So apparently Blogger posts a blog if I accidentally hit Enter after typing the title. Sorry about the blank RSS feed.
Anyway, some recent experiences in Left 4 Dead have convinced me that Xbox Live, and other multiplayer services, could use better matchmaking.
The first experience was trying to add someone as a friend and being told she's reached her friend limit. That made me think... it's a shame that I can't be more likely to play with someone without putting them on my friends list.
The second experience is having run into a lot of exploiters and jerks this past week. There's a Left 4 Dead exploit that involves blocking an elevator exit, so the survivors are trapped -- the game effectively comes to a halt. One of my teammates did it and told me he thought it's hilarious, even though he admits he hates it happening to him. Other strangers I've played with have abandoned their teammates to rush ahead, or constantly complained about greener players not playing up to their standards, or focused on particular strategies so exclusively that fun falls by the wayside.
Some of these behaviors really just mean a person with a particular playstyle shouldn't be matched with players who have very different values, strategies, and levels of experience. It's like the classic RTS playstyles: zerg, balanced, and turtle. Each player generally prefer play as and against one or another style.
What I'd like to see is a system that allows each player to privately rank others according to preference, affecting only the odds of those people coming up in game searches.
Such a system better takes into account that two players might not play well together yet neither of them is doing anything wrong; like an explorer and an achiever playing the same game with vastly different goals and interests. It doesn't separate players entirely, but the odds keep them apart enough to prevent frustration and boredom. This also encourages gamers to play with their friends, but not only with their friends... creating the possibility of making new friends and being challenged in new ways.
It also helps for each game to list classifications related to that game in particular. For example, RTS players would love it if they could choose when to play against zerg tactics and when to play against turtles. Every player will want play a game in different ways depending on mood, recent experiences, and other factors.
How else could game matchmaking be improved?