Rec Room’s new Personalized Recommendation System
An update to how Rooms are recommended to players.
Rec Room’s new Personalized Recommendation SystemFor many years, the Hot List has been the primary way people discover what to play.  You may have seen some differences between the Hot List depending on your device, but for the most part, everyone was seeing the same list of rooms.We’re excited to announce that the Hot List is now personalized for each individual player based on their play history.  Our goal is to help more content get visibility and traction by better matching rooms with the players that will like them.We’re starting our personalization efforts on the Hot List, but are going to experiment with other Lists in the future as well.  So you may see the titles and ordering of various Lists change over time.
Q: How does it work?We now make daily predictions for each room and player based on that player’s experience with similar rooms.  If you play a lot of PvP, you’ll see more PvP content ranked higher.  If you played a lot of horror rooms, expect to have horror rooms rank higher for you.Our definition of “similar” is not based on the room #tags system (which we know is often inaccurate) and is derived using a neural net that’s weighing a wide range of different variables for each individual room visit to determine similarity.
Q: What factors go into that personalized calculation?While the algorithm that powers our Hot List is always evolving, it is optimized for increasing player fun / engagement. Here are the big three that primarily explain how a room gets ranked:
  • Time Spent
    • We attempt to predict how long a particular player will spend in a particular room.  Rooms that demonstrate a pattern of players sticking around / having fun, rank higher. 
  • Retention  - If people visit your room, do they ever come back?  Rooms with a demonstrated history of generating repeat visits, especially for new users, rank higher.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR)
    • What percentage of people will go to your room after seeing your room’s thumbnail?  Rooms that do a better job converting impressions to visits will rank higher.  
      • Important Note: Success on CTR alone can work against Time Spent and Retention.  If you have a misleading thumbnail, which converts people to visitors, but those players quickly leave your room after they realize they were misled, it will drag down your scores for Time Spent and Retention.
These individual factors are combined into a final weighted score, with Retention having the most influence and CTR having the lowest influence on a room’s final score.
Q: What does this mean for you as a creator?Over time, it should be easier to build an audience for your room, even if its appeal isn’t mainstream or universal. Niches and genres that were previously harder to get visibility for will now be able to find their players more easily.It also means that play time is less concentrated in the top handful of rooms and is spread out across the ecosystem more broadly
Q: Is this like “TikTok personalized” or more like “Netflix personalized”?Right now, it’s more like the latter.  The system is still learning and this first iteration of the personalized Hot List still requires a room to have some traction on the criteria mentioned above (Time Spent, Retention and CTR).  Personalization will not vault your room from relative obscurity into the #1 spot overnight.This means that for smaller creators, you'll still need to employ techniques to drive players to your room, like holding events, growing your subscriber base, or cross-promoting with other rooms. However, for the top several hundred rooms your room's recommendation will be based on an individual player's playstyle, and not the global trends for all players. Additionally, this recommendation system is platform dependent, so if your room does better on one platform vs another, it’s more likely to be recommended there.Over time, you’ll see the personalization get better and more specific as it learns more about each player’s style of play.
Q: How do you handle rooms without data?A newly created or recently edited room can show up on the Hot List for the first time based on how well that room engages players that visit the room from various other sources, such as the New Carousel, Search, or player invites. This activity is what gives our predictive model data about how it is likely to perform. As more people visit from different sources, more data is crunched and that predictive model is updated.Additionally, we weigh recent data more heavily.  So if you don’t succeed out of the gate, you can make edits that positively impact your room’s performance and the algorithm will notice.
Q:  Is there anything special that Creators do to help their rooms show up on Hot?As you’d expect only a small percentage of the rooms that are created ultimately make the jump to Hot, but we do notice a few things that successful creators are doing that can help.First, they tend to build up toward a launch event - they tease the room on social media, they ping subscribers, they make promo videos, etc.  They also tend to make a Rec Room event for the launch.  This ensures the first people into the room are excited and primed to try it, while also giving our algorithm a bunch of data to crunch out of the gate.These creators then tend to spend a lot of time in their room - this helps in a few ways.  First, they’re able to act as a living tutorial for new players to make sure they’re having a good experience. Second, these creators are able to observe pain points in the room in real-time and fix them.There is nothing more humbling than watching people play your game (trust us…).  It’s very common for an ill-placed tutorial or start button to severely impact the average time spent in your room.  Players have a lot of options and if they can’t quickly find the fun, they will leave.
Q: I built a great room that should be on the top of the Hot List, but it’s not.  Why isn’t it ranking?There are a lot of reasons why a room that one person thinks is “great” might not be at the top of the Hot List even though it’s personalized.  Here are the most common reasons:
  • Technical Performance
    • If your room runs at a low frame rate or has a high crash rate, that can really weigh on its ranking for particular platforms.  Creators tend to have more powerful devices than the average user.  Sometimes they assume that because their room runs well on their device, it will run well everywhere and that’s not always the case.  Go on to the Creator Portal and you can find your crash rates across different device types. 
  • CTR
    • If your room is great, but no one chooses to go to it because your thumbnail is unappealing, it will weigh on your ability to get into the Hot List.  CTR is one important factor in our ranking model.  A good thumbnail, by itself, won’t get you to the top, but it’s rare for a room to end up at the top with a weak thumbnail. 
  • Time to Fun
    • This is probably the most common reason.  Sometimes we see a room that’s great, but it doesn’t handle onboarding well.  There’s a great game, but users have to go through a long intro/explainer/tutorial/cut-scene/credits reel/etc. 
  • Players are impatient.  When they get to your room they want to have fun.  The more time there is between spawning in your room and having fun, the worse you’re going to do.  The rooms that perform better get into the action almost immediately.  They may have tutorials, but you’re not forced to go through them before doing something else.
Q: Does this change the kind of content I should build?Possibly.  Think about your audience, your player base, and what they'll find interesting and fun. Since the Hot List is now personalized for everyone, it's more important to build content that a loyal player base is going to enjoy rather than trying to build something for everyone.
Q: Anything else?Yes.  This is just the beginning for personalization.  As we get more information on how personalization works in the wild, we’ll be updating the algorithm, updating the lists shown in the watch, and providing more information here about what’s working and what’s not.  Stay tuned