta and the alpha, we found that the SBMM was a little less strict, and somewhat counteracted by the new Combat Pacing system. This system basically allows you to customize the intensity of the game, being able to choose roughly the number of players you want to play with in any given match.
Overall, though, many players, as well as ourselves, felt that Vanguard's SBMM wasn't too crash hot. In fact, popular CoD leaker Tom Henderson took to Twitter in late August to say that "SBMM in the #Vanguard Alpha makes me sick". It's certainly true that the "Blitz" Combat Pacing setting does fix a few of the problems we have seen so far, but it doesn't resolve the fundamental issue. The only way to fix the core problem with SBMM is simply to use a different matchmaking system entirely.