Riot’s VALORANT team recently announced new updates to reduce the number of smurf accounts and improve the game’s matchmaking system.
What are Smurf Accounts?
An alternate account sometimes referred to as a “smurf,” is an account that is played by someone who already has another account.
In VALORANT, the most common reason for creating alternate accounts is to play competitively with friends of different ranks. Undoubtedly, this is a legitimate motivation that VALORANT developers should enable.
However, creating a new account should not be the way to fulfill that motivation. The game developers should try to provide avenues for allowing social competitive play without the need to play on multiple accounts.
On the other hand, there are malicious motivations that are another use for alternate accounts. The term “smurfing” is the common name for these malicious motivations. Examples include creating alternate accounts to stomp easier opponents. Alternatively, players create new smurf accounts because VALORANT banned their main account for violating rules.
Problems created by Smurf Accounts
So that’s what smurfing is and why people create alternate accounts. Why should VALORANT remove smurf accounts?
- Alternate accounts/smurfs are more likely to bring instability to matchmaking fairness: An experienced player with a new account will take time to get to their “correct” MMR/rank. During this time, the matchmaker will have a harder time making fair matches. When you enter a match of VALORANT, we need to have confidence that you are entering a fair match, and smurfs compromise the ability to guarantee this.
- Alternate accounts/smurfs are more likely to be behaviorally disruptive in VALORANT: Data shows that players report accounts identified as alternate accounts/smurfs more often. They are reported not just for gameplay behaviors, but also for text and voice toxicity. Furthermore, they are also more likely to be punished for being disruptive. This could be because players on these accounts “care less” if their secondary accounts are banned. Also, it could be because anyone playing on a smurf is more likely to be disruptive in the first place (even on their main).
- Perhaps most importantly, YOU care about alternate accounts/smurfs: Riot’s surveys indicate that the single most frequently mentioned issue that players bring up with Competitive VALORANT is the prevalence of smurfs. Based on these results, Riot is serious about reducing alternate accounts in VALORANT.
Automated Smurf Detection
With Automated Smurf Detection, the primary goal is to use data to place smurf accounts within their correct MMR as quickly as possible. This dramatically decreases the number of games where players experience unfair matches.
In order to test detections, the developers conducted a test in North America in the Patch 5.01 update. In that release, they validated that they could accurately identify smurf accounts. Afterward, they successfully bump the smurf account’s MMR to be as close as possible to their primary account.
The developers measured the rate of “stomp” matches (when one team wins by 8 or more rounds). For reference, before the changes, the stomp rate for smurfs was a whopping 32%.
By the end of the NA test, they saw that 50% of detected smurfs whose MMRs were adjusted were within 1% of the normal target stomp rate. Conversely, the 50% of detected smurfs that had not been adjusted were still stomping in 25% of their matches!
With all of these exciting results, Riot officially launched smurf detection worldwide to all regions in September!
There is no perfect solution
Players mention smurfing/secondary accounts as one of the most common topics of concern. Of course, there are many instances where players believe that they are playing with someone who “doesn’t belong” in a rank. However, that particular player might just be having an unusually great game. Therefore, game developers know that they will never be able to completely eradicate all issues with secondary accounts and smurfing in VALORANT.
Fortunately, the VALORANT developers are continuing to address issues with smurf accounts. Hopefully, other game publishers will take note of these efforts and apply them across the esports/gaming landscape
Related: Gamelevate Articles About Reducing Toxicity, Smurfing, Hacking, and Cheating in Gaming