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I'm developing a website for a board game that revolving around user-created boards. Matches are currently created by selecting two people who have been waiting in a queue the longest and creating a match for them. We will later implement matchmaking with specific users.

What is an appropriate way to select a map when a match is created with two random people?

  • Should one player be allowed to pick the map?
  • Should a random map be selected?
  • Maybe the players should rank a collection of popular boards by preference, then select the one with the highest average rating?
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You can also weight the maps based on a number of factors, first of all you can look at maps with a low level of quits (quits per started game) and use that for how "fun" maps are.

Secondly you can weight based on fairless, is one player winning more often then the other, if so then reduce weight of that map

thirdly you can keep track of arranged games (rather then quick games) and keep track of what maps are most often played there and use those more often.

Fourthly you can look at what maps players have recently played and avoid doubles.

Fifthly you can put in some kind of gradient for average game duration, usually games that last less then a certain time or more then a certain time aren't that much fun.

Lastly you can ask players to rate maps and use this in order to determine what maps are good, if you want to do this really well you could even look into matrix factorization in order to predict for each player which map he/she is going to like the most.

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A map can just be randomly selected. Many online games including World Of Tanks, War Thunder, and others use this sort of technique. I personally however notice that I dont like some of the maps, and so am annoyed that I have to play on it. In my opinion, you should have the maps randomized but have configuration options for the player to be able to pre-set that they cannot join certain maps. If you dont want to do that, then in my opinion random is the best thing. I would not recommend manual map selecting mainly because it is an extra process. Also what if player 1 selected a map more advantageous for him than player 2?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If there are more then a handful of maps (which almost always results in a few that players don't like), you could add a banning system to the maps, then pick a random one. \$\endgroup\$ – Silent137 Jan 20 '16 at 18:21
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This is going to depend on your game and what you're going for. Until you can answer that in detail, it's best to keep it simple, and tweak once you see issues.

The only thing I'd pre-empt is that with user-generated content, you want to curate it. You might maintain a collection of pre-approved maps that are allowed in random match-ups, unless the participants opt out. You might allow users to specify their own blacklist of maps.

When picking a map, fairness is not the only concern! Here are some things to consider:

  • Is it fair?

    Depends on your game, but players may have different play styles, some of which are (dis)advantaged by the map choice. You will need to make a decision on what kinds of play styles you'll encourage.

    • Can players avoid maps that place them at a severe disadvantage?
    • Giving players more control over picking maps encourages them to specialise on a few maps; random or fiat choices encourages players to be versatile.
    • Consider fairness between experienced and novice players; older maps with more tactical depth will advantage experienced players.
  • Is it fun?

    In general, fair is fun, but sometimes you can go overboard.

    • For example, you might overdo fairness and end up with a scheme that always causes the same, boring (but super-balanced) map to be played.
    • Sounds like it doesn't apply in your case, but consider whether it's fun for spectators. This includes random observers, e-sports audiences, LP watchers, or potential players researching your game.
    • Although unfair for single games, if games extend over multiple games (such as in tournament settings), you might deliberately choose less-balanced maps, as this creates variety and interest. Consider that some of the most popular sports and games have a high degree of uncertainty, giving underdogs bigger chances of winning.
  • Is it good for the community?

    This is keeping your players happy and engaged, and also keeping the game attractive for new players.

    • If your scheme picks controversial maps (loved by some, hated by others), it may be good for some but it may upset others so much that it creates a toxic atmosphere.
    • People don't want to play the same thing repeatedly, but if you let them choose in a competitive setting that's what they tend to do. Does your scheme help overcome that, and introduce new maps (without forcing duds on players)? New content like maps usually meet with initial resistance, but they help the longevity of the game, by keeping the game interesting as well as helping less-experienced players.

Again, simple is probably best here, and most games solve this problem in simple ways. Nevertheless, here's some examples of (very elaborate) schemes for you to think about, not only what they did but why they did it:

  • Map choice rules in a Starcraft 2 tournament; here two players play on a series of maps in a best-of-X tournament:

    1. All Map Vetoes and Map Choices must be made prior to the start of a Match.
    2. The higher seeded Player must choose to act as Player A or Player B. Player A must veto one Map first, then Player B must veto two Maps, and then Player A must veto one more Map. The vetoed Maps will not be played in the Match. Player B must choose the Game 1 Map and then Player A must choose the Game 2 Map. The Game 3 Map will be the Map that hasn’t been chosen or vetoed.
    3. No Map may be played more than once in a Match.
    4. No Map will be considered to have been used in a Game that is forfeited according to General Rules #3.

    As a prize competition, fairness is a very high priority, but so is making the game interesting to watch. Note the features they used: a pre-approved pool of maps (curation); vetoes to eliminate the most unfair choices; picks so that each player has a good chance of winning at least one game.

  • Hero picks in a MOBA (Dota 2); here the captains of two 5-member teams take turns picking and vetoing heroes, which are assigned to their team members out of a pool of dozens (I'm analogising between heroes and maps here):

    hero pick scheme

    In most MOBAs, heroes have very different abilities and their selection has a large influence on the game's outcome. Thus there's an elaborate series of picks and vetoes to eliminate the choices that are too good. This forces players to be proficient at a range of heroes and keeps the game interesting. Some even enjoy the hero pick as a meta-game. Note that this scheme reinforces the strategic complexity of MOBAs and strongly disadvantages new players, which is acceptable for hardcore games.

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