In a move to counter smurfing, Valve has introduced a requirement for players to register a phone number on their account to play Ranked matches of Dota 2.
Smurfing is the act of a higher level player creating a new account to fool a games ranking system to get dropped in with the rookies. This is a problem in many online games, not just esports, because no one likes getting splattered by a pro-level player when they’re just working out the basics. It’s particularly insidious in Dota 2 because both Steam accounts and Dota 2 access are totally free, so you could smurf to your hearts content.
This new step, tying it to a real-world identifier, is an interesting step to try to rein it in. This comes into effect on May 4th, and players without a phone number on the account won’t be able to play Ranked anymore, although they’ll still be able to play normal matches.
In their announcement last night, Valve said:
“Players using multiple accounts create a negative matchmaking experience at all skill brackets, so our goal is to add just enough friction to this process that the number of players doing this will be noticeably reduced. Having more players using their primary accounts will have a positive effect on both Ranked and Unranked Matchmaking.”
Valve have also reintroduced the Ranked Solo queue, which allows players to seek games where all 10 of those involved in the game are free-agents, getting rid of the ranked advantage presented by buddies getting together to play ranked Dota. This comes with a slight tweak so that players with really high solo rank and a low party rank will be counted slightly higher.
“While the current Party MMR number generally reflects the likelihood that you’ll win a given match correctly,” say Valve. “We’ve found that when a Solo MMR is dramatically higher than a Party MMR, the match becomes extremely volatile, resulting in an unpleasant and uncompetitive experience for both teams.”
Valve are also cracking down on anti-social behavior, including a crackdown on people feeding, which is the practice of ‘feeding’ yourself to the enemy team to help get them big and strong. Players dropped into low priority will also achieve a small ranked ban on top of their usual punishment, which could be as serious as a few days, if they’re often in low-priority.
They’ve also banned “a large number” of players for using bots in play too, the tykes.