The last few updates have brought some change within our skill matching system, so we thought we'd spend a few paragraphs going over a bit more specifically how it works, and hopefully dispel some of the confusion and misconceptions.
The first big change occurs when you register. No longer must you play Crash, or select a skill before playing matches, everyone starts off on equal footing and able to play online. If you check out the "Welcome" tab in home, you'll notice some new phrasing below the Best Pick servers, and a countdown. This countdown is just an estimate of how long until you are removed from a probationary period. While in this probation period, your skill is calculated differently.
As many have discovered, we measure skill in QUAKE LIVE per gametype, so how exactly is one countdown derived from all game modes? It is actually just a good guess based on an average player's gameplay patterns, with a little extra buffer. The actual count is 10 games per game mode; that is you will have to complete a total of 10 games in each separate game mode before you are considered out of the probation period for that game type. Players who never play certain modes may never get out of this status, so rather than constantly reminding them of this, we opted to simply remove the message after 20 games no matter what.
Now, what does this probation period actually mean? From the player's perspective, not much. They can play the game as normal as everyone else. Their probation status only comes into play when the game ends. The amount of tier movement is initially very high, and decelerates as you approach 10 games in that game mode. This is done in an attempt to as quickly as possible separate players, and hone in on what skill tier they should be in.
Which direction, and how much you move, is not dependent on wins and losses, but actually is a function of score over time, after meeting a minimum time played. The top third of the server will go up, the middle third will stay the same, and the bottom third will go down. Basically, if you are one of the more productive players on the server, you will move up, and if you aren't, you will move down.
None of this is permanent, and it is possible even after hundreds of games to still move around if you're having a hot streak or a run of bad luck. And certainly the system itself can be improved over time-- this is the main reason we are hesitant to prominently display your raw skill numbers on your profile, if they change due to a tweaking of the method, people may feel they unfairly gained or lost skill as a result.