Back in 4.1 we talked about introducing Server Rollup tech. I would urge anyone who is invested in this conversation to go read the blog post made about it at the time so we can better discuss it here. (https://www.smitegame.com/introducing-server-rollups/). In 4.4 we rolled it out in full with better UI support and we have heard your concerns over the system as a whole.
I want to stress that in no way was this done to intentionally damage a community, nor was it to save us time/money on our side. (In Fact, it takes time to develop and is more expensive to maintain). We did this to help solve a key problem we saw in low population regions and to better stabilize those communities with the end goal of having the Server Rollup Tech never needing to be turned on for those regions. In this article I am going to be talking exclusively about OCE, but know this applies to other low population regions like SEA and LATAM.
How Server Rollup Works
Before we get into this I just want to provide a quick summary of how the system works. I go over it in the blog post but I want to reiterate it here for the rest of the discussion.
Every 30 Minutes the Matchmaking System goes “Did enough people go through in the last 30 Minutes to launch matches in this Region alone”. This threshold is set by us based on historical data and can be altered by us manually at any time, allowing us full control over the system.
If the answer is YES, no problem. Let’s launch some games inside that Region.
If the answer is NO, try to anyways. If that still fails, roll players up.
In situations where this is turned on, the Matchmaking quality is expected to be incredibly low or to be simply not possible (Can’t launch a Conquest with 8 people) and we would rather see people play than be forced into a really bad situation. This is also backed up by historical data that suggests the majority of players want to be in a match (even with sub-optimal ping) than to wait in a queue for an excess period of time.
(As a side note, this is also why we generally let Ranked timers go longer. Players in that pool tend to be more OK with longer times, which is why we let it go longer. This does not hold for Casual queues.)
The Main Problem
Players want to play matches in SMITE. Go figure. However, in these low population regions queue times can become quickly excess as the Matchmaker simply cannot create a match due to their being too few people in the queue. As an example, over a multiple-month period only 100 Ranked Conquest Games launched in the Oceanic Region.
This kind of state is a positive feedback loop that makes everything worse. Player A finds himself in a long queue and then goes “Screw it” and either leaves OR changes his region to one that can find a match. At that point, Player A is no longer an eligible players for matchmaking in that region, and now the rest of the community suffers since there are now less people than before. With less people, wait times get longer and more people leave. Continue this process until you are in a state where many OCE players are familiar with (In assault for example) where there is just an expectation that the queue will not ever pop and so players in that region leave for NA/EU/SMITE altogether. Right now about 37% of players from Australia/NZ are currently playing on NA Servers, with 25% of them playing exclusively on NA and never switching back to OCE.
The biggest problem that Server Rollup tries to address is getting the players from OCE that changed to NA/EU back into the OCE Queue. The thought here is that those players who left due to not being able to get a match will now come back into the Oceanic Region which will allow a higher chance for an Oceanic only game to occur. If not, no big deal, they are in the same situation they opted for in last time.
In theory, the long term benefit will be that more people come back into the Oceanic queue allowing for more and better matches, and less times Server Rollup will ever be needed. The final goal of the system is to never need Server Rollup to be on, or only be on for emergency situations that might require it.
Why can’t this be an Opt in?
Because, it being Opt in would be worse than us never having implemented it in the first place. OCE players who are on NA/EU will likely remain, and now you have the remaining population split between “Never Roll Me Up” and “Roll Me Up if needed”. Since the “Never Roll Me Up” cannot be matched with the “Roll Me Up” crowd, we effectively split the remaining player base even further.
Our goal is to foster a stronger region, not split one that is already struggling.
What can be done to improve Server Rollups?
We have a lot of knobs to tweak. We can set the thresholds for what is considered a bad time, we can flag certain queues to always or never use this tech, and we can constantly evaluate the population of a region and make dynamic changes. In the initial post we talked about revisiting this once a month, but given the need to get this stuff right, we will be watching is much more closely until it can get off the ground properly.
We can investigate different methods of encouraging players to come back to a Region. For OCE Conquest Ranked, we might be able to look at “Safe Times” during the prime time of that region where no rollups can occur. That way there are clear times where things will be OCE only, and then Server Rollups can serve as a tool to let games occur during off-peak hours.
We can scrap the system altogether. Simply put, we want regions to be healthy and for our community to be happy. If the system isn’t accomplishing those goals, it doesn’t need to exist and we can turn it off. Ideally, allowing it to run for a bit would allow us the opportunity to better understand its effectiveness but at the end of the day if it is a negative, there is no sense keeping it there.
I hope this clears up what the system is, our goals, and why we think this was a needed addition to SMITE for low population regions. We will be investigating some better solutions/tweaks to the algorithm to make it a stronger experience before/if we re enable it on the OCE queues we removed it from this morning. At the end of the day our focus is providing the best possible experience given the situations unique to each environment.