What's the best way to handle game mode selection?

I’m designing a round-based game with multiple game modes but I’ve run into a dilemma regarding how the game modes are actually selected. I have a few ideas but none of them are ideal, and I’m curious if there’s a best-of-both-worlds scenario I’m missing. There are two primary factors I’m considering:

  • Player choice: players should be able to play the game modes they like as often as possible
  • Friction: if there is any input from the player, it should be as frictionless as possible. Matches will only be a couple minutes long at most, so reducing menu usage is critical.

Here are the selection methods I’ve come up with:

  • Game mode selection is completely random. Pros: zero friction. Cons: no player choice, they get stuck with whatever is chosen.
  • Game mode is voted on while the map is loading. Pros: players can influence the game mode that gets selected, but not control it outright. Cons: adds a small amount of friction, increases time between matches (instructions on how to play can’t be shown until after map voting is complete), and majorly popular modes may always get selected to the detriment of players who prefer less popular modes.
  • Each game mode has its own matchmaking queue and players can join any queue they want. Pros: maximum player choice. Cons: adds the most amount of friction, and also during non-peak hours, some queues will take an especially long time to make matches.

As a player I’ve always preferred having the most amount of choice possible, but I also recognize that increased complexity caused by more choices can be detrimental to the first-time user experience. I’d like to know the following:

a) As a player, which option is most enjoyable?
b) As a developer, which option is best for gaining and retaining users?
c) Is there another option I’m missing? Can I tweak one of the options to get an optimal result?

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- Randomized map selection
As long as you can keep a good variety of maps in the game so players don’t feel like it’s repetitive, then players won’t mind this option at all. In the end, as a player, I want a fun game mechanic that I can enjoy with other players in the game.

- Map voting
There will always be players who won’t care for this, and players who will look forward to picking the next map. It’s not so much about friction, so long as you keep the intermission period from dragging on.
A good example of this implementation is Murder Mystery 2 by Nikilis. If you go to the lobby you will see perhaps half the players won’t vote and the others are in the voting area.

- Matchmaking and queues
Out of the three methods, this is the most demanding. In order to pull off, you will need to have a sizable pool of players to fill the matches. While there are games that pulled this off, you will need to make sure your average session length is high enough so your queues don’t empty out so quickly.
Don’t get me wrong though, although it’s the most demanding, it can be the most rewarding, as matchmaking gives players a more fresh experience with new people every time.

That said,

If you’re making a new game I think going with randomized map selection in public servers would be most beneficial for both you and your players. Get your game in the player’s hands as soon as possible and they will really help shape up the game.

Private servers are designed so players can enjoy games with their friends without the trouble of finding a server they can all be in. You can take advantage of this and give private servers the ability to vote on maps, since you are playing with friends everyone will more likely want to vote, boosting the social aspect of the game.

As I said before you should get the game out to players as soon as possible, when the game is out and you’ve got players giving feedback, you can then see if matchmaking or different methods of mode selection will work best for your game.


I think as well what really helps with matchmaking-based games is to give players an option to wait in multiple different queues at once. This means that on a low-period, players can press the “queue for everything” button (or however else you’d like to implement it), and they will be placed into whichever match becomes available first. This will work as long as there are more players in the queue than the match minimum player count at one time (and will be even better if you allow players to join matches that are in progress). This kind of brings back the random game mode selection from the OP, but uses it as a fallback for when specific matchmaking fails.

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