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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. 

Robert Grosso

Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching, erudite-minded scholar who happens to write some articles every so often.

Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over five years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.

  • SomeCollegeStudent

    Sometimes I ask myself why I’ve brought barely any AAA games in the last few years. Then I see stuff like this and go “Oh yes. Because AAA cares more about customer’s wallet than their games’ quality.”

  • Robert Grosso

    It’s always been about money more though. Quality is something else altogether most of the time.

  • BurntToShreds

    Another site had an article covering the same paper. One segment of the paper talked about how some of the researchers seemed to assume that a fun match should have players act in roles with “perceivably joyful role distribution”. This made me think of the class-based Battlefield games, where people may not necessarily be winning, but they’re having fun in their own little niche.

    Yes, getting players to spend more money on the game after purchase is important to companies like EA, but to do so you need a genuinely engaged playerbase to keep the game’s population up. If they make a system that can recognize a player’s playstyle and match them up in a way that lets them have a good time with the game, win or lose, then that’d be pretty cool. Matchmaking based on win/loss and/or KDA may not be the best fit for every game. Back when I used to play Battlefield, I loved playing Support. Giving people ammo and carrying around a big-ass LMG was more fun to me than having to babysit people or vehicles as Assault/Medic or Engineer. If a future Battlefield game had a matchmaking option with an array of EA’s own servers made for using that matchmaking algorithm alongside its classic server browser where anything goes, that’d be great.

    PvE-focused games like EA and BioWare’s upcoming Anthem could use this new-fangled matchmaking system to team up people with specific playstyles and roles that don’t necessarily want to look for group.

    There are reasons to be mad at EA and other companies that want people to buy microtransactions, but researching ways to keep players engaged *in general* is still a good idea.

  • Robert Grosso

    I agree in theory, the problem however is the sort of loss of a core mechanic being central to this all.

    If the EOMM algorithm can change in-game metrics so easily as it claims to, this does leave a major caveat that a game can have: competitive play, presuming a PVP-focus on a game like say FIFA or Battlefront 2 loses a lot of the competitive edge players may have if they keep getting paired and unpaired in odd ways.

    I don’t know, I think it can work well but I am a bit skeptical of it being good in the wild. Thats my two cents on it.

  • SevTheBear

    True. But it’s sad to see games with so much potential and love in it’s original vision, to then be slaughtered for profit by a bunch of greedy shareholders and publishers.

  • SevTheBear

    EA has become synonyms with the words *Shady* and *greedy*. I have a hard time believing that they ANY good intentions with this algorithm.