Are EOMM & DDA the Future of FIFA?

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EOMM & DDA Future of FIFA | Dynamic Difficulty Adjustments | Engagement Optimized Matchmaking

Around the beginning of 2018, YouTuber YongYea made headlines throughout the FIFA community. He announced that EA had patented a new concept known as EOMM. This discovery stirred a heated debate amongst FIFA community members, and was soon followed by the finding of another new patent known as DDA. A notable detail regarding these patents was that neither of them were new. In fact, EA had already patented them on March 8th 2016, and in the Spring of 2017 EA’s research team released two papers [1][2] describing the concepts in more detail.

EOMM & DDA Future of FIFA | Dynamic Difficulty Adjustments | Engagement Optimized Matchmaking

With the above taken into account, DDA has been one of the most debated concepts throughout the second half of FIFA 18. In this post, I look into what these two concepts are really about and what they may tell us about the future of FIFA.

What are EOMM & DDA?

DDA means ‘Dynamic Difficulty Adjustments’, and it does exactly that, but with a particular end goal. Dynamic game difficulty balancing has been around since at least 1975 [3], but DDA differentiates itself from earlier dynamic difficulty concepts with the objective of reducing the so-called ‘churn rate’. (The churn rate is the player’s inclination to stop playing.) Earlier dynamic difficulty concepts would simply reduce the gap between the winner and the loser. The problem with that concept was that it often resulted in unplayable games, as it would become pointless to practice [4]. Most gamers know that Mario Kart used such a concept – Rubber Banding. Those of us who actually played Mario Kart also know why it made the game less fun.

EOMM means ‘Engagement Optimized Matchmaking’. Unlike traditional skill-based matchmaking, where the main priority is to create fair matches, EOMM matches users based on what results are more likely to maintain their interest in the game. The rationale is that if people lose or win too often, they are likely to stop playing. Therefore, the optimal way to match them is to avoid that either result occurs too often.

Same purpose, different problem

What should be very clear from the above is that EOMM and DDA serve the same purpose, but they do so in different ways. A relevant question to ask is why EA spends money developing two solutions for, what seems to be, the same problem. To answer that, we could look at where these concepts were tested.

DDA was tested on a mobile match 3 game (could be Bejeweled), whereas EOMM was tested on a PvP (Player vs Player) game.

The reason why this wasn’t the other way around is due to the fact that DDA is effective when you have everything under control, such as what jewels are being dropped and at what speed. But in a two-player football game, the human players control a considerable amount of the action. That leaves very few levers to pull for the game developer(s) unless they introduce something silly like the blue shell in Mario Kart. In a PvP game like FIFA, a different solution is needed, and that solution is pretty straight forward; you simply hand pick the opponents. When someone is predicted to become bored after having won their last ten matches, you simply match them up against a superior opponent.

So, in essence, EA needs DDA and EOMM because they solve the same problem under two very different sets of circumstances; namely to avoid users from becoming bored or frustrated, and ultimately stop playing.

Will we see EOMM & DDA in FIFA 19?

What are the chances that DDA and EOMM will become a part of FIFA? Usually, companies don’t invest in developing new concepts for fun.

As for DDA, there is little doubt that it was built for single player games. FIFA’s main game modes may be multiplayer oriented, but it is very possible that DDA will make its entry in SBCs (Squad Building Challenges) or Career Mode as a replacement for the current adaptive difficulty concept.

As for EOMM, I can be more specific. EOMM wasn’t tested live. Instead, EA’s researchers tested it theoretically through a simulation based on real data from a popular game. The research paper also holds a few clues as to what game this possibly could have been. Section 5 describes how the researchers conducted a case study on a popular PvP game. We also learn that said game had matches which could end as either a win, a loss or a draw. Last but not least, the draw percentage was around 20%. Having studied football statistics and in particular FIFA statistics for some time, the criteria I just listed fit incredibly well.

So, if the test subject wasn’t FIFA, it was a game very similar to FIFA. Either way, I expect to see EOMM implemented in FIFA very soon, and perhaps already on September 28th when FIFA 19 hits the shelves.

The ethical side of it

Is it fair to throw something like EOMM into a game like FIFA? This is a difficult question, to which I will provide different answers.

On one hand, we all grew up with the basic perception that matchmaking should be random. A game isn’t fair if some have to climb a higher mountain than others. But FIFA already contains many deviations from this principle, though. FUT seasons uses skill based matchmaking, with H2H seasons using star based matchmaking, and that’s just the game modes we know about!

On the other hand, a lot of people are becoming increasingly frustrated with this game and the frustration typically isn’t related to winning too much. I’ve lost track of all the times I’ve heard someone complain about losing streaks. If EOMM makes playing the game a more enjoyable experience, then why complain about it?

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