The Cycle: Frontier is an interesting competitive shooter, in that it is unbalanced by design. Players choose what type of gear to drop into the map with, and can potentially end up facing opponents with drastically stronger (or weaker) guns and armor than themselves. Furthermore, solo players, duos, and squads share the same lobbies, which makes the game’s PvP encounters even more skewed and unpredictable. While this is all very much part of The Cycle: Frontier’s core gameplay focus on risk-reward management, many players have voiced the opinion that some type of skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) is necessary to reduce the frequency of frustratingly unwinnable PvP encounters.
The good news is that The Cycle: Frontier does indeed have a form of SBMM at play, though it may not be what you would expect. While traditional SBMM systems use metrics like KDR (kills to deaths ratio) to match players fairly based on their relative skill, Frontier instead matches players up by how successful they are in their farming. The narrative of the game paints players not as soldiers, but rather as Prospectors — people who are daring or desperate enough to drop to the hostile surface of Fortuna III in an attempt to mine, harvest, or scavenge as much loot as possible. Thus, the SBMM system in The Cycle: Frontier matches players up based on the average value of the loot they extract from their matches.
Dying for any reason — getting killed by a player, mauled by a Strider, or even just falling off a cliff — results in a big decrease in MMR (matchmaking rating) under this system, as the player fails to extract any meaningful amount of loot in that case. In that sense, SBMM in The Cycle: Frontier does function somewhat like a normal skill-based matchmaking system. However, this system also allows players to artificially reduce their MMR with certain farming runs, or to inflate it by playing very passively. In effect, there is no guarantee that players you face in The Cycle: Frontier will have similar equipment to you, or be of similar skill.
It isn’t certain whether this loot-based SBMM system will remain in The Cycle: Frontier when the game officially launches or will be replaced by another form of skill-based matchmaking. Developer Yager has stated that while it wants players of varying playstyles (and thus, equipment values) to meet each other in matches, it doesn’t want new players to get “crushed” by veterans with high-tier guns.