Top 5 Ways to Improve Rank X
Joseph "WALKMAN" Hamdan
May 11, 2018
Rank X has been an improvement to the solo ranked system that definitely needed to happen and thus far, it has been of great benefit to the game. I personally love that Rank X has been included and I play it as often as I can for fun, however the current implementation of the Rank X system is far from optimal and could use a number of tweaks. I should state that I enjoy playing Rank X matches and am not looking to make a perfect ranking system, no game has a perfect ranking system. I don’t enter every Rank X game expecting to win or have the highest level competitive players on my team. I play simply to improve my own skill and try to figure out what aspects of my game I need to work on. This should be everyone’s mindset going into a solo ranked match no matter the game. The purpose of this article is not to make Rank X the system of our dreams where not a single person complains, but just to suggest some of the adjustments I would make in order to improve it. Over my playtime and experience with the new system I’ve come up with my top 5 ways to improve the current Rank X system. Here they are!
Increase the Cutoff to Derank
Currently, it is far too easy to maintain your rank X without dropping back into S+. This has been a problem since S+ was the top rank in the game. You can comfortably hold onto your rank winning about 40% or lower of your games. In Rank X, it seems you do not rank down until your score is below 1900 and you lose a game. For clarity, if your Rank X power is 1901 and you lose a game costing you 25 points, you will still have another chance before you derank to S+ 9. While below 1900, lets say 1876, if you lose another game you seem to rank down to S+9 (I haven’t tested this out myself but this is what sources have told me and it seems to hold up).
When doing my own placement matches, I was ranked in the 2300’s or so for three modes right out the gate and in Rainmaker, I will admit I fumbled and only won 2/10 games to receive a score of 2038. TWO OUT OF TEN GAMES! While I played well in most of my games, it is preposterous that all I needed to win was two games to maintain my rank and with over 100 points of safety as well. Thus, I believe the cutoff should be at least 2000 points, I personally prefer 2100 but any increase is a start. Once you go below 2000 points, you should be deranked and sent back to S+9. There should be no extra game where you get a chance to get back above 2000.
Tiers! Tiers! Tiers!
As I’ve mentioned, the current cutoff to derank from rank X is south of 1900. Now, let’s think about the highest players at the top of the rankings. These players scores are upwards of 2700. This means that people with 700 points, maybe even more, between them are put together in the same rank. Now, perhaps in Japan this may not be a problem because there are so many players with every variance of score. A typical Japanese player will end up being paired with players around their power ranking a lot more often than players in other regions. In North America, I have seen myself and even other players with a power above 2500 and yet the lobby power (the average of all the players in the lobby) of one of our matches can be 2100. How is it possible that a player can be paired up in a lobby where they are 400 points above the average? This is unacceptable for a game change that is supposed to be competitive and help you find fair and balanced games. It is also the reason why people, including myself, have games where they gain 2 points and others where they lose 40 points. That being said, I know what you are saying. “Ugh not this again, you are supposed to lose more than you gain otherwise everyone will be at the top.” I agree, just not when the ratio of wins to losses in order to break even is 10:1. The system can be too harsh at times. Three-five wins equal to one loss is balanced, not 10 wins per loss just to break even in some rotations.
My solution would be adding a tier system to Rank X. My suggestion is that Rank X would be broken into sub categories or tiers and players can only match up against players within their tier. Starting from the bottom, the players on the cusp of deranking or struggling to move higher up would be playing together in Tier 3. Tier 3 would include only players with Rank X powers of 2000-2199. They will only play with other Tier 3 players until they pass the 2200 power threshold into Tier 2. The same will follow for Tier 2 which would be for players with a power of 2200-2399 and then the Tier 1 players who have a Rank X power of 2400+. This will definitely mean it will require a longer time for a lobby to fill up, but I believe it is worth the time to get into evenly placed matches that will test your limits and leave you with a sense of accomplishment for a win. Losses will not feel as daunting knowing both teams were evenly matched. You must be thinking “hmm, I was with Walky until he mentioned making me wait longer to get into matches, each rotation is only 2 hours and I’m trying to boost my rank as much as possible.” You’re right, if only there was a way to gain access to a pool of more players of all power levels so that lobbies fill up quicker...
While it may feel like more people are creeping their way into lobbies outside of their local region, ping based matchmaking is definitely still implemented in Rank X. This system needs to go for good. For those unfamiliar with the concept of ping, in its most basic definition it is the time it takes for information to travel from one source to another. In the case of Splatoon it is the travel time of information between players. Generally, the further players are from each other, the longer it takes to send information between players. This can affect players positioning and how bullets may not appear at the same time on everyone’s screen, which creates those moments where you think your opponent is laggy. In Splatoon 2, the matchmaking system tries to pair you with players you have the lowest ping with in order to give you lobbies with less connection issues between players. This is a good thing if these players are at equal skill levels, but this isn't the current case in Rank X and we still have connection issues with players from our own region from time to time.
There is no sense in having a competitive ranking system when the best of the best are not playing against each other. Imagine earning your way through the top 500 to an extremely high placement only by versing players drastically lower in power than you. Some won’t care as long as they get their high placings, but others might be frustrated they didn’t get games with players of their skill. Then there are others who worked hard to get to the top 500 playing against players of 2400+ power while in another region someone got the same score through stomping 2100 lobbies. I believe the game does try to pair you with players around your power level, but there are just not enough players in individual regions where you will get fair and balanced matches.
Abolishing ping based matchmaking should fix this issue easily. There will be ample players around each power level to be able to fill every Tier proposed earlier. This will allow players to be better ranked as they will be playing in the same lobbies to get the same power, not ones with large disparities. It will also add more meaning to the top 500 placements because everyone will have taken the same path to get there. Most importantly it will make winning less dependent on the luck of drawing formidable teammates. You won’t lose because they gave you the team with all 2100 players while the other team’s lowest player is 2300. It can be argued that at every level there will be people that aren’t a perfect representation of their rank, but it will still make games a lot closer than they are now. Additionally, this proposal mixed with the Tier system will help fill lobbies quicker and allow for a more divisive system within X rank. The main issue of ditching ping based matchmaking is that there will undoubtedly be more latency between games. However for myself at least, a bit more latency is worth getting into some amazing games around my skill level.
This one is more of a quality improvement change, but a necessary one. Currently on the Splatnet app it is only possible to view your own ranking for each mode, the top player at each weapon that you played most of for each mode and the top player for each mode. This equates to about a maximum total of 9 players: yourself and potentially 8 other players. What does this really tell you about the top 500 players? Nothing. It tells you about the top 1 player of something and yourself (assuming you aren’t the top). The system leaves you guessing about where the top 500 starts, the gap between the top 400th player and the top 100th, how close the top player is to being dethroned, what weapons players are using and seeing success with, the percentage of players from various regions in the top 500, and the list goes on and on. There is so much potential to expand this information into a proper leaderboard. Now, I know at the end of the season they will release the full top 500 lists, but why is this not available throughout the season when it actually matters and why isn’t there more stats for us to view at all times?
The top 500 system probably arose from other games having similar systems such as Overwatch’s top 500 lists and overall leaderboards. In Overwatch, you can look at the top players by hero, win rate, healing/min, skill rating, kill/death ratio, filter by region, and even look at all of an individual players stats and follow them for easy viewing if you so choose. Basically, any arbitrary information your heart desires about millions of players thanks to its elaborate system. Meanwhile in Splatoon 2, we get information about a maximum of 9 players until the month ends. The Splatnet app records an incredible amount of information, why not use it to show players off. Let’s see who outputs the most turf per minute, assists per minute, splats per minute, who actually is in the top 500 for each mode. People love leaderboards and stats where they can view their own placements and see how well they are playing compared to everyone else. Furthermore, it adds motivation to players to fix their mistakes that are clear and climb the leaderboards effectively. Obviously, the leaderboard doesn’t need to be as elaborate as other games, but it absolutely needs to be more than what it is now.
This suggestion isn’t absolutely necessary but it is still rather significant. I have played far too many games in which my team was winning or it was a close game and then suddenly “poof!”, a player on my team disconnected. We end up losing and, at the end of the game, I am awarded a solid -20 points. In a team game of only four players, it can be impossible to win with three unless you are just tremendously better than your opponent. We put up a good fight, the best we could and because someone disconnected 2 minutes and 30 seconds into a close game, we lost points for it. This is especially frustrating when you are in lobbies with such a large power level disparity where you can gain 1 point for a win and 40 for a loss. You feel cheated, as sometimes this one disconnect costed you five wins or more in terms of points.
While the ranking system does give you a draw if the enemy disconnects within the first two minutes or so (I’m unsure of the exact time stamp), it still isn’t enough. Why am I punished for the disconnect of a teammate that I haven’t chosen? In the competitive Splatoon 2 community, usually if a match starts and a player disconnects you have to play it out. If you lose, it is an official loss and that’s all there is to it. This is a fair ruleset because you chose to play with that player on your team and generally players with a solid connection and LAN adapter don’t disconnect often. In solo ranked, you didn’t pick your teammate, you could have won the game if they were there, and yet you lost points.
The way I would fix this problem is for all the members of the disconnecting player’s team to not lose any points no matter the score or the time into the game. However, what’s to stop a player from disconnecting intentionally and sparing their teammates the point loss? Simply put, the disconnecting player should receive a harsh penalty. They can lose a large and select amount of points, I’d say at least 30, unless the amount they were set to lose was more than 30. If a loss would have yielded a minus 43 they receive a minus 43. Another proposal is that they lose points equal to a factor of the amount they would have lost for a regular loss. This factor could be 1.5 or 2.0 it doesn’t matter. These will prevent people from disconnecting intentionally as no one wants to lose a significant amount of points, especially more than they would have lost had they just played the game out. Generally it is the same players who have spotty connections and disconnect often, therefore you don’t want them ruining others games on a regular basis particularly at the high levels of play where it can be frustrating to lose significant amounts of points.
Rank X has brought some new life and motivation to plenty of players, but I just can’t help but wonder how great it would be if there were some minor improvements. I think there is a lot of potential to create something truly special here that draws in a lot of players of various levels. I know this is just the beginning of Rank X and after some time it will improve but that is exactly why I am putting this out there. I want to spark a conversation that creates some amazing ideas in order to establish Rank X as the best system it can be and I’d love to see some of your suggestions in the comments below!
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