It seems Activision is not the only company to file patents for online matchmaking changes. Last March, EA also filed two different patents for the same purposes.
The first patent is relatively innocuous, a dynamic difficulty adjustment system, which would adjust the difficulty of the game being played based on the player’s performance. The concept is not a new one and has been toyed with for years, although EA is attempting to patent a specific version of this system with their own innovations.
The second patent is much more complex but potentially problematic. EA is attempting to patent a new algorithm named Engagement Optimized Matchmaking, or EOMM. Accompanying the patent is a technical document detailing the arguments as to why EOMM is a worthwhile endeavor for online games, including theoretical findings and use of EOMM as a metric against standard online matchmaking. The short version of the patent is this: EOMM would be designed to keep players engaged in multiplayer games by changing up their matchmaking algorithms – taking into account player skill, sportsmanship, even willingness to spend money for microtransactions – to recognize a players play style and change the matchmaking parameters accordingly for the player.
The accompanying document is filled with theoretical theories, but the argument made by EA is simple; the EOMM system has a better retention rate for online play. The major caveat, however, is the possible implementation of the EOMM system, which the technical document even admits can be modular depending on the needs for the game.
Within the EOMM framework, the core building components, skill model, churn model and graph pairing model, are uncoupled so that they can be tuned and replaced independently. Moreover, we can even change the objective function to other core game metrics of interest, such as play time, retention, or spending. EOMM allows one to easily plug in different types of predictive models to achieve the optimisation.
The idea of a modular core game metric and the ability to change the predictive models of behavior for players has many suspicious of EA’s intentions. While the documents and patent maintain the focus of player engagement, there are concerns over EA possibly abusing the system, especially considering the recent outcry over Star Wars: Battlefront 2, which had EA lose $3.1 billion in shareholder value due to the loot box controversy.
The patent has also been compared to the recently granted microtransactions patent from Activision, which changes matchmaking algorithms to solely for the purpose of buying microtransactions in a given online game. While the EA patent is not focused on driving microtransactions, their use in the EOMM metric and the ability to change the core mandate of the game using that metric can lead to similar applications as the Activision patent.
Both patents are theoretical algorithms at this point and have not been approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office at this time. It took over two years for the Activision patent to be approved, so it may take some time before either patent by EA is granted, if at all, although they were filed in 2016.
These were first spotted by Youtuber YongYea, where he discussed it on his channel.
What do you think about all of this? Leave your comments below.