Here’s Exactly How Black Ops 2′s Matchmaking System Works

Black Ops 2′s matchmaking system and how it works has always been a mystery to many people – especially those that have had problems with it. It’s anyone’s guess as to exactly what happens behind the scenes when you hit the ‘find game’ button. Well, actually, it’s not any longer!

In an effort to dispel some of the mysteries surrounding this feature, Activision has released a document on their support site that details exactly what processes Black Ops 2′s matchmaking system goes through in order to effectively match people based on certain criteria. However, the article does not cover the skill-based matchmaking of League Play, which matches players more strictly on skill rank.

The first step in the matchmaking process starts at the playlist level. Playlists divide players into collections of maps and gameplay rules. Playlists are a set of rules that form a mix of gameplay experiences and should not be confused with game modes. The specific collection of gameplay rules defined in playlists can change over time based on the changing tastes of the online community.

Once a playlist is chosen, the game starts the search for the best match within the playlist’s population. Playlists will typically range in population from 500 to 100,000 players around the world at any point in time. The number of available games in a playlist is around 10-20% of the total player count. At the lowest end, for example, a playlist of 500 players may have only 50 possible games from around the globe to join. The search query takes the list of all available games and filters it down using these steps:

  1. Filter all games that can be joined by proximity to the player. Proximity does not adhere strictly to city, state or country as seen on a map. Rather, it breaks down into four tiers of geographical region surrounding the player. The query starts in the tier closest to the player and expands from there if it cannot find enough matches. The query also ignores all full or “non-joinable” games, which could be half or more of the total available games in a playlist.
  2. Filter by broad skill range. This step takes the proximity-filtered list and narrows it further to the set of games that fall roughly in the same broad skill range. This is very loose criteria in Public Match and is a broad-stroke filter that avoids games at the extreme ends. A player of very high skill should generally not get matched to games where the average skill of players is very low, and vice versa.
  3. Steps 1 and 2 normally take a fraction of a second and result in a list of “top 50” available games. From here, the game tests for the best connection quality of those 50 games. Connection quality includes a measure of ping, bandwidth between you and the host, and NAT compatibility. The game attempts to join the you to the game with the best connection quality of all possible matches, starting at the top of the list.

Note: The total process of all three steps could take several seconds, depending on your connection to the internet and the games available in your playlist and region at that point in time. In the best-case scenario, you should get matched to game hosts in your region, where the average skill is not at an extreme above or below your level, and where the game is the best connection quality you can find.

There are several factors that can decrease the quality of matchmaking and degrade the quality of your online matches:

  • The first is your local network connection quality which itself is determined by a number of variables. If the quality of your network doesn’t meet minimum criteria, the matchmaking won’t matter – the game cannot control variables that are general aspects of internet connectivity. Here are some factors that can decrease your quality of network service:
    • Low bandwidth to the internet due to ISP bandwidth limits.
    • High bandwidth usage by other services in your home (video/audio streaming or high-volume concurrent downloads, for example).
    • Your local home network has restrictive NAT settings.
    • You are playing the game over a WIFI connection rather than wired Ethernet.
    • Your ISP is throttling data throughput from your location. Some ISPs erroneously flag online games as “spam” and will throttle the speed at which data can transfer in and out of those games. If you experience consistently laggy games or games that lag during the same time periods every day and there are no other problems with your home network, check with your ISP to ensure that they aren’t throttling specific types of data.
  • The second variable is your region. If you live in a remote region, it will be more difficult to find hosted games that match your profile. The best option for those in extremely remote regions is to play during local peak hours in playlists with high player counts.
  • The third variable is time of day. Since matchmaking works to find the game with the best connection quality, it will have a much easier time finding high quality connections when there are more players online in your area. As a general rule, peak usage occurs during the late afternoon and evening hours in each time zone.
  • One last variable to be aware of is DLC. DLC map packs divide matchmaking pools into groups of players who have DLC and players who don’t have DLC. The more map packs that are released, the more matchmaking pools there are. Nine months after the initial launch of the game, for example, the highest single population of players is that which owns all map packs.

Now that you understand how matchmaking works, you know what factors contribute to the quality of games available to you at any point in time. If you frequently find yourself in games with lag, first check your local internet settings for ways to improve performance. Then, check with your ISP to make sure they aren’t throttling bandwidth. If your internet and home network are both in good shape, but you still find yourself in games with lag, you may want to schedule your online sessions for times of day when there are more players online in your location, typically late afternoon and evening.

The game also provides the option to change matchmaking search preferences to favor getting into games faster (which may result in lower-quality network connection between you and the host) or getting into better-quality games (which may extend the time it takes to find games). In the “Find Match” selection screen, press the button labeled “Search Preferences” and select your preference: “Normal” (default) follows the exact steps outlined above; “Any” reduces restrictions in the query and will return results faster, although they may not be the best results; “Best” increases requirements for connection quality and may result in longer search times.

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TAGS: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Multiplayer, News


  1. Brian Murtaugh says:

    Why don’t you people explain the reason you won’t take quick sniping out of the game? And after that you can explain why you ruined the game with lag compensation… what a joke

    Highly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 73 Thumb down 27

  2. Daniel says:

    You left out the part where it repeatedly fails to allow you to join on friends or even party with certain friends… EVER. Bring back dedicated servers for PC, fools.

    Highly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 10

  3. Jason says:

    You failed to define “skill”. How does the system determine “skill”

    Highly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 8

  4. Michael lee says:

    So now we know what happens to get into a lobby…but what information does the system use to create opposing teams ( assuming it tries to evenly balance the teams ). Is it skill, rank, prestige, k/d etc…?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

    • Kievnstavick says:

      I’ve noticed that when the game balances the teams, it does so based off of everyone’s score during the last match. The system tries to get a even team while allowing parties to stay together.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. CoD4 TryHard says:

    Lag comp is the most apparent in the series. CoD4 should have set the standard. Matchmaking leaves much to be desired to be called anything skill based.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 7

  6. Gerald says:

    Man you know after making Black ops and the game was crap on lag they should have fixed it before MW3 and BO2 came out but noooo they are greedy little hogs. Why in the world do you release a game that perks like ghost, awareness then not to hear the enemy footsteps with or with out the perk is telling us you guys did this game cheap. Now far as the lag goes what the problem is that your system is not doing its job in the game. What I mean by this is that when I shot someone in the back with 1/2 to 3/4 clip they should be dead and that person lives only to kill me with 1-3 bullets is not right. Then on a straight firefight I shoot first before they see me but I still die and my aim and acc is decent and skill is good to best. I have tested this out on dsl, cable fios and fiber and you guys have a serious problem on the lag comp.I never had problems til Black ops. Mw2 was awesome because everyone was on even playing field but host and even then you could still kill the host.I think now days greed has taken over vs making and fixing a great game. I rather play Battlefield, homefront, or Medal of honor.

    Highly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 43 Thumb down 13

    • oscar gamino says:

      i agree also this lag makes no sense also when i snipe i get a hit marker, how do you get a hit marker with a sniper rifle when you shoot them on the chest. this game is bad

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

  7. jeremy says:

    i agree with gerald matchmaking is the least of problems the perks you have allowed and attachments are ridiculous how are u gonna give people target finders for people that cant play and the hit detection is r****ded do u guys even play these games or do u just know hey people are gonna buy call of duty u guys should b ashamed of yourselves i wish i coud get a refund worst cod to date

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 7

  8. Bob says:

    They appear to be using score per minute as part of the equation. Most of the players in my lobbies are within 60-70 points of my SPM and my matches have been very competitive. I’m a very average player and have enjoyed not regularly being completely over-matched. Lag has not been bad either since I changed my setting to where the game looks for the best connection when matchmaking. I know there are always issues with these games but my experience has been very positive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

    • jamie says:

      i used the normal connection the hole time and when i used the best one time i was prestiege 6 level 46 and after the game was about over the host left and said i was on probation and lost everything this game is rediculous

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  9. Nihilius says:

    Interesting but im fairly sure you guys could fix the lag comp. I had an extremely positive experience with W@W (until the hackers that are still there came along), Black Ops is undoubtedly my favorite CoD to date because I look more into Campaign, but I loved the whole game. This problem cant be on everyone else’s end other than Treyarcs servers. It could make the game way better and plus I’m tired of Infinity Ward fanboys or people with terrible cases of nostalgia saying MW2 and 3 were perfect and CoD 4 (though I liked it alot) saying anything Treyarc makes is terrible and riddled with glitches. MW2- Noobtubing, Quickscoping, Nuke, Deathstreaks, Intense camping, and OMA weren’t considered to be game breaking? Okay. How about MW3? Maps sucked camel balls and all looked the same, Guns werent very creative, recycled 80% of MW2, Activision (not IW) had the nerve to charge for “Elite” which people felt cheated for, Campaign was weak to me and I LOVE single player, Quickscoping makes its great return, no report function, special ops wasnt near as fun as MW2′s, the sounds werent very creative for guns and other stuff, calling tags were straight out of MW2, sone guns were waaaaaay overpowered *cough* striker! *cough* and for le grand finale…. There’s no nuke. ITS THE MOAB!!! There’s plenty of problems in all the CoD’s and I think everytime a new one is released, nostalgia kicks in and people whine about it. I remember getting MW3 and only hearing fans obviously let down, claiming they were cheated, the game was broken, and half of my friends either sold or gave their disc to their dogs. Like come on, the community for CoD is full of children and the forums are full of adults that whine like them. Give the devs some time and the game will be just fine. Until then, there are 100+ titles out there you could be playing besides CoD. Now, on topic. The matchmaking is sometimes complete garbage if you see the teams people get paired with so im hoping their system gets a much needed update because a team of no prestigers and 7th prestigers totally deserve to face a clan on no life racist prestige masters, right guys?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

  10. Alpha says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 29

    • Mr.Derp says:

      The problem is that all of these problems were so easily avoidable yet Treyarch somehow managed to f**k up this game in a way that was seemingly impossible

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

  11. heineken says:

    Guys, I m playing on a laptop and its as simple as that :

    When I m home on a 10 Mb/s connection I hardly win.
    When I m at my gf house with optic fiber 80Mb/s, I win all the games I join…

    But the biggest problem in black ops 2 is:

    when you see someone before he sees you and you start shooting at him and he kills you, AND THEN YOU REALISE HE SAW YOU BEFORE, WTF !

    This isnt Black Ops 2,
    this game is facking MW4

    You guys just called it BO2 because nobody would have bought your s**t if it was named after the crapiest game of the whole CoD serie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 14

  12. SaiGunslinger says:

    Worst matchmaking ever.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 7

  13. tofusage says:

    i often found this goddamn match maker put who has best ping in the same team and left lower in the another team.

    WTF is this ? see people got kill by stupid lag is not enough ? now you even happy to see a slaughter pit ?!!

    honestly, i really tire to see some player think they are god just because they gain advantage from other laggy players.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

    • Robb Moore says:

      I have the same problem.!. I’m at level 55 why am I getting put in matches against prestige 5,6 – 9, 10, master? Then one game is great I can bend down tie my boots, light a cigar, scratch my bLLs, and then fire at the enemy team… Actually get score streaks! Oh no, then sum veteran gets mad that a noob smoked a cigar and shot him in the final kill cam… So they leave? Now I’m the one that can’t see the enemy?? They just seen to be coming from every where.?.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  14. A pachirisu says:

    I don’t get what all the complaining is about, the game is awesome. i have played every call of duty released to date and I have to say before CoD Black Ops 2, my favorite one was Modern Warefare 2. Some of the things people complain about are no fault to the creators. For example, you can’t get all upset because people camp. People are just f**king a** holes, and are going to camp. Also, not all guns can be completely equal. If all guns were meant to be equal why even have an array of weapons? They should just make one weapon per class and call it a day, but don’t forget each weapon needs to be equal in how well it performs. That would be stupid. The game needs some strategy and part of that comes from the different types of guns. If you want a more powerful weapon, you lose accuracy or fire rate. Pretty simple. Another thing, if you don’t like a perk because you feel like it is not benefitial to you, THEN DON’T USE IT. No one is making you use the perks you are choosing… Back to the discussion, I think the matchmaking is pretty spot on. I am rarely put on a team that gets demolished, but on the other hand, I’m rarely on a team that is doing the demolishing. So I would say the teams come out pretty fair. The connection is always going to be some what laggy. With an average of 400,000 players online at just about any moment, keep in mind the varying types of connection, how can there not be lag? You people that say its the worst CoD to date, don’t you think thats a little harsh? Sure the game isn’t perfect, but no CoD has been perfect. Making a game like CoD can’t be easy, plus then there are factors your not in control of, like the style of play per person, as well as connection speed. The game is good get the f**k over it.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 21

    • malone says:

      COD4 (MW1) was and still is the best one so far, connection was nice cause of dedicated server, it’s fair for every players and there was no lag at all, one shot, kill, the ennemy died immediately.

      Since MW2 and further release (MW3 beeing the worst) you can start shooting at ennemy and you will find out that you can shot about 10 bullets until you see the guy dying (falling down) from your first bullet. this sux, this is not FPS. It’s just ridiculous and awful to deal with. IT makes many players wondering if any one from DEV team is actually aware of what a FPS should be and which ingame feeling is important.

      However, when it comes to BO2, i think just dedicated server as it was promised would solve many issues.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  15. Robb Moore says:

    Bla bla bla… I keep seeing and hearing the same s**t.?. Whether its on a blog, website, text message, fckng pregame lobby! IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING OR SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT… Why doesn’t everyone who likes MW3, Battlefield, Halo, etc BETTER go back to playing that.!. And please stop whinning! This is my 1st FSP and ill say this this I’m a level 55, my son is 20, and we’ve been in matched with prestige 1, 2, – 5, 10 hell even master? So how does it MATCH SKILL LEVEL? I think all 55 and below play, then each prestige level play agaisnt each other Unless your in a party or go in… The MATCHES ARE NOT FAIR!! And this LAG? One game I’m running circles around the enemy team( they can’t see me) 30 kills next I’m moving so slow watching enemy come outa no where and kill me?? – 8 kills I don’t even wanna play I KNOW THEY HAVE an unfair advantage! THIS NEEDS TO BE FIXED??

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  16. xTormentorx says:

    This hardly explains why they won’t have compatibility for South-East Asia. Treyarch has really let me down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  17. james says:

    but why am i always the host it destroys my bandwith and then comcast chokes me down, stop making me host

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  18. angryman says:

    so now talk about host migration.

    sometimes it will let a terrible host play as host for an entire round without changing to a new one. or it will change to a new one, (for this argument; me) and instantly boot me, because even though i have real good dl speeds, my ul isnt as good, so why doesnt your system try to see who connects best, because it really is getting annoying becoming host and getting kicked immediately from a game i was doing well in and with friends.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  19. amattei says:

    Sorry i been trying to connect to multi-player since i downloaded uprising with less and less success. could you write on how it doesn’t work

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  20. amattei says:

    o man after installing uprising. im so good they cant find someone to match me?????

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  21. sadra says:

    i have all of dlc and no one plays black ops 2 online in my country i want to conect lobby of other countrys can you help me

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  22. Bob says:

    The game has gone really bad since i started playing it not enough prestiges and to many OP guns, i want to start again but every game all you get is people sat in corners with OP guns theres no point of even playing the game. The gins on the game were the best as they were at the start not to OP and not to weak and good accuracy to but all treyach do is add less or more recoil and a lot more damage the game is bulls**t there is nothing to do anymore being master with pretty much all challenges done and tey go on about permanalty banning people for using hacked accpunts but yet someone with over 1500 nuclears and 7000 unstoppables is still allowed to play because his ratio is below a 3 , but all his revent 5 games he was getting less than 1 KD they really need to sort things out

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. NutZ says:

    I agree with almost everything that has been said here, my first thought when starting Bops2 up was exactly… WOW… this is MW3 – it even played and sounded alot like MW3, especially the part where smgs just dominate each and every other gun in the game.

    I hate how you can be stuck in a lobby by yourself, when 15000 people are playing the game, you have open NAT and all map packs – still… the stupid game waits for the counter to reach 0 – and then instantjoins you.
    I also now find myself playing the same maps over and over again, Bops1 didnt have that problem due to the dedicated servers, you simply just played what was served to you, and it was great!

    In the end, Im hoping like hell they will add PC dedicated servers for COD:Ghosts (I know theres not a fat chance of that happening – since they then cant just port the s**t over from console like now) But if they dont, I think my COD career is over.

    Sad thing is that I think with BF3 they really screwed everyone over aswell, with the lag compensation and the worst hitdetection in the history of FPS games there, I wont be playing BF4 either since its the same s**t with new maps.
    So in the end, all these next gen shooters aparently means improvement in graphics and great reduction in playability since we aparently cant count on the game showing us where we hit or who hit first anymore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Nathan Vu says:

    They NEED to put something into the match making system to stop you from joining lost games, I mean games like Domination score is 60:190 and you spawn on the losing team, or TDM where the score is 20:70, this happens to me ALL THE TIME. Also do something about spawning people in on a game where the enemy is freaking DOMINATING with scorestreaks, all the time I’ll join a game and the enemy will have a swarm, an AGR, stealth chopper, and a load of other crap, you can’t even walk out of spawn because they’ll just be spawn KILLING!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

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