Halo Infinite is overhauling its ranking system in an attempt to fix issues like inaccurate skill assessments and uneven player matchups, but it'll be in vain if the MMR situation isn't handled.
MMR or matchmaking rating is what Halo Infinite (and many other multiplayer games) uses to match players of similar skill levels together. With MMR, if you perform poorly in one game, you'll be matched with lower-skill players in the next. It's a solid system, but the major issue here is that it seems like Halo Infinite applies this MMR formula across both social and ranked playlists.
So while the upcoming ranking system rework will likely see many players getting placed an entire tier lower than in the previous ranked season, Halo Infinite ranked will remain handcuffed by the MMR situation. Let's look at how 343 Industries can fix that alongside its current plans for a ranked rework.
Halo Infinite's rank reset is dropping on February 22, and it'll likely cause players to drop a full tier, as 343 Industries believes the original ranking system was a bit too generous, according to the Halo Waypoint blog post announcing the changes. The generosity 343 is referring to is in the game's CSR or competitive skill ranking system, which has apparently been ranking all of us too high for months. While I was certainly happy to make it into Diamond 1, there is an argument to be made that attaining a Diamond rank in the current system is a bit too achievable considering it's just a tier below Onyx, the highest you can go.
My potentially erroneously inflated ego aside, all of our ranks are set to seriously change on February 22. Just like a new ranked season in Apex Legends, the Halo Infinite ranked reset will require players to play through 10 placement matches before getting placed in a tier - and you should expect to be much lower than last time.
The CSR system will also be adjusted so that players aren't ranked as low as they would normally be out of the gate in order to make up for what 343 expects to be a massive drop across the board and prevent a seemingly insurmountable climb back up to your original rank. And 343 is looking to "reduce the disruption" of a Diamond 1 post-placement ranking limit and will push that up to Diamond 5. So, while you could technically come out of your 10 placement matches in a higher position than you could before the incoming reset, it's highly unlikely since CSR will be a bit more stingy this time around.
343 Industries believes the changes "will help improve the ranked experience for players of all skills by providing more accurate, balanced, and fair matches. And this CSR update does seem like it has the potential to help make Halo Infinite's ranked play feel more even-keeled - but no matter how many changes are made to CSR, balance will never be achieved without a serious look at MMR.
The MMR Problem
While MMR is a commonly used feature in matchmaking, the biggest issue with Halo Infinite's take on MMR is that it appears to be calculated across ranked and social playlists. This means if you perform well in a social match you'll get a harder ranked match, while struggling in a social match will get you an easier ranked matchup. This approach punishes players who like to warm up in Big Team Battle or Team Slayer matches before jumping into ranked play while rewarding those who want to exploit the system. The latter of the two take part in what's called "sandbagging," or purposefully tanking in social games just to jump into ranked and clean house against easier opponents.
Reddit user RealSonZoo conducted an extensive experiment to prove that social MMR carries over into ranked games and affects your matchups even after placement matches. Using a test account, they purposefully tanked ten Quick Play matches, then tried to play well during their rank placements. Initially, they were placed in low-skill ranked matches: their first match played them on a team with a cumulative MMR of 293 against an enemy squad with an MMR of 298, but by the time they finished their ten ranked matches, their team MMR was 1107 while their opponents' was 1301.
RealSonZoo was placed in Platinum 3 with a CSR in the thousands, but their next few games were incredibly tough - they believe that their "hidden MMR" was steadily rising as they played well in ranked. So they decided to tank more social games, purposefully losing about a dozen Fiesta matches before jumping back into ranked play where they were up against lobbies with MMRs nearly 400 points lower.
This experiment proves that Halo Infinite's system of utilizing a hidden MMR that applies to both social and ranked play is broken. That system can't be fixed just by resetting CSR, as players can still sandbag in social matches to ensure they get easier ranked games. While a CSR reset will certainly help shift Halo Infinite ranked play closer towards a state where every player's experience is relevant to their skill, it will never attain true balance without overhauling MMR.
The Halo Infinite ranked reset is due to kick off February 22.
Halo Infinite needs to tap into its community of creators, and Forge is the way to do it