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Apex Legends’ SBMM overhaul should result in “fairer” games

Respawn Entertainment has just dropped a new blog post detailing the changes coming to Apex Legends' SBMM system, which should offer a more balanced experience.

Apex Legends SBMM changes details season 16: an image of Ash from the battle royale FPS

Just like every other competitive multiplayer game out there, battle royale players always have something of a problem when it comes to Apex Legends‘ skill-based matchmaking systems. However, interestingly, they’re not alone in their criticisms – sort of. The development team behind Apex Legends’ matchmaking have been working on some SBMM improvements for a while now and Respawn Entertainment is finally detailing just how it’s planning to improve Apex Legends’ matchmaking. Technical director Samy Duc has shared a detailed blog post explaining that Respawn Entertainment is going to retire the “old SBMM system for a new one” – and offers all of us some important insight into the changes going on behind the scenes.

Now, we know that talk of “algorithms”, “buckets”, and “skill ratings” can get a little confusing – and Duc talks about all that a lot when detailing how the current Apex Legends matchmaking system works and how Respawn Entertainment approaches matchmaking – but, the changes being made are actually quite easy to understand when you think about it.

Apex Legends’ new SBMM system is going to compensate for the advantage pre-made duos and trios have, measure player skill more accurately, and dynamically fill lobbies with waiting times in mind. But, it’s important to remember that all of this is going to take time.

How has Respawn Entertainment improved the accuracy of Apex Legends’ measurement of player skill? Well, by increasing the amount of “buckets” players are sorted into, basically. As Duc explains, the “former matchmaking system categorized players into four discrete skill buckets”. Meanwhile, “the new system is more granular, and has many more buckets”. This should allow the “matching algorithm to make better decisions” when populating lobbies and throwing players into matches.

This is, of course, welcome news and undoubtedly a positive change; but, it’s not the only thing Duc and his team are working on – or the only thing that would truly improve the experience for players.

So, Apex Legends’ new SBMM system is going to take into account that “squads with higher skill will consistently defeat lower skill squads in fights and place better”. Duc doesn’t detail how this part of the new matchmaking system works, but he does explain that current testing appears to be working – that the new skill-based matchmaking system is taking into account the fact that higher-skill squads often win against lower-skill squads.

Apex Legends SBMM changes details Season 16: an image of a graph regarding the battle royale FPS matchmaking

However, Duc does detail how this new system is making one major change to improve waiting times – given the fact that, as we said before, there are so many more “buckets” for the algorithm to look into.

“Rather than placing players into static buckets and creating a match as soon as that bucket reaches 60 players”, Duc explains regarding the new SBMM system’s process of forming lobbies (which need 60 players in them), the new system “will predict the distribution of incoming players and dynamically chooses the optimal tradeoff between skill differences and wait time”.

In an effort to simplify this, it seems as though Apex Legends’ new matchmaking system isn’t just going to shove batches of 60 players together on a first-come, first-serve sort of basis. Instead, it should focus on keeping players of similar skill ratings in the same lobbies. Respawn Entertainment’s testing have shown the new system is working, according to Duc, with matches “tigher and wait times [remaining] mostly unchanged”.

Apex Legends SBMM changes details season 16 graph: a graph relating to the battle royale FPS' matchmaking times

If you’re wondering when you can expect to see these changes in-game, though, you might be waiting a little while.

Duc has explained that Apex Legends’ new SBMM system, which is going to be used more universally going forwards, is going to be phased in “region by region”. So, there’s no telling just how long this is going to take.

However, it’s important to note that Respawn Entertainment is going to be keeping a close eye on this throughout the process and “whether the changes are positive for players”. Then, once everything is out and working, Duc has revealed that Respawn Entertainment is going to start exploring “additional corrections” – including a change that accounts for whether you’re solo-queuing or not.

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Climbing Apex Legends ranks is never easy, even if you’re using a character at the top of our Apex Legends tier list, but it should feel more fair in the coming months. Just don’t expect this to all be wrapped up by the time the Apex Legends Season 16 release date rolls around.