I have been playing some Starcraft 2 on the Beta and have found a new mechanic that I really do not like - Bonus Points. The way that the ranked matches in SC2 are set up is similar to a chess ranking - each player has a number and you are generally matched against players close to your own number. Your point gains or losses from a match are changed based on relative ranking so that facing a higher ranked player is not a disadvantage from a points perspective.
The way Bonus Points work is that when you start you get a number of bonus points on your account and they slowly accumulate as time passes. When you win a match you get your normal number of points and that gain is increased by up to double by taking points from your bonus pool. So if I have 20 bonus points sitting around and win a match giving me 12 points my ranking goes up 24 and my bonus pool drops to 8. The number of bonus points that you gain over time seems like enough to make a very big difference if you play 3 games a day and very small if you play 15 games a day. This allows people who don't play often to more easily achieve higher ranks in the game but unfortunately it has some really poor side effects.
Here is the issue with Bonus Points: They artificially inflate the score of players who don't play often above their skill level. For example, I play every couple days for a few games. This means that even though I only win 1/3 of my games I still end up staying at the same point total, so even if my skill level implies that I should be ranked 1100 instead I am stuck at 1300 and play constantly against people who play a lot and are better than me. I still win sometimes but the fun of the game is significantly lessened when I can't possibly break a 50% win rate no matter how well I play. Even if I were to magically become hugely more skilled I will be trapped at a low win rate forever unless I can substantially up my playtime.
I doubt that either side of this equation particularly enjoys it. The people who play constantly get easy wins against casual players but cannot get ahead in points acquisition and the casual players lose all the time. The best way to have a ranked ladder where people play against those of similar ranking is to have ranking be proportional to skill rather than have ranking be inversely proportional to the amount of time spent playing. The ideal way to rack up ranking under this system is not to play a ton and be awesome but rather to play unranked matches constantly to practice and only play ranked matches when you have a full bonus pool waiting to double your gains.
I hope very much that this mechanic does not make it to the live game. While I do recognize the value in learning from being defeated by strong opponents a big part of the fun in a competitive game is winning. Setting up people who only play occasionally to be forever losing to better players at the same ranking isn't fun and isn't a good way to keep those casual players playing the game. I want to play against others who are about the same skill level as myself regardless of how many hours per week we each play.