The act of “smurfing” is nothing new to the online shooter, and Overwatch is certainly no exception.
It’s when an experienced player creates a new account, thereby pitting them against inexperienced opponents in matchmaking. As such, it has somewhat of a bad reputation in gamer circles.
Some players however value the tactic, as it offers a new challenge to work back up to a high rank. Regardless, it’s still a controversial method, and developers often work to stamp it out.
Interestingly, Overwatch developer Blizzard has ways to counter it, although it doesn’t quite seem to be a “punishment” per say, more so just the general nature of the game’s matchmaking system.
It’s been a commonly talked about topic on the Battle.net Overwatch forums, and with the game closing in on its first anniversary and a third competitive season currently active, many seasoned players are finding themselves tempted by the allure of smurfing.
While Blizzard doesn’t appear intent on directly dealing with the issue (if that’s what you want to call it), there are matchmaking systems in place that make it harder for new players to take advantage of the system.
“Our matchmaking system narrows in on your skill level quickly,” game director Jeff Kaplan said. “So even though you have a ‘new’ account, it’s very obvious to us that you are a high-skill player.”
It’s easy to gather from that statement that it only takes one superb game with zero kills for the matchmaking system to determine a player’s skill level: if they are level 1 and racking up 60 kills and no deaths with Hanzo, chances are they aren’t going to be teamed up and pitted against the same players again.
With that said, Kaplan explained how the system works to matchmake for new players.
“We also do some things to lessen the frequency that ‘new’ players get matched against experienced players,” he explained. “A lot of our truly new players will complain if they see players higher level than they are (account level, not SR).”
At the lowest levels, Kaplan explained, Blizzard tries to match players in a pool of other “new” players. However, there are few players that fit into the “Master” skill, and as such, smurfing players will struggle to find a match and may have to wait minutes before they’re put into one.
It seems like less of a punishment and more of just the system doing what it needs to do in order to keep things balanced. I’ve personally been pitted against lower-ranked players that are clearly smurfing, and while it doesn’t bother me because I’d have probably have played against that player anyway, I can see why it would bother lesser-skilled players who are genuinely trying to work their way up.
With smurfing being as prominent as it is, this is probably the best way to address it without flatout banning players, which would be overkill.
What are your thoughts on smurfing? Vote in our poll and sound off in the comments below!