Valve has banned 40,000 Dota 2 players for abusing the game’s online matchmaking system, likely through a process called “smurfing.” An update to tackle the practice came in tandem to the announcement. According to the company, these players will be banned from playing Dota 2 in Steam, and will also be forbidden from accessing online matchmaking services.
Valve announced the bans in a tweet from the official Dota 2 Twitter account. The company was vague about the specific cause of the bans, beyond claiming that those affected had been caught “abusing matchmaking.” This is possibly connected to a practice known as “smurfing,” in which experienced players invents new accounts so they can face off (and subsequently dominate) against low-level starting players without as much practice at the game.
We have banned over 40,000 accounts for players who were found abusing matchmaking. These bans will now appear as game bans in Steam as well as being matchmaking bans in Dota 2.
— DOTA 2 (@DOTA2) February 11, 2020
This announcement has been accompanied by an official update for Dota 2 that has the express goal of weeding out smurfs. According to the update:
We are making our smurf detection system more sensitive in this update. This change will much more proactively target potential smurf accounts, but may on rare occasion give a normal player extra MMR.
Smurfing is a practice with roots in the Warcraft II community, in which veteran players will sign up for new accounts so that they can pretend to be less experienced. The online matchmaking system then pairs them with legitimate newcomers, and the experienced players can use their wealth of knowledge to dominate the match.
It’s important for a popular game to serve up appropriate matches between players of comparable skill levels. If any player in a match is out of place, they or others might feel that the game is too frustrating or boring. Games studios often have their hands full dealing with people who try to cheat the online matchmaking system through this and similar means.
Making Dota 2 fair
While smurfing might not be the sole reason behind the 40,000 Dota 2 bans, Valve’s efforts to make the matchmaking system more fair and balanced for all players will likely target those offenders who’ve found ways to game the system.
In theory, this should be bad news for offenders, but good news for all other players who should now receive a more fair and balanced online experience. Of course, while this is Valve’s goal, in practice, it remains to be seen how much this will affect the Dota 2 community, and whether any honest players are inadvertently caught in the crossfire.