Back to top

Alias and Smurf Usage in Warcraft III

09.11.18 | UgriWC3 3272

Introduction

One of the best features of Warcraft3.info is the ability to decipher ladder rankings instantly. Through a great deal of time and research, we reveal the actual players hiding behind fancy, or unknown account names used on Battle.net or Netease.

We have also developed the "Orc Brain", a drag and drop feature that will instantly recognize a player in hiding under an alias on a replay file.

But to get to the heart of the matter, why exactly have players been smurfing and aliasing so much the last 16 years? And perhaps more importantly, why do we think it is both fair and important to reveal those accounts? Let's dig into that.

 

The difference between a smurf and an alias

I will just use the urban dictionary to really define those two words that we use on a daily basis, sometimes wrongly so.

smurf

In online gaming, a smurf is an experienced player who uses a new account to deceive other players into thinking he's a noob (newbie). The purpose is usually to play against less skilled opponents who will under-estimate the 'smurf'. The expected result is that the smurf will pwn (dominate) his opponents and humiliate them further as they have been now beaten by an apparent noob. 

alias

Another name that people use to disguise themselves. This can be done anywhere, but is usually online because it is hard to identify someone's true name except through their IP address, which isn't foolproof

Aliasing is frowned upon because people may think that you're a new person, or in small-community games where everybody knows everybody, possibly even cheating. People like to get to know a regular client's personality, and develop a friendship or rivalry with them. Aliasing disrupts this, since you never know if you're talking with friend or foe.

Right off the bat, we learn that smurfing is meant to humiliate new players through the creation of a new account on ladder while aliasing is more about concealing said  identity for more benevolent purposes.

Smurfing is just plain wrong and it often relates to the worst online gaming has to offer.  The discouragement of a new player who logs onto battle.net, faces a strong opponent playing under a smurf, and ends up being destroyed and jeered at, is easy for everyone to imagine. Plain and simple -- It hurts the game and competition.

Why are aliases used?

"I will do better next time"

You start an account, go [5-5] after playing ten games and you strongly feel that some opponents hacked and others were just lucky? Well, just make a new account!

In the old days, this was probably the main reason to see players use aliases. Is this still a thing? Maybe not now, but it could be with Reforged being announced.

This practice is rarely offensive and mostly used by beginners or low level players. Would they get discouraged if they had to stick to one account way below a 50% winrate? It's fairly possible.

 

To practice new strategies while preserving your statistics

Trying a new race or new strategies will probably hurt your statistics overall, so if you really care about those (you shouldn't) then you may create a dummy account, so those defeats do not affect your overall profile.

When the Pitlord and the Dreadlord were patched I decided to use those heroes first in any game. I would play on ladder and did not use an alias for it. My statistics were quickly picked upon by Sexytime in an aggressive way.


Come on, I can go 41% anytime I want to

To protect yourself from online harassment

Sad but true, battle.net has been for a long time a poisonous place to play. Moderation of toxic behaviors were not really a thing ten years ago and after SC2 came out, battle.net just became a jungle.

If you are not a public figure, you can just avoid being targeted by the same guys over and over using an alias. This does the trick even though you still might get insulted by your opponent for random reasons.

I really wish a real option existed to report players talking garbage online. Netease does it with a single click, battle.net should do the same.

Pretty much the only solution as of now is to use the following commands : 

  • /o igw : only accept private messages from friends
  • /o unigw : remove the security

Even I did not know about this command until very recently. This allows you to keep the unknown away while letting your friends talk with you anytime they want. Not the best method to make new friends however!

This command stays activated even after you log off, so it is automatically on when you relog (unlike the /dnd command).

These are some of the acceptable reasons to use an alias and as we learned there are ways to go around it. Now let's explore more shady motives.

 

To artificially level up an account

Sometimes a professional player is paid to "level up" an account for money. Nothing too illegal here, but nevertheless it is quite annoying to play a top 10 European player hiding under a 50% account.

Once the account is spotted by Warcraft3.info we do name the professional as the holder of the account. It is only fair as he was at the origin of the high rankings. This probably annoys both the amateur and the professional as we are sometimes asked to remove the mention of the professional player in the rankings. 

This is something we won't compromise on as we strive to constantly provide accurate information for our readers and users. Once marked, said account will remain marked.

 

To share an account

Sometimes two players will work together to level up an account faster. When it's done by professionals, this is forbidden in competitions like WGL where your rank in the ladder is an important qualification factor.

During GCS Spring 2016, both LawLiet and FoCuS were caught helping one another and excluded from the season. You had to be top 12 to directly qualify for the final tournament, so it was quite tempting for them to attempt such a scheme. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for other pros, they were caught allowing others a fair opportunity to participate.

Nonetheless the same thing happened during GCS Winter 2018 - February Race between Life and TH000. This was the first season when ladder was reintroduced as a factor for qualification. The two players were not excluded but just withdrew the points collected in February.

Nowadays, with the introduction of the Orc Brain, it is just too dangerous to try to share an account for this purpose. I believe this practice has been completely erased from the competitive scene.

 

To register for a tournament one is not allowed in

This happened during the infamous GCS America Qualifier - Summer 2018. RaZZoRMaN played under the account of complicit player MuscleMike and managed to reach the final of a tournament reserved for American players.

Whether the goal was just to fool around and send an amateur to a professional tournament or to make actual money from the scam, we do not know. RaZZoRMaN consequently received a one year ban from all competitions, a ban still enforced to this day. Was it worth the risk? We sure don't think so.
Needless to say, nowadays, for any suspicious victory, we send the replay file into the Orc Brain!

This practice is also commonly used to evade a ban decision.

 

To play on behalf of another player

In the early 2000's, clan wars were an essential part of Warcraft 3's esports life. Amidst fierce rivalries , decent prize pools and without a proper way to check the identity of your opponent, several scandals of players competing unlawfully on behalf of others were revealed.

ToD was then caught twice with his hand in the cookie jar. The first time was in December 2003 when he was banned from WC3L along with FaTC. They both played on behalf of clan sTar) during different clan wars while being on clan SK's roster.
The second time was during a clan war between clans aAa and m@gic where ToD played on behalf of m@gic. Byrden while being on clan aT's roster. After being defeated [2-3], clan aAa investigated and exposed the truth. Note that this happened 14 years ago and that ToD has been playing rigorously ever since with no mention of the same controversy.

This problem also occurred during tournaments on the other side of the world. Zacard played on behalf of Romeo during inGame Cup 5 in 2005. Consequently they were both banned for the rest of the Season.

The following year Giacomo was permanently banned from the same Cup. He was eliminated in an early round by XyLigan then played under the account of nEph.Dall for the rest of the tournament. After winning the final over FoCuS, his identity was revealed. nEph.Dall was totally unknown but won the whole thing -- come on be smart Giacomo!

Nowadays it is hardly possible to have such cases thanks to the Orc Brain feature.

 

Aliasing in Reforged?

One of the questions asked by Back2Warcraft to Mr Pete Stilwell, Senior producer at Blizzard Entertainment, was about whether or not aliasing will be allowed in Reforged. I timestamped this question in the interview for your comfort.


Remodemo with Pete Stilwell

This is apparently one of the most debated subjects within the development team! It became a hot topic on reddit as well.

The quick fix to all the issues mentioned above is to just force everyone to stick to one account. It solves it all right?

Well, not quite. In my opinion the option to use aliases must remain so new players stick around up until they feel confident to use a single account. You need to have the option to use new races without facing the type of players you are struggling against with your main race. Without this feature, future pros may never have the willpower to stay focused on the game.

Instead, Blizzard needs to work on an efficient moderation system with gradual sanctions, so we can all enjoy our losses as much as possible.

Miscellaneous

  • Players named in the article are fine people who made a mistake years ago. They do have our respect for their respective achievements. These players deserve a second chance.
  • This article aimed at being exhaustive in all cases where players can decide to hide their real identity.
  • It also aims at preserving the possibility to create several accounts, for the sake of new players not being discouraged, when joining us for Reforged.
  • For competitive play it is now fairly easy with the Orc Brain to detect shared accounts and identity fraud during tournaments.
  • Acknowledgement : thank you X3-DemoN for your help, you have the deepest knowledge of the history of the game.

Comments

Comments

Please login or register to post a comment.