Respawn’s attempts to balance the Peacekeeper aren’t the only controversy in Apex Legends. The fan base has expressed its criticism about the game’s matchmaking in public matches—and most of it is far from positive.
Parts of the community speculated that a Skill Based Matchmaking (SBMM) system was silently introduced to Apex at some point. Respawn senior system designer Eric Hewitt confirmed the existence of a SBMM on Twitter yesterday. The system was likely added “before the end of season two.”
The brunt of fan criticism comes from high-ranked players who get matched with players near their skill level in public lobbies. This populates casual matches mostly with “sweats”—a nickname given to players who try their hardest to win—and get in the way of a casual round of Apex.
“If we wanted to play a skill-based mode we would just play ranked,” a Reddit user said.
Another user said that players who are above average are more likely to be placed in matches with the top-tier players rather than with newcomers, forcing them into “a level they cannot compete at.”
Cheaters are also commonly guided to the upper section of the skill curve. Their boosted statistics deceive the matchmaking system into thinking they’re legitimately skilled, pitting them against other top players, which makes the casual environment even more stressful for high-ranked players.
The SBMM system seems to have been put in place to protect newcomers. It mitigates the chance of casual players at lower skill levels getting matched with skilled veterans who would easily obliterate them.
“Players who are genuinely just not good at the game, but enjoy it anyway shouldn't have to face off against the top fraction of players,” a user said on Reddit.
Balancing the matchmaking presents a challenge to Apex's developer. On one hand, more leniency toward high-level players could harm the bottom levels of the player base. But being more strict can force every casual game to feel like a ranked match for the top players and punish them for straying away from the meta, diluting the purpose of a casual environment.
Hewitt, however, jumped to the system's defense. “As you can imagine in a game with 59 other players, your skill level has an impact on more players in a single match than many other titles,” he tweeted. “If you think your games are sweaty now, how do you think it feels when someone new doesn’t have any SBMM[?]”
Respawn hasn’t made a public announcement regarding the implementation of its matchmaking system, which was only officially confirmed yesterday, long after its implementation. It’s unclear what measures the company plans to take or if it'll take any measures at all.