Already posted this on another forum but I'll repost it here because I'm curious if this is a good forum for game-design questions.

I'm looking to design a player ranking system for my game. The game is similar to a racing game where you get a score for individual tracks you play (based only on your own performance). Beside the score for tracks played I want a player rank. The purpose of this player rank is to:

  • Make you feel like you are progressing and getting better
  • Encourage you to play more
  • Encourage you to play better and improve your skill
  • Be enjoyable

Another way to state it is that I want to encourage playing more levels (increasing amount of play) as well as improving skill (getting higher score). It's not necessary for the rank to actually reflect your skill. Although, I suspect some amount of accuracy is needed for the score to feel meaningful.

The only ranking system I'm familiar with is the ELO-type ranking system which I feel is lacking in some ways. Although it accurately reflect the skill of the player it has the problem of not being enjoyable in my experience - it punishes bad plays, gives no rewards for trying/experimenting with new plays. It also puts a lot of pressure on you to perform well in every game which discourages casual play.

Any ideas?


  • \$\begingroup\$ Designing a good ranking system is very difficult: I found ELO (and ELO-like) terrible, and being it so widespread is a clear hint on how difficult must be to design a good one. \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. May 12 '12 at 21:57

One way is to just treat this as a basic scoring system, and do something like this:

  • 10 points for playing a level
  • up to 90 extra points for scoring highly on the level

This means that good players will increase their score more rapidly, but all players will see score increases over time. If you want to ensure that people can't rack up a high score and then never play again, discard any points earned more than 1 week/month/year ago, so that the leaderboard reflects the best scores of the current time period.

A system that includes rewards for playing as well trying to measure your actual skill can never be a true reflection of skill as people can 'level up' just by playing no matter how bad they are, and therefore it will never be an accurate representation of player rankings (except accidentally). But as long as the reward for winning is significantly higher than the reward for playing, it should be a decent enough approximation.

You might also consider keeping an ELO-style system for rankings but giving players other incentives to keep playing, such as a separate scoring system. This will keep your rankings fairly 'pure' but hopefully discourage people from avoiding playing to protect their ranking.

You can also do what the various boxing organisations do, and force a player to compete from time to time to stay as the 'champion' - if they don't compete, they are removed from the leaderboard until they do.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Giving points for merely participating encourages afk farming, which requires a sort of reporting/temp-ban system. \$\endgroup\$ – Hackworth May 13 '12 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hackworth it depends on the game \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. May 13 '12 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the number of points for merely participating is low relative to the points you can get by participating properly, then it shouldn't be a significant problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Kylotan May 13 '12 at 13:05

Offer both ranked and unranked play. Ranked play affects ELO, unranked does not.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a common compromise and works for player vs player, matchmaking-type games where you want the ranking to reflect the skill of the player as accurately as possible. However, I still feel there is a ranking system that more tailored for the goals I have in mind. \$\endgroup\$ – Pking May 12 '12 at 10:05

The absolute system doesn't matter as much as the relative rankings. People like to see themselves advance relative to the other players. You also should consider that players will game the system to artificially inflate their rankings, and try to make that harder.

No matter what you do, players will complain that the system isn't fair; so don't be alarmed.


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