June 11th 2013 6:47 pm PT
Earlier today I chatted with Chad Gibson, Principle Group Program manager for Xbox Live Gaming features and Mike Lavin, Sr. Global Product Marketing manager for Xbox Live on our live E3 broadcast. They outlined how the new Smart Match feature works on Xbox Live. Last week, before E3, I had a long conversation with Micheal Dunn from our team who leads the development on the new Smart Match system. I asked him to sum up what his team is putting together for all of us
I’m Micheal Dunn, Program Manager on Xbox Live Services. I love how console games and especially co-op games bring people together to “spend quality time.” It’s great to play with friends and family online, but it’s fun sometimes to try a new “bar” so to speak and meet new people to play with online. I’ve met people from all over the world while playing on Xbox Live.
We all have better things to do than wait for people to show up to play a game. It would be great if I could start up the flight sim game, see if anyone is online to play, put in my play request and then switch to something else while I wait for people to show up. That is what Smart Match on Xbox One allows people to do. It makes it easy for a title to create a match request and then “untether” me so I don’t need wait in the title while the match search is processing. I can switch to reading a quick social blog or watch a viral video and when the match is ready Xbox One tells me to pull me back into the title to play.
The new Smart Match service allows titles to change their match model from traditional peer-based host searching for players typical in Xbox 360 to now completely untethered cloud-based. The example I gave was for a low population title like a flight sim game, but there are also great results for the more popular shooter and sports titles too.
You will be able to launch a popular shooter or sports title and see the “typical wait time” for different online game modes. For example, imagine a match area for a quick match] that might have a wait time of 1 minute, and then another match area in the title for “match by downloadable content (DLC)” with typical wait time of 7 minutes. Chances are you’d never wait in a game for 7 minutes to play online, you’d just make do with “quick match” and lowest common denominator DLC. With Xbox One titles, you can instead pick the longer “match by DLC” option if you please, see it might take 7 minutes to find a match that night, and switch to another task while Smart Match in the cloud is searching for you. You end up with a much more enjoyable match result since you get to play with people with similar DLC versus just the lowest common denominator levels in the base title. You get to make the most use the latest map or car you just bought to keep the game play fresh and interesting, versus just going into quick match with the same options every night.
With Beacons in Xbox 360 you could set a toast to tell other friends of your desire to play a specific game online. Smart Match on Xbox One goes way beyond that to help you tap into the full player population for a title, versus just the friends you know, and means you skip waiting in a match search screen in the title. This is a true departure from consoles that don’t have a way to switch between tasks quickly. Plus over time Smart Match empowers Xbox One titles to unlock many more ways to play online without the penalty of segmenting the available pool of people each night to match with. This same pattern depending on the title can include player attributes to search for such as very specific skill or social elements like spoken language or even people of similar age. You will see lots of new play styles open up for online play as titles start to experiment more with match types, without you needing to be stuck waiting for players to show up.
With Xbox One, I’m looking forward to putting in my match request in for a super special online play style or specific DLC needed for a play mode, then kicking back and letting Xbox Live do the work to find me a good person to play with while I practice my mad skills. Here’s an example of playing Ryse and then getting a match ready toast to jump into Killer Instinct online play that was shown in Monday’s E3 presentation.
You can usually tell a family member to stop crunching on corn chips in your ear or yakking on the cell phone while they play with you. With a stranger you meet online it doesn’t always turn out that way though. Sometimes you meet someone online that decides it’s cool to hum Top 40 songs as they go through a match or sometimes meet someone that can’t seem to avoid swearing at everything that #$%^ happens to them. The majority of Xbox Live players are polite online and know how to socially adjust to the people they are playing with, but there are some bad apples you run into that just seem to like to cause trouble. With Xbox One we’ve built a new social reputation model to help expose people that aren’t fun to be around, and also create real consequences for those few bad apples that continue to harass our good players.
Sometimes it’s hard for strangers to know what “polite” means with different social norms and backgrounds, and even harder when you aren’t in the same room face to face with someone. You have few social cues to rely on, and typically a stranger sees no real reason to listen to your complaint about their behavior. We all care a lot about behavior on Xbox Live and player feedback options in Xbox One allows you to help educate those who don’t seem to follow good social gaming norms. We simplified the feedback mechanism also to be less of a “survey” and more direct feedback options, even linking things in like block or mute player actions into the feedback model.
All of the feedback from player’s online flow into the reputation service to evaluate a players online social reputation. The more hours you play online without causing others to have a horrible time the better your reputation will be, similar to the more hours your drive without an accident the better your driving record and insurance rates will be. Most players will have good reputations and be seen as “green” good players you’d enjoy playing with. Even those good players might receive a few player feedback reports each month and that is OK. Xbox Live is looking to identify players that are repeatedly disruptive on Xbox Live. We’ll identify those players with a lower reputation score and in the worse cases they will earn the “avoid me” reputation. Looking at someone’s gamer card you’ll be able to quickly see their reputation.
Smart Match sees their Xbox Live rep too and when a person’s social reputation gets low enough the service will only match those low reputation players with similar low reputation players. This gives them the benefit of playing with people just like them. Ultimately we want to help encourage good behavior between strangers. By the way, before a user ends up at this extremely low reputation level we will have sent many different alerts to the user reminding how their social gaming conduct is affecting lots of other gamers. The chart includes examples of the reputation score that will be seen in the gamercard.
This reputation system will evolve as we track the feedback we get from actual players and titles, plus add more consequences for bad apples that we want to stop #$%^ crunching on corn chips in your ear. All you need to do is block or report players that are abusive, cheat, or causing various amounts of non-fun mayhem and their social reputation will reflect that. We’ll keep the good friendly players together with other good friendly people, and keep a seat for the bad apples in their own special place. Our team and I built this for all of you and we hope you like it!