Single Player Elo Systems

This isn’t a full article, just something that I wanted to make a note about and talk briefly about. A bunch of years ago, I wrote an article about Auro’s single player Elo system. The Dinofarm Games website has been down for a few years now, but you can still read the original article here on Since then, I’ve also implemented this system into my 2021 tactics game, Gem Wizards Tactics as well, and made some modifications (like removing forced-de-ranking).
The old Auro 1.0 rank screen, from back in 2014 or so!

Just in case that page ever goes down, here’s what my single player Elo system ideas were all about, in brief:

  • Firstly, it isn’t a true “Elo” system like you’d see in Chess for example, but it has a similar goal: to quantify your skill so that you can play a match that you have roughly a 50% chance to win.
  • Part of it is that the game has a win/loss condition – which actually might be the most radical thing about it! In single player games, this isn’t terribly common, for reasons that have become more clear to me over the years.
  • There are some number of ranks, usually 20-30 or so, with Rank 1 being as easy as possible and with the last rank being as hard as possible. My general design goal has been “set up Rank 1 to be so easy that I do not hear from anyone who can’t beat it, and set up Rank 30 to be so hard that I do not hear from anyone who CAN beat it.” This way, we have headroom on either side and accommodate the widest number of players, while still having hopefully a coherent and possible-to-beat game at any rank.
  • When the player wins a match, they gain some XP/Meter/whatever you want to call it (let’s just call it Rank XP).  When they lose, they lose some of this Rank XP.
  • If the meter goes below 0%, they lose a rank. If the meter goes above 100%, they gain a rank.
  • The nice thing about it is, if the player plays a bunch, they can just hit PLAY and never have to worry about picking the right difficulty. This was kind of the fundamental dream of such a system. I just want to *play*, and this system allows that.
  • I also incorporated some additional rules over time, like a “streak bonus”. It normally would take 5-6 wins at a given rank to rank up, but with streak bonuses, it gives you more Rank XP, so maybe it only takes 3 wins instead of 6.
  • Later on, around the time of the Auro Unity re-release and Gem Wizards Tactics, I removed the concept of “de-ranking”. Probably there’s a whole article in here, but to quickly explain why, I think that the language of videogames is very much that “numbers go up”, and if you’re going to violate that you better have a really, really good reason why.
  • I also in that same era added the ability for the player to just manually set their rank. Why not?

I’m definitely moving away from my single player strategy game concept in general, but I do think it’s a nice tool to have in the toolbox for designers. Apparently the Rogue-lite style “ascension system” is quite similar (with its main difference being the lack of forced de-ranking — although this is also the case in GWT and the latest versions of Auro.)

But yeah, just wanted to have a nice bookmark somewhere to that old article, since it has gotten continued traction over the years and people frequently ask me about it. Thanks for reading!