May Playlist Updates

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Hey everyone! We’ve got some big changes coming to Halo 5: Guardians’ playlists next week and today we’d like to walk through what you can expect when the Summer 2018 Season kicks off next Tuesday, May 1. Whether it’s the implementation of an improved skill rating system, the number of playlists available, or the contents within each playlist – there’s a lot to read up on. Strap in and let’s get to it!

Elimination playlist

Kicking things off with what might be the biggest change coming to the Ranked matchmaking experience, the current Breakout playlist will be replaced with the brand-new Elimination playlist. This new list will feature three different elimination-based game modes including Breakout, Breakout 2.0, and Extermination. After hearing feedback that each of these should be ranked offerings, we’ve created a way for them all to exist within one competitive playlist. While Breakout 2.0 and Extermination will remain untouched, we’ve changed flag scoring on the original Breakout from a “push the flag into the other team’s base” to a “bring the flag home to score” win-condition, so that both Breakout modes within the playlist will end by eliminating the enemy team or bringing the neutral flag back to your base.

For the curious, here is the breakdown of maps and modes in the Elimination playlist:

  • Breakout – Altitude, Canal, Crossfire, Highrise, Trench, Trident
  • Breakout 2.0 – Knell, Altitude 2.0, Crossfire 2.0, Gambol 2.0, Trench 2.0, Trident 2.0
  • Extermination – Firewall, Face to Face, Dreamscape, Alpha-Niner, Harbinger, Remains, Atlas, Dethrone, Abyss, Yggdrasil, Augury, Helheim

We’ve heard your feedback and are excited for you to give this playlist a shot next week on May 1 with the start of the Summer 2018 Season. Along with the launch of Elimination, there will be a few other changes coming to the Ranked playlists, which you can read about a little further down.

Social updates

Also starting on May 1, we’ll be making quite a few changes to our Social playlist offerings as well. Since our library of rotational playlists has grown so much over time, we’ve decided to create another spot for rotational playlists, which will take the spots of Grifball and Action Sack – these will become rotational offerings. Since these two playlists weren’t the most popular offerings (see Matchmaking Feedback Update – April 16), it leads us to believe that they may actually benefit from being converted into rotational lists. Grifball and Action Sack can now be put in the spotlight when they return, which should create a better experience within them. Additionally, by doing this rearrangement with another rotational spot, it doubles the odds that your favorite rotational playlist will be up and ready for you to enjoy.

As mentioned above, by having two rotational spots, we’ll be able to rotate in fan-favorite playlists more frequently. To do this, we’ll be staggering our rotation of the playlists – which means a new playlist will be hitting your screens every week. This means that Shotty Snipers, which is will be live soon, will stay up for two weeks until it is replaced by Castle Wars on May 10. The other rotational slot, which will be Triple Team, will rotate in Grifball on May 17 and then another mode on May 31. If the term ‘staggering’ doesn’t sound as cool as it should, it’s been helpful for me to refer to them as ‘leap-frog’ releases. Trust me, it helps.

  • April 26 – Shotty Snipers moves into Rotational Slot 1 (replacing Halo 2 BR Slayer) *in progress*
  • May 1 – Triple Team moves into Rotational Slot 2 (replacing Grifball & Action Sack)
  • May 10 – Castle Wars moves into Rotational Slot 1 (replacing Shotty Snipers)
  • May 17 – Grifball moves into Rotational Slot 2 (replacing Triple Team)
  • May 24 – Anniversary Throwback moves into Rotational Slot 1 (replacing Castle Wars)
  • May 31 – TBD moves into Rotational Slot 2 (replacing Grifball)


Ranked updates

If you couldn’t tell by now, we’re big fans of May 1. Along with the creation of the Elimination playlist, we’ll be updating Free-For-All, retiring Team Snipers for the time being, and implementing TrueSkill 2 across all playlists.

  • Free-For-All – The Free-For-All playlist will now include default FFA game modes as well HCS FFA on Truth HCS and Regret HCS. To make sure the HCS FFA mode fits in with the experience, it will now have the same 25 kill win-condition as the default mode. We hope this satisfies those of you who were enjoying the HaloWC FFA offering as well as provides an outlet for lone wolves that are looking to prove themselves.
  • Elimination – How did you miss this? Look up!
  • Team Arena – After seeing success with the updated version of Oddball on Eden and Truth in this playlist, we’ll be adding the mode on two other maps: The Rig and Plaza. Play ball!
  • Uneven Teams Improvements in Ranked – Previously, if a match started as a 3v4, the soft forfeit system did not recognize this player as the “first leaver”, meaning that the first player to leave from the team with 3 players would still get hit with the maximum CSR loss (more than half a tier) regardless of the match outcome. We have updated this to not penalize any leavers in 3v4 situations, though players will still lose CSR as a normal loss when they leave, but they won't go down nearly as much. Additionally, we've updated the math for Rank updates so that players who play in, e.g., 3v4 situations for the duration of a match will lose less points on a loss, and gain more on a win. It’s a subtle change, but should be welcome.

TrueSkill 2

This upgrade definitely deserves its own section. The long-awaited “TrueSkill 2” rating system will be used in every Ranked list at the launch of the Summer 2018 Season. This improved skill rating system, which was developed by the Microsoft Research Team, has been live in Social Playlists and Warzone for a few weeks now, and the results have been very encouraging – so we’ve decided to implement the changes into our Ranked offerings as well. 

To understand why we’ve made a change in our skill-based system, we should look at where our previous system was falling short and how TrueSkill 2 addresses those areas. I’d like to give a big thanks to our Lead Engagement Designer, Josh Menke, who helped explain these old gaps and the new improvements so that we could break it down for you.

While the previous version of TrueSkill was able to find a player’s skill lever faster than many other rating systems, it was not as effective for team games - which also meant that it had issues sorting out balanced matches for full Fireteams. The TrueSkill of old also did not naturally use skill from other modes and playlists to accurately predict a player’s likely skill when moving from one playlist to another. On top of that, it was unable to model how fast a player would learn and improve within that experience. Lastly, it did not leverage any in-game stats about personal performance (kills, deaths, etc.) to further inform itself.

The good news is that TrueSkill 2 has been updated to address these gaps and should improve everyone’s matchmaking experience. To lay out the benefits of using TrueSkill 2 simply, here’s a list of the good stuff:

  • TrueSkill 2 is much faster at figuring out the skill of a new player, which lets us matchmake players correctly very early on in their career. This has also allowed players to jump into new playlists without having to worry about a period of uncomfortable matchmaking.
    • As we still see a steady influx of new players to Halo 5, especially due to its inclusion in the Xbox Game Pass, this is also a very welcomed improvement.
  • It correctly accounts for the advantage of being in a Fireteam, based on that Fireteam’s size and the game mode, which allows us to matchmake Fireteams more efficiently. Our current data is showing that the skill of Fireteams is now being estimated correctly, and solo players are beating full parties when expected.
    • While this means that a full party made up of top players might have to wait for another full party of top players, it should make life significantly more comfortable for high-skilled solo players.
  • The new system is able to use information from all game modes and playlists to accurately estimate their skill in future experiences. This information is also used to determine how well a player will initially perform as well as how fast they’ll learn within new game modes and playlists.
  • It uses an individual’s in-game stats (kills, deaths, etc.) to correctly judge player contributions to wins and losses.

All of this results in a more accurate estimate of each player’s skill, and in turn, a more accurate estimate of a match’s outcome – which ultimately results in more balanced, fair, and competitive matchmaking experiences for all players.

Since TrueSkill 2 is already live in Social and Warzone playlists, we’ve been able to see the benefits of its implementation within Halo 5. Specifically, we’ve noticed a drastic increase in fairness of matches which has moved the win percentage of all players closer to 50% (across all skill levels), meaning that all players have been finding more accurate games. These close matches have also started to have a positive effect on quit rates, spread, and population values, though it is a bit early to drill too deep into these finer statistics.

That’s just about it for TrueSkill 2 and all the upcoming matchmaking changes. If you made it this far and want to dive into the math behind TrueSkill 2, you can read about it within a publication by the Microsoft Research Team online. And as always, if you’d like to leave feedback for us, please share your thoughts in the Matchmaking Feedback & Discussion Forum here on Waypoint, but feel free to reach out to Josh Menke on Twitter or posts on community forums and send it to us as well.


I realize a lot of what I’ve written can get lost in words, so here’s a recap of what you’ll find in Halo 5 matchmaking when the Summer 2018 season kicks off on May 1:

Social Playlists

  • Quick Play
  • Super Fiesta
  • Rotational Slot 1: Shotty Snipers
  • Rotational Slot 2: Triple Team
  • Infection
  • Big Team Battle

Ranked Playlists

  • Slayer
  • Team Arena
  • Doubles
  • SWAT
  • Elimination
  • Free-For-All
  • HCS

Also, be sure to mark your calendars, because Warzone Turbo will make its return on Thursday, May 24 and will stay up until Tuesday, May 29.

Thanks for reading, and happy hunting!



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