Dota 2’s Underbelly: The World of Smurfs, Boosters, and Account Merchants


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Are the acts of smurfing, boosting, and account buying and selling killing Dota 2?

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Are the acts of smurfing, boosting, and account buying and selling killing Dota 2?

If you happen to’ve been queuing in matchmaking for some time, you will have most likely encountered some type of rank manipulation. For enormous video video games that maintain a big participant base, it’s virtually sure that some gamers will abuse its matchmaking system and Dota 2 is not any totally different. Its free-to-play construction and the significance it attaches to Matchmaking Scores (MMR) has induced many types of rank manipulation to plague their method via the servers. Smurfing, boosting, account shopping for, and a weird phenomenon of hiring “paid actors” are all some types of rank manipulation in Dota 2. As the sport grows, the gamers abusing these strategies have seemingly racked up in quantity and whereas it would paint a innocent image at first look, the expansion of the smurfing group has led to a jumbled ecosystem in Dota 2’s ranked matchmaking and has acutely affected the sport proper from the bottom of tiers all the way in which as much as Immortal video games that includes esports professionals.

Kinds of rank manipulation in Dota 2

Whereas the main focus of Dota 2’s matchmaking drawback facilities round smurfing, there are additionally different sorts of rank manipulations which can be equally damaging to the sport.

Smurfing is when an skilled participant creates and performs on a brand new account, normally at a decrease MMR in comparison with their authentic account. This act normally causes the individual to be matched amongst a pool of gamers which can be decrease expert which ends up in an uneven recreation. The time period “smurf” was first noticed method again in 1996 when a bunch of pals determined to faux to play badly in Warcraft II and proceeded to stomp the opposite gamers. They used the aliases “Papa Smurf” and “Smurfette” therefore the time period “smurfing”. It was initially roughly outlined as “somebody who makes a brand new account then pretends they’re a beginner”.

Boosting is technically simply one other type of smurfing the place the gamers generate profits out of it. Folks pay actual cash to have their accounts boosted so as to obtain the next rank. In some instances, the “clients” might need totally different requests similar to acquiring a profitable streak on a particular hero, getting a excessive common for his or her KDA, and plenty of extra.

Account buying and selling is precisely what it seems like. It’s when gamers purchase or promote an account from one other participant. The account that’s purchased may be both excessive or low-ranked, relying on what the aim of the client is. Some consumers wish to get a high-ranked ID, both for bragging rights or for them to expertise the next degree of gameplay. Some consumers, alternatively, wish to get a lower-ranked ID to play with their low-ranked pals or simply for the enjoyable of smurfing.

The Uncommon Phenomenon of Paid Actors in Dota 2

Paid actor” is a time period that’s more unusual and because of its rarity within the recreation, its definition can be a bit of imprecise. Many communities outline paid actors as a bunch of those who extort high-ranking professional gamers or streamers by becoming a member of their groups in pubs, after which stating that they might throw the video games, until they have been paid. Different communities outline them as gamers which can be employed to throw their opponent’s recreation, in order that the one that employed the actor will get a free win.

Round June 2019, a Chinese language skilled participant, Bu “YaphetS” Yanjun reportedly talked about his struggles towards intentional feeders that he referred to as “paid actors”. At first, he obtained a message from a random account, asking him to pay them cash if he needed to get into the highest ten ranks on the leaderboard. After turning them down, he began getting a wave of those paid actors in his Dota 2 video games that will purposely throw his video games, leading to a severe drop in his rank.

The time period “paid actor” was popularized from the China area, and because it transits to Southeast Asia (SEA), the time period will get a barely totally different which means. Gamers had posted on Reddit concerning top-ranked gamers hiring actors to purposely lose within the enemy staff, incomes them a free win and a lift on the leaderboard. Though this isn’t backed by full proof, posts on Reddit identified their suspicions at any time when a participant’s rank would rise in an uncommon method, and their stats would present a sample of profitable towards the identical one that apparently feeds each recreation. Based mostly on the group’s discussions, the way in which they be sure that to be matched in reverse groups is by queueing on the similar time and abusing the “Keep away from Participant” function that’s obtainable for Dota Plus customers. This technique is usually exploited in a bracket with a restricted pool of gamers because the possibilities of matching collectively along with your “paid actor” is nearly absolute, thus the abundance of actors within the leaderboards bracket.

How smurfs are ruining Dota 2 matchmaking

Whereas the existence of rank manipulations began out as uncommon occurrences, it has slowly developed through the years and presently, the pool of smurfers is likely to be bigger than ever. The numerous decline within the common variety of Dota 2 gamers has seemingly solely exasperated the issue.

Smurfing results in an unbalanced matchmaking system as medals not depict a participant’s correct talent degree. Typically, smurfs will wreck the video games of their opponents because of cruel stomping. This makes the sport boring and boring for real, low ranked gamers. Video games not really feel enjoyable and gamers wrestle to climb up the ranks. With the dearth of enjoyment, there’s little question that gamers are discouraged to play and newbies will probably be intimidated to even begin. This might be one of many elements that has led to the decline of the general Dota 2 participant base through the years, as may be seen on Steam Charts.

This will have additionally began impacting Dota 2 content material creators. Lately, fashionable Dota 2 streamer, Janne “Gorgc” Stefanovski expressed his discontentment about content material creators who smurf on streams and in movies. In keeping with him, when streamers placed on a stomping present while smurfing, a few of their viewers get impressed with the stomps and later would belittle different gamers that weren’t smurfing whereas livestreaming.

An extension of smurfing is the boosting business that has thrived lately and has grown to the purpose that there are a bunch of firms created in dedication to this service. These firms rent boosters and acquire clients, commoditizing the enterprise and easing the method. The existence of this business promotes an unethical method to obtain the next rank, the place gamers can simply rent smurfs to spice up their accounts. Different gamers would lose motivation and would query their wrestle to climb up the ranks when an unchecked pay-to-win possibility exists.

Because the boosting world festers, account promoting and shopping for additionally grows and additional jumbles up the matchmaking system in Dota 2. Other than high-ranked gamers getting themselves a lower-ranked account, low-ranked gamers also can do the alternative. Because of this, with a easy fee course of, anybody can abruptly play in a bracket that they don’t belong in. As a rule, this ruins all tiers of brackets as account consumers don’t have the suitable expertise to have aggressive video games within the accounts they purchased.

Contained in the thoughts of a Dota 2 account booster

A majority of gamers see the boosting business as a possibility to realize revenue, both as a full-time service or for informal pocket cash. With the existence of demand, tons of individuals have flocked into the boosting enterprise particularly contemplating the truth that that is fairly profitable for SEA boosters.

AFK Gaming reached out and spoke to a Dota 2 booster who provided us some perspective on the matter. The participant said (on the situation of anonymity) that that they had began boosting once they have been simply 16 years previous. As they have been underage, they couldn’t actually discover a supply of regular revenue and turned to the concept of boosting upon reaching a high-ranked medal in Dota 2.

I couldn’t generate profits again then as a result of I used to be younger. I noticed the chance in Dota 2, I didn’t suppose an excessive amount of about it and was like ‘why not’.

At present, the pandemic has develop into a significant component as to why boosters proceed and even enhance their boosting exercise.

The Dota 2 booster talked about that discovering a job of their present economic system was virtually inconceivable and lots of people even began boosting due to it. They said that boosting is a aspect hustle whereas they deal with rating up their main account. The booster doesn’t actually have a boosting schedule and solely does so once they want some pocket cash.

I largely get clients from native Fb or Whatsapp teams, a few of my pals even get them from Shopee (a preferred on-line purchasing platform in SEA). Typically I get repeat clients as nicely.

In addition they claimed that the costs charged differ from totally different boosters and whereas this explicit booster expenses a median pricing, boosting can earn them from $150 USD to $285 USD a month, relying on elements just like the variety of clients or how far they need their IDs boosted. In reference to minimal wages throughout SEA nations, Dota 2 boosters can earn as a lot as an precise job normally affords.

For lots of people, that amount of cash is promising sufficient to push them to accept boosting, particularly for these with no method to be .

Skilled Dota 2 Careers are Being Setback by Paid Actors

The boosting technique will not be the one method these gamers earn from abusing Dota 2’s matchmaking. There’s a way more profitable and sinister method by which “paid actors” exploit the system.

Paid actors are extra sparse in quantity however their presence within the high bracket makes it a major subject. The highest bracket is usually composed of aggressive gamers and paid actors may be extraordinarily irritating as a excessive MMR is essential for his or her careers.

As has been said beforehand, Chinese language skilled participant, Yaphet, was a sufferer of the “paid actor” phenomenon. He wrote a prolonged grievance on his Weibo account stating how there are too many actors and that dropping to them time and time once more not solely affected his rank, but additionally broken his mentality. Paid actors also can result in lack of cash as in keeping with Yaphet, he had heard some high-profile gamers surrendering to this “entity” and finally paying them.

With paid actors additionally rising within the SEA server’s leaderboard, gamers who rent actors and get boosted via the ranks may use their false achievements to promote themselves. This may result in them getting staff affords or profession alternatives that would have been given to different gamers who deserve it extra. With this state of affairs in thoughts, the standard of aggressive esports may also undoubtedly lower.

The group continues to be divided on the ethics of smurfing in Dota 2

Within the midst of the noise towards smurfing, we even have opposing and impartial voices in the neighborhood. There are discussions and arguments all around the net from a number of sides, both enabling, defending, or fully resenting the act of smurfing.

The arguments for smurfing and boosting in Dota 2

Whereas a choose few within the smurfing group present reluctance or decency in doing so, most of those gamers justify their actions with a number of arguments. One among these mentions professional gamers’ have to take a break from high-level video games and calm down. Others justify it as a method to strive new heroes and techniques with out risking their fundamental account’s MMR whereas some wish to queue video games with their lower-ranked pals simply to have enjoyable collectively. In the meantime, there are callous opinions that give a slash to victims, calling them susceptible and incapable of adjusting to “challenges”, additional stating that video video games shouldn’t be taken critically and that victims of smurfing ought to tolerate the presence of smurfs.

One other important argument highlights the pool of expert gamers that aren’t assured revenue in Dota 2’s aggressive scene, given the Dota Professional Circuit’s (DPC) top-heavy construction. The grotesque aggressive system awards the highest tiers on a big scale and leaves the underside tiers with crumbs, which ends up in huge monetary points for the latter. Gamers which have invested time to enhance on the recreation are unable to monetize their expertise by way of the esports circuit, and when coupled with the pressures of a struggling, pandemic-hit economic system, are incentivized to show to boosting.

The arguments towards smurfing and boosting in Dota 2

On the opposite aspect of the fence, anti-smurfs voices are getting louder by the day. It’s simple that the expansion of the smurfing group takes the heaviest toll on the lower-ranked bracket. Whereas these victims can solely make use of the report button and hope for the smurfs to be banned, they’ve additionally been vocal on social media concerning this subject. Most of them declare that the sport turns bitter after consistently assembly smurfs and a few of them even determined to stop completely, whereas some resorted to different types of Dota 2, similar to Turbo mode or Arcade video games within the shopper itself. There are additionally gamers who stopped taking part in however nonetheless actively spectate the professional scene.

Amongst each the smurfs and anti-smurfs, there are additionally gamers which can be enablers of this behaviour. These gamers both flip a blind eye to the scenario and even justify the act of smurfing.

Valve’s stance on the matter of Dota 2 rank manipulation

Valve has made it clear that it’s consistently placing in effort to eradicate smurfing and different sorts of rank manipulations in Dota 2. It additionally doesn’t settle for any type of account sharing (similar to boosting) as said in its Steam Subscriber Settlement, which reads “(gamers) could not reveal, share, or in any other case permit others to make use of your password or Account besides as in any other case particularly approved by Valve.”

As a part of a patch replace in September 2019, a Valve developer posted on Reddit, informing the group of a mechanism within the works to “speed up smurfs to their appropriate rank”. The submit additional defined, “The system searches for gamers that incessantly carry out considerably above their present talent bracket” and they’re going to have an MMR enhance, quicker pushing them to their authentic talent bracket and leaving lesser collateral harm to different real low-ranked gamers.

In October 2020, Valve posted on its official weblog a few new method in dealing with the smurfing subject. Smurfs at the moment are more likely to satisfy different smurfs even when it is a full get together the place it solely has one smurf. The blogpost additionally said that apart from a few approaches within the ‘experimental’ stage, the corporate has additionally began banning extra booster accounts.

In October 2020, Valve said its new method in dealing with the smurfing subject.


Valve has additionally launched the Overwatch system in Dota 2 as one other effort to abolish smurfing. An replace was posted in January 2021, revealing a brand new system that enables the group to assessment match replays and vote if a particular participant exhibits unfavorable habits or not.

Valve launched the Overwatch system as one other effort to abolish smurfing.


A couple of months following the Overwatch replace, Valve revamped the reporting system by including “Matchmaking Abuse” as a report possibility. Which means smurfing, and different rank manipulation strategies of the same nature, formally grew to become bannable offenses. As well as, gamers who’re discovered to be “promoting accounts, boosting or partaking in related recreation ruining behaviors” could have their main account subjected to a ban.

Valve is but to share any information on the variety of matchmaking abusers that it has detected or banned.

Attainable steps to cut back smurfing in Dota 2

The group’s enter on tackling the smurfing subject can oftentimes be foolish, but intriguing on the similar time. A few weeks in the past, Dota analyst, Robson “TeaGuvnor” Merritt posted on Twitter suggesting a type of punishment for smurfs and their related pals.

Though the suggestion of 30 solo queue calibration video games as a punishment sounds fairly absurd, the concept of punishing everybody in the identical get together because the smurf does have some benefit. By penalizing those that are affiliated with smurfs, gamers will really feel discouraged from teaming up with their pals who’re smurfing. Valve hasn’t launched any type of penalty in direction of those that get together with detected smurfs and adopting this method could additional forestall smurfing.

Valve also can create a system the place gamers who persistently over or underperform could also be pressured to play just a few calibration matches to both get a medal enhance or deboost. False positives might be an actual drawback in a system like this, nonetheless, the efficiency and gameplay examine might probably be primarily based on quite a lot of elements, together with digicam motion, hotkeys, farming sample, and extra so as to detect whether or not the participant’s latest video games are performed by the identical individual or not.

Beforehand, Dota 2 had two separate MMR rankings – Solo and Social gathering. In an effort to encourage gamers to play with their pals, Valve up to date the system and merged each MMR, leaving gamers with just one normal MMR. This induced the barrier between solo and get together gamers to fade and the ranked matchmaking pool was swarmed with events composed of smurfs. By reintroducing the separation of Solo and Social gathering MMR, the possibilities of assembly smurfs when gamers queue for a Solo recreation could also be lowered. Though on the draw back, gamers might need a disincentive to play with their pals.

Moreover, Valve can provoke campaigns and occasions that promote a wholesome gaming mindset. Gathering influential Dota 2 gamers and streamers so as to advocate an anti-smurfing motion may also result in the group being extra conscious of the smurfing scenario.

Instances of smurfing or any game-ruining habits have lengthy lingered in Dota 2 and Valve has actually put in a ton of labor in an try and eradicate them. Regardless of all of its efforts, smurfs nonetheless persist within the ecosystem and the boosting business additionally continues to thrive. Gamers within the Dota 2 group have voiced out their frustration on the act of smurfing whereas some justified it, however on the finish of the day, smurfing continues to be unethical and is extraordinarily damaging to the sport. As prevention is healthier than treatment, it’s ideally suited for gamers to be extra conscious and perceive the influence this may give to Dota 2’s wellbeing, thus stopping or slowing down smurfing charges. All of us need one of the best for the sport we love and taking good care of its ecosystem needs to be our fundamental precedence.

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Sarah is a giant esports fanatic and high-key hooked on Dota 2. With a robust ardour for journalism, she is now diving into writing and content material modifying for AFK Gaming.