Here's a joke you can borrow for when you're necking jars and dropping bantbombs with the lads tonight:
Q: What do Gargamel and Dota 2 Ranked matchmaking have in common?
A: They both hate smurfs.
Steel yourself for some jolly vigorous high-fives from the lads there.
To crack down on Doters playing across multiple accounts, Valve will soon start requiring players register a phone number to play Ranked Dota 2 [official site]. Smurfs muck up the fun, you see, dropping into lower-level games with their higher-tier skillz. Ooo those smurfs make me sick! I must catch them!
Smurfing, I'll explain for those of you who aren't l33t d00dz, is playing under a different identity. In some games, it's simply changing your name so no one recognises you. In games with accounts and ranked play, like Dota, it's registering a new account to get away from the old identity and matchmaking rating. Even top-tier players will be treated like newbies by the matchmaking system at first, getting matches where they outclass everyone. Playing against smurfs sucks. Smurfing is easy in Dota as both Steam and the game are free, so tying matchmaking identifiers to a real-world marker is one of the few ways to rein it in.
Valve said in last night's announcement:
"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."
From May 4th, Steam accounts which haven't registered a unique phone number won't be able to play in Ranked. And yes, Valve say those online phone number services will be blocked. Eat it, smurfs. Then I'll eat you. I'll be glad to see them go.
For players who don't smurf, hey, registering your phone with Steam for two-factor authentication is sensible anyway.
Dota 2 does have Unranked matchmaking too, mind. It still tracks ratings but hides them, which means players can't follow their performance and don't get to feel like kewl doods.
This does suck for people who don't have phones. People who can't afford a phone get left out by this. Whether they're younguns or simply, y'know, adults who can't afford their own phone, they're cut out.
In other matchmaking news, Valve yesterday returned the Ranked Solo queue, which makes matches where all ten players are not in parties. Regular Ranked play can put together combinations of solos and squads, and the team with more pally players often has an advantage from their better communication. Valve have also adjusted party matchmaking so if a player's Solo rank is higher than their Party rank, they'll be treated as a little higher for matchmaking purposes. Valve say:
"While the current Party MMR number generally reflects the likelihood that you'll win a given match correctly, 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 expanding punishments. Players dunked into the low-priority queue for bad behaviour will now get short bans from Ranked play on top of the usual punishment, starting at a few hours and going up to four days if they get end up in low-pri a lot.
They're cracking down on anti-social behaviour too, saying they've improved detection of intentional feeding [that's ruining games by letting the enemy just kill you -l33t ed.] and that they will make the punishment for feeding stricter.
Annnd Valve have permanently banned "a large number" of players for using bots.
In further mixed news, Valve say they're turning off Ranked matchmaking mode on servers in South Africa, India, and Dubai. The regions have few enough players that trying to support both Ranked and Unranked play splits the player base too much. Sucks to lose the option, rules to have a bigger pool of players? Valve say folks in those countries can still play Ranked on servers in nearby countries if they really want, though obviously their connection likely won't be as good.
If you want to know players who aren't scrubs like me think of the changes, that nice boy Purge has shared his thoughts: