On March 7th, 2023, Senior Software Engineer Morgan Maddren and Lead Meta Designer Scott Mercer from Blizzard’s Overwatch team sat in Dev Chat on Twitch to chat about the new One-Punch-Man-Collaboration and talk about matchmaking in Overwatch 2. Community Team moderators Soe Gschwind and Jodie McKaughan addressed one of the biggest problems with matchmaking: smurfing.
In smurfing, veteran players who already have a high rating on their main account create new accounts (smurfs) to be ranked through matchmaking with other new players taking their first steps in Overwatch 2. As a rule, the experienced player who should actually be playing at a higher rating dominates the entire match. This causes all sorts of problems for which the developers have not yet found a perfect solution. Statements by lead meta designer Scott Mercer show how much smurfing gnaws at the Overwatch 2 devs.
“Smurfing is the bane of my existence”
Smurfing is a constant nuisance, says Mercer. Mercer and senior software engineer Morgan Maddren said on stream that smurfing ruins matchmaking for new players because the system is designed for gradual skill improvement. Overwatch 2’s move from the first game to free-to-play has brought tons of new accounts into the game, and the new matchmaking system has been carefully designed to handle that.
Smurfing totally destroys a fair matchmaking system. Smurfing creates a situation in which new players are ranked completely incorrectly because they often lose games to smurfers and the ranking system thinks that they are actually better, according to Mercer.
A solved problem leads to the next problem
It has become a popular challenge, especially among streamers and YouTubers, to document your journey from Unranked to Grandmaster (highest rank) – preferably as quickly as possible.
The team had to develop systems that preempt new players, returning players, and players just out to smurf people who aren’t as good as they are. With little information available for new accounts, the matchmaker needs to predict how good you are as quickly as possible, and smurfers spoil that.
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This is also why players have recently been required to link their accounts to their phone number and play 50 unranked games before they can join ranked games. But that led to a new problem. Since then, accounts of players who are “Ranked Ready” have been sold to bypass this waiting period. The sale of the accounts is of course not allowed. This gives the developers even more gray hair and makes fair matchmaking by smurfers almost impossible.
Those | pcgamer.com
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