Origins and Growing Pains: Exclusive Interview with VALORANT Developers

08:39 PM August 11, 2020

During its beta, VALORANT had nearly three million players logged in to test out the all-new first-person shooter. After its release in June, Valorant has been averaging around 75,000 viewers and is ranked #7 on Twitch.

Riot launched the second act of its tactical shooter last week with Killjoy, the Genius of Germany rounding out Valorant’s collection of agents. Heading into Act II, we spoke to Valorant developers to learn about the team’s process when they created the game.

Read on for the first half of the interview with Valorant Project Manager Anna Donlon and Design Director Joe Ziegler. Learn about the intent, design, and inspiration behind VALORANT and how it separates itself from titles such as Overwatch and CS:GO.


Where does VALORANT take inspiration from for its agents and maps and lore?

It’s always interesting making a game with characters with guns and not going military as a core source of inspiration. For us, it became clear as we developed our core gameplay that the characters and abilities were going to push out of that standard and we needed a creative space that would unlock the types of designs that could support that.


[pullquote]Our team loves playing a wide range of game titles, and we took inspiration from many of the great games out there.[/pullquote]

The art style of VALORANT was ultimately a very important piece that married a lot of the goals we wanted to achieve with and alongside the gameplay. It resolved creatively eclectic elements, such as fireballs and guns, while ensuring visual clarity and the ability to identify your opponents, supporting performance on a wide variety of hardware, and enhancing exciting moments that naturally occurred in matches.

Trevor Romleski, Senior Game Designer

Coming after the success of FPS titles such as CS:GO, Overwatch, Call of Duty, and the like, what are the biggest lessons VALORANT took from these games and put into its own design?

For the small team of us that began prototyping this game years ago, a lot of our influences came from old tactical games like CS 1.6, or R6 Rogue Spear where tense tactical scenarios and pixel-precise gunplay blended to create this rich sense of high stakes gameplay. Simultaneously, we were inspired by games with strong creative ability usage like LoL or WoW, where the mechanics led to creative and strategic outplays. We felt taking the former and bringing in the latter could create a game that could challenge, evolve, and grow with the more sophisticated players of today… and also be an exciting and fun game we ourselves would want to play.

Joe Ziegler, Game Director

How does VALORANT separate itself from CS:GO and Overwatch? To which VALORANT is oftentimes compared to.

When setting out to build a tactical shooter, we wanted to address some of the common issues that plague the genre. Poor hit registration, peekers advantage, lack of updates and support, etc. Additionally, we saw the opportunity to inject abilities into the space. Abilities increase variability in gameplay, with new creative scenarios to navigate and problem solve in
real time. Traditionally, ability mechanics in the FPS space provide little counterplay. For VALORANT we set out to combine tactical gameplay fundamentals with Agents, allowing for these creative moments without compromising on gunplay.

Trevor Romleski, Game Design Lead

As a title of Riot Games, what are the lessons that it has learned from its initial product, League of Legends, that it has applied to VALORANT’s production?

Our aim has always been to build the best games we can imagine — games that we hope players everywhere will love.

[pullquote]Delivering on the player-first mentality drives everything we do. [/pullquote]

That means listening to player feedback, building our community, and being open and transparent with our community.

What are the biggest takeaways from VALORANT’s beta testing?

Over the course of this beta we’ve learned a lot about how we should be thinking about game balance, as well as how we can diagnose balance issues in the future. Expect to see us actively addressing these concerns, if they haven’t been already.

The beta has also allowed us the ability to help define what are acceptable play patterns and what aren’t – i.e. when is a play legit and ingenious vs. when is it a glitch or an exploit. We’ve seen some very creative uses of ability combos and pixel perfect placements that go outside of our expectations for the competitive integrity of the game, and now feel confident we can react quickly when new issues arise, as well as solving more fundamental exploits on maps.

VALORANT’s anti-cheating program Vanguard has received lukewarm feedback since launch. What has been the development team’s response and plans for the future of Vanguard?

We know that anti-cheat systems can be a sensitive topic because they’re shrouded in secrecy and few developers are willing to talk about the topic. We want players to feel comfortable with the steps we’re taking to protect competitive integrity, so we’re trying to be as forthright as possible about our tech.

Things are going well so far, the beta has been a great learning period so far. We’ve been able to get feedback from players on what their expectations are but also we’ve been able to observe the opening moves from the cheat developers which has been invaluable in seeing where Vanguard is strong and where it needs to be stronger. Overall the feedback has been as expected, with some good suggestions and criticisms of the system and even the occasional positive comment. When an anti-cheat system is working as intended you would mostly expect to hear nothing at all from players so even the occasional appreciative comment has been really heartening to see.

Anti-cheat is something that we’ll need to keep working on even after launch, it’ll be a continuing area of improvement for us. Overall though I think things are trending in the right direction and the future of anti-cheat for VALORANT looks very promising.

Paul Chamberlain, Anti-Cheat Lead

VALORANT emphasizes on its high-frequency 128-tick servers and low latency for competitive gameplay. How far has VALORANT come in achieving those goals worldwide?

We feel good about the immediate quality of the servers and our hit registration, but we as devs are never 100% done. We are a live service, and we are always making continual improvements to the core game systems. Further, there are some big infrastructure changes still coming down the pipe which I’m really excited about. After those are online, I can also tell you a little more about how I feel about peeker’s advantage 🙂

David Straily, Technical Engineering Lead

How’s VALORANT’s spectator feature coming along?

This is something that we are actively working on but it’s not ready yet. We do know how important it is for players and fans of the game to have this, but we don’t have a timeline that we can share at the moment.

What improvements do you have already planned for the game following its beta testing?

With the introduction of Competitive mode, we’re constantly looking to improve matchmaking balance so that everyone has a fair and rewarding game. We also understand that people want to play with their friends who might be in a slightly higher or lower tier within the acceptable range of six divisions, and we want these players to be able to enjoy their games too.

[pullquote]We’re also focusing on improving player behaviour, and to punish those who display disruptive behaviour.[/pullquote]

While we have systems in place, we’re still relying heavily on user reports to enforce positive behaviour within the game.

Valorant continues to be a rising tactical shooter in the present-day. With its outspoken support for the game and its esports scene, we have yet to see how successful Riot Games’ FPS will be.


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TAGS: Dev Team, Interview, Riot Games, Valorant
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