Valve, the developer and publisher behind the Steam Platform and the Half Life and Counter Strike Franchises is finally overhauling its Free to Play DotA 2 Matchmaking experience to make it more friendly, enjoyable and less prone to abuse by unsavoury players. To combat what many would argue is widespread abuse of the DotA 2 Ranked Matchmaking experience.
Valve is adding a feature that it is well poised to execute thanks to its direct integration into the Steam API: it will now register ranked accounts against phone numbers to combat abuse by various low ranked users purchasing and then using high ranked accounts to essentially play games that they are normally not skilled enough to be part of. At the same time, this is expected to cut down on a term that DotA players call “Smurfing” or essentially high skilled DotA 2 Players going to low ranked games via lower MMR (Matchmaking Rating) accounts to essentially help boost their friends, try new combinations or simply win otherwise easy games. The idea, Valve states is to create enough friction to make it annoying or hard to abuse MMR via accounts and using phone numbers does essentially limit the amount of accounts an MMR abuser has at his disposal. Valve adds that it will not allow or detect online services that provide phone numbers.
Value is also adding a previously default feature in ranked matchmaking where solo players can select an option to be matched only against solo players queue on the same server. If users play as part of a party, the average of a party member’s solo and party MMR is used if his solo MMR is higher than his party MMR. This is normally due to a variety of players with extremely high Solo MMR and relatively low party MMR resulting in volatile and unpleasant matches as a result. While valve acknowledges that this method would technically break MMR in short term, with a larger sample of games, it should tend to balance out the player’s skill level thanks to increased data resulting in less volatile ranked matchmaking.
Valve is also going out of its way to punish toxic players and those that tend to abuse matchmaking by adding a duration-based delay that will gradually increase for players frequently in low priority to up to four days at a time. This will be in addition to the penalty amount of games they need to win in the Low Priority segment. In addition to this, Valve is adding detection for and stricter punishments for intentional feeding, a growing concern in the community especially in ranked matchmaking. Valve has also issued a wide-reaching permanent ban to accounts that are detected botting in DotA 2 and this is expected to make a large improvement on less-played game modes which are normally riddled with a variety of bots being used by various players.
Lastly, Valve has cited low server population which results in abuse on the South Africa, India and Dubai servers. As a result, it has blocked ranked matchmaking on the servers and users on these servers can play in other nearby server regions in the meantime until their player populations allow ranked matchmaking to be fairer on said servers.
All in all, these are some much called-for but necessary changes in the DotA 2 matchmaking system but quite a few of them may also be controversial as a result. The current matchmaking update is currently trending on the DotA 2 Reddit page as a result and general reception has been overwhelmingly positive.