Riot Games’ FPS five-on-five shooter Valorant has been gaining more traction with the latest agents, new maps, and satisfying mechanics and agent abilities. With the game’s rapid rise to success, we took the opportunity to set up an interview with one of Valorant’s game developers, Joe Ziegler. The interview touches on a wide range of topics, including the game’s future plans such as role locking of agents, the introduction of new game modes and more.
Ever since the launch of Valorant in June, riot games stated their intentions of releasing 6 agents per year. We already have three new agents and 1 new map. If we were to project this progress rate into the future, how do you think the release of additional agents would shift the meta of the game?
“Every time we are creating a new character we are thinking of abilities that challenge what we know about the game at the current time, and can shift the meta. Our role system which is the idea about having sentinels, duelists, and the like are all built around the idea of sort of creating role archetypes that allow us to expand more characters into each one while still retaining the kind of structure that you see in the game today.”
Ziegler claims that all the different pieces coordinate together shape the structure of the game. The pieces refers to characters that can set up plays, characters that can quickly add on a play, and finally those that can help defend the backlines or frontlines.
He also continues to add the following: “As we sort of expand, I think the meta will shift but it will remain in some sort of role framework as you see currently.”
Do you think with the addition of new agents, is the concept of hero banning or role locking something you would consider in the future? For example, players will pre-lock what they want to play whether it’s duelist, sentinel, or other roles, so they do not have to fill in roles they are not very adept at, or would you prefer giving players the freedom to shape their own team composition and meta.
“Honestly, I think we are still open to banning. We did not really put it in the first duration of the game or even up till now largely because the number of characters was fairly small and banning felt seemed an extreme thing. The more maps and characters gets larger, the more likely we are to reinvestigate that and see whether or not banning is something to consider.”
Additionally to address the question about role locking, Ziegler asserts: “It is a lot harder on the sort of matching and queuing side when we first investigated it. We are looking into the future if we want to do something like role locking or something where it is easier to determine what agent you want to play before getting started and try to queue into that, so it makes it easier for you to know what role you are going to be playing in the future.”
On the topic of agent banning, can we expect something related to choosing maps or banning maps with the addition of new maps?
“I think for competitive play we are investigating both. There are a couple of things that we definitely do not know if we like about banning. For example, you can practice competitively on a small set of characters and have them all banned out that may feel strategic, but also may feel like it limits the exposure of certain characters. It is also a nice tool where if there is a character that gets out of control in the meta that it helps curve it back in when you ban the character. In a similar way for maps when the pool gets too large, it does help to have banning to be able to cut down the number of maps you and your team are specifically practicing on. I know that banning maps especially is something that is a lot more requested inside of pro play or competitive play than anything else. We are probably more likely to investigate map banning or map drafting in the future more so than character banning, but we are looking into it too.”
Is COVID-19 affecting this progression rate and or plans that are currently being executed?
In development things go wrong all the time such as unpredictable errors during testing and this has caused us to push some releases backwards as a result of the work from home environment.
Are we going to expect new game modes, seasonal events, or even limited-time modes such as (snipers only, team-deathmatch, etc…)?
“We released a few different modes such as deathmatch and we will continue to release modes as we go along at a frequency that we feel is right. Obviously what we don’t want to do is create so many modes that nobody plays most of them, so we are looking into ways to cycle modes in and out of the game”. In terms of in-game events, it is something the devs are currently talking about and they’re actively looking for ways to make them more engaging and bigger in the future.
Will players be able to earn cosmetics exclusive to these events and/or additional XP through event-specific missions?
“We love to do cosmetics so anytime we have an event that we really want to celebrate we’re probably going to be throwing in cosmetics and potentially event related missions” stated Ziegler. There are more ideas that are being discussed but aren’t quite ready to be announced at the moment.
I have noticed that agents such as Skye have low pick rates and don’t see much play compared to other agents. Are there plans to tune or rework such agents to enable them to compete with more popular options.
“We have a lot of data collection around our game, we see a lot of pick rates and success rates and where things are failing and where things are strong. We use a lot of that as we look into player feedback, so we look into feedback when it comes across the board and we look at the data we have on our side, and we try to make sense of what happens inside the game as we are looking through it. When we see certain imbalances in how players are played or how appealing they are, we try to do some changes on the backside to lift them up. In some cases these changes might be things where we want to improve the visual design of the character, and some things might be changes to the kit or gameplay design of the character. A lot of these changes so far have been more based on power tuning in terms of thinking about how balanced a character or not. In the future as we investigate characters and see more how they are played, we are definitely open to the idea on how we change things to make them more interesting, appealing, and fun to play.”
Valorant has attracted a large number of players ever since the release last year, what do you think was the largest contributing factor to the game’s rapid success? Was it riot games’ reputation making games such as League of Legends, the marketing campaign of the game,or perhaps the game’s release model?
“There are so many pieces that go into making a game, but at the core of it, the game has to be something players want to play. So when we were first pushing out the closed beta, a lot of the reasons we chose to do things through streaming is we wanted players to see the game and choose whether they wanted to play it before they actually did”. When describing a game like Valorant it may not stand out from other similar titles, however seeing someone play will showcase how creative and engaging it can be.
Massive thanks to the Riot Games dev team for finding the time to set up this interview and answering our questions.