As Hi-Rez Studios continues to experiment with “the largest changes [to matchmaking] in several years,” and players’ dissatisfaction with SMITE’s matchmaking grows, the idea of removing game modes has come up once again.
But this time, instead of the discussion being only hearsay, Stew Chisam, President of Hi-Rez, admitted on Twitter, “We’ve talked about ways to consolidate/remove Clash & Siege but hopefully still appease the population” and are looking at options for SMITE’s sixth season.
SMITE has an almost overwhelming seven casual modes — eight if there happens to be an Adventure running — and three ranked queues. And I think removing a few of these is a fantastic idea.
Those in favor of removing modes always bring up the following points: SMITE’s player base is too split up, so removing modes will increase the quality of matchmaking, and there are too many modes accomplishing the same thing. The mode most cited for removal is Siege, a 4v4 objective-based mode similar to Conquest.
Those against removing modes believe such an act would not direct players to other modes — namely Conquest, considered to be SMITE’s main mode — but would instead make these players quit SMITE entirely.
First, let’s get it out of the way that I agree with both sides. Yes, it’s true, players who don’t like Conquest will not magically play Conquest even if they wake up one morning to find Hi-Rez has removed every option except SMITE’s “premier mode.” Despite this, it is also true that removing lesser-played modes will increase the quality of SMITE’s matchmaking.
But if I don’t think the removal of modes will funnel players into other queues, why do I believe the overall matchmaking experience will improve? The answer: because the matchmaking in some SMITE modes is simply too poor to be acceptable in a competitive multiplayer game.
Having been a SMITE player for more than five years with over 4,000 matches played, the worst matchmaking I have experienced continues to be in Siege and Ranked 3v3 Joust. I’ve endured Reddit downvotes — and sometimes upvotes, depending on the crowd — for years arguing that these two modes need to go. I’ve been on both sides of the equation: a member of the party slaughtering unsuspecting new or low-skilled players, or the experienced solo-queue player confused as to why they’re stuck with three people on their 12th match of SMITE ever.
Then, finally, after a long while of Hi-Rez not releasing official statistics about SMITE’s game modes, HiRezStew posted a chart of SMITE’s matches per mode, and it’s no surprise to see those exact two modes nearly dead last in SMITE’s PVP modes, tailed only by Ranked 1v1 Duel. Players avoid these modes, and not because they don’t like the gameplay, but because they don’t like the matchmaking.
Especially considering 3v3 Joust is a ranked mode and should be the steepest competition you can get outside of the SMITE Pro League, having such a low amount of interested players makes for a bad experience that reflects poorly on SMITE. When Grandmasters regularly play against Silvers with queues topping 10 minutes if you’re lucky, sorry, but it has to go.
Then Siege, a casual mode, is unlocked at account level 15, which can be reached quickly, especially with double and triple XP weekends. Of course, we as experienced players understand that sometimes depending on the time of day and game mode, SMITE matchmaking may be off, but imagine being a bright-eyed level 15 player excited about the new mode you just unlocked. Then, you endure Siege matchmaking, and it turns you off to SMITE because you’re a customer who expects better when you’re investing your valuable time and money into a new game.
That said, the removal of Clash, as HiRezStew originally mentioned alongside Siege, does not seem likely due to its popularity. Assault also looks out of the question, and Arena and casual 3v3 Joust are not even options due to their dominance as SMITE’s most-played modes. But cutting the bottom three or even four — Ranked 3v3 Joust, Siege, 1v1 Duel, MOTD — is not a stretch.
And remember, I agree with the opposition who argues some players will quit SMITE should these modes be removed. Yes, some will quit SMITE. But if what we get in the end is a more polished, higher quality product that has a better reputation and attracts more players, isn’t that a worthwhile investment to make?