Smurfing is a perennial problem in every competitive game. In a free-to-play game like Valorant, that issue remains difficult to root out, because higher-ranked players can make as many accounts as they like and go on to disrupt the gameplay experience in lower ranks.
Over the past year, Riot Games has taken steps to combat smurfs, such as by raising the barrier for new accounts to enter the competitive queue.
It has also tried to address the main reasons why people smurf by making it easier for players of different ranks to team up in a 5-stack and reducing the RR penalty in full stacks.
However, a community-favorite solution is to implement two-factor authentication, tying every Valorant account to a working mobile phone number. Having said that, this may not be the cure-all many insist it is, according to Senior Competitive Designer Jonathan “EvrMoar” Walker.
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2FA will not completely prevent smurfing, says EvrMoar
In fact, introducing 2FA solutions may end up blocking players with lower purchasing power from the game, said EvrMoar.
It’s also possible that smurfs are more likely to be willing to spend money to obtain a second phone number and device. Over time, more and more smurfs would eventually pony up to get around the system. At the same time, players who don’t have mobile phone access or need to play at a LAN cafe would no longer be able to enter ranked mode.
For EvrMoar, that’s a steep trade-off to make, especially when 2FA does not solve the problem directly.
“This is mitigation and not a solution,” he said in a Reddit comment. “In reality, if we had a good matchmaker that could detect smurfs and correct their MMR, we wouldn’t have to rely on secondary solutions that don’t tackle the motivation or problem directly.”
“When you put SMS verification up you aren’t putting up a barrier to prevent smurfs. You are putting up a paywall.”
Ultimately, Riot doesn’t believe that it has exhausted all its attempts at solutions just yet.
“Do we have the resources right now to implement [2FA], know how it would impact the player base, and be able to upkeep it? Unfortunately, no, and that’s why we haven’t gone this route,” he explained.
In the meantime, Riot is testing a new smurf detection feature in North America, where new accounts will have their MMR adjusted quicker. The system is already looking very promising, said EvrMoar, and Riot is also working on a few other solutions to tackle smurfing.
The developer may even have a way to tie smurf accounts to individual PCs, so it could potentially ban smurfs if it wanted. “We can ban off hardware ID,” said EvrMoar. “This means we have a good idea of each PC and how many accounts that PC has.”
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