How you can classify the players who have played 18 games with those who have 150 and place them at the top of the rankings or even higher, it makes no sense/not fair.
I believe the way ELO is set up, it takes into account not so much how many games you played, but how many better players have you beat. Or if you're a better player with a higher ELO, losing to a worse player can cause your ELO to plumet (and hence you really are not rewarded for playing lots of games unless you can consistently beat average players).
If the matching mechanism pits you against 15 good opponents (as measured by their ELO) in just 18 games and you best them, you can have a really high ELO. But if you play 150 games, and you also beat 15 good opponents (as measured by their ELO) in your last 20 or 30 games then your ELO should rise to about the same level.
ELO takes alot of effort to fool. You can create a hundred accounts to overwhelm the matching mechanism, but it won't work well. Each new account would have an ELO of 1000, but your primary account that you're trying to fraudulently inflate would be up around 1100. And each win would cause this to increase very little.
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When you talk about terrible play ruining things for you, what I think you mean is there's a certain predictability when all players are of a high skill level.
But just like the uncertainty of dice, I would claim your strategy has to be ready for unexpected mistakes of others. And I'm not talking about just the times you can capitalize on these mistakes.
Maybe your point is ELO is best used in only games that are one vs one like chess. You'd likely also point out that a losing player being "king maker" and deciding which highly skilled player ends up winning does not lend itself to ELO ranking. I understand these points, but I'm not sure you're going to find much better system of ranking which require zero design effort on the developer's part.
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@ReeBee There is absolutely no need to include a ranking in this game. It only makes the games less fun as players will not play to their full strength in each game but will be more worried about this completely unimportant number. More people throwing games to be in 2nd place rather than fall to 3rd or 4th. ONLY 1st place should matter in this game.
If you want tournaments, there are other ways to rank players... And then the number of wins count the most.
@ReeBee I had removed my posts as it seemed off topic and/or beating a dead horse... but might as well...
There is never complete predictability with good players as there is no one way to win, and of course a good player accounts for the unexpected and has multiple routes to winning, this is central to the game. My point on inexperienced players is that they significantly unbalance the play (as does gaming the AI), and as it stands the game does a poor job matching you up with comparable players (and ELO isn't helping this)
ELO is fine for chess where it's 1-1 and purely skill/experience, it doesn't work well with multiple players and significant random factors. You can play a solid game and still take a decent hit to your ELO. And ELO isn't even used that strictly when creating matchups as there is a significant spread in ELO/skill/experience in the game and in Seasons.
There are better systems IMO, one simple one would be increase someone's rank every X times beating players of equal or better skill, but never decrease it on a loss (because losing doesn't mean you've lost skill). The first few levels would be rather loose in meaning, but after a while it will be harder to increase your rank, at high enough levels you might need to enter a tournament or play on an event weekend to find enough players of comparable rank. This would also allow people to play fun games (open to all rank levels, no ELO loss at stake) or competitive games restricted to your relative rank. It might not give who's absolute #1, but you'll know who the best players are.
Adapted for tournament play, once you have a decent idea of someone's rank, you can create solid match-ups and then your position in the tournament is wholy based on wins, just like any other tournament out there. (Although the Administrator clarified this wasn't a tournament, there is one in the works)
[This would likely need refinement and possibly has it's own limitations, but my point is that a ranking system that matches comparable players isn't that complicated and doesn't encourage terrible play like ELO. The only think ELO has going for it is encouraging addictive aggressive play]