Today, Riot Games announced their new FPS game, “Valorant”. A couple of weeks ago, Riot had invited Inven to visit and test the game. During the visit, we had a chance to talk to the developers. We spoke with Valorant main director Joe Ziegler and executive producer Anna Donlon as well as creative director David Nottingham and art director Moby Francke. They had some views to share with those interested.
How did you first start developing Valorant and how long did it take?
Joe: I used to be in the LoL development team. As I was watching, I wanted to make a new game that prioritizes team play and cooperation. At that time, several of my teammates liked FPS games like Call of Duty or Rainbow Six, so we started developing an FPS game based on team play. The prototype of Valorant existed from long ago and it’s been about three years since we started developing properly.
LoL’s popularity is quite steady, but you developed a completely new IP, world, and genre. What’s the reason?
Joe: LoL has multiple strengths including team play. However, there are gamers that like team play but don’t like the MOBA genre. I wanted to spread LoL’s strengths to those gamers by applying it to another genre.
Anna: The reason LoL succeeded wasn’t that it was the MOBA genre. It was that the Riot staff understood the needs of gamers well and genuinely tried to provide what they wanted. We believed that we’ll be able to create a good game even if we make a completely new one if we maintain that genuineness.
Valorant seems closer to an original FPS style like Counter Strike rather than a casual FPS like Overwatch. Why did you choose that direction?
Joe: There are many ways to compete and cooperate. Each and every hero in Overwatch has their own abilities, stats, and roles. They’re clearly distinguishable and you have to win by fighting team versus team. In Valorant, we wanted to allow players to create drastic turnarounds through individual skills even if the teamwork didn’t work out. So that they can feel the biggest thrill and catharsis.
What’s the most important element of Valorant?
Anna: The two biggest points of Valorant are positioning and dominating the map. We’re developing the game so that the team that does this better through team play wins.
Would a gamer that’s not good at ‘shooting guns’ enjoy Valorant as well?
Anna: Unfortunately, it would be difficult to enjoy Valorant 100% for users that aren’t that good at shooting guns. But each agent in Valorant has their own distinguishable skill. If you’re a gamer that enjoys strategical thinking, you can select an agent that specializes in designing, scouting, or dominating the map. If you’re confident in your mechanic ability, you can pick an agent that’s useful in combat. We made it so that each role can supplement the mechanical ability of the users.
How is the business model? And how are the plans for updates after release?
Anna: Valorant will be free to play, and obviously, there will be no pay-to-win factors. The business model will be in a form very similar to LoL, basically changing how the characters’ appearances. There will be an achievement system but it’s not certain whether we will implement the season pass system.
Joe: Updates regarding bug fixes, conveniences, balances, etc will be applied constantly. However, updates such as adding new agents or new maps will be notified in advance and the patch scale will be very big. The update cycle is being discussed and details will be announced around the official launch of the game.
What do you think Valorant’s chances are to succeed?
Anna: If we didn’t think it’ll succeed, we wouldn’t have even developed it. Since we prioritize workmanship, we won’t even launch until it has a certain level of quality. Also, Riot’s measure of success isn’t the number of users. Even if there aren’t that many users, it’s enough for us if we can give the best experience to the core users that enjoy our game and be loved for it. I don’t think that Valorant will be as popular as LoL, but I hope many FPS gamers like it.
It was difficult to learn about the world by just playing the game.
David: The storytelling of a game shouldn’t be designated by others; it’s better when the gamer experiences it by themselves. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if you can find hints from advertisement banners within the game than reading something from a website, watching a video, and checking it from a certain place? It is correct that there aren’t such elements in the current version, but we’ll be adding this style storytelling after the official launch.
Moby: Knowing the whole story, understanding the background isn’t compulsory to plunge into the world of the game. Feeling passion towards the game itself and the characters naturally leads the player to understand the world. For example, in Street Fighter 2, they make the players wonder about the story and the world of the game through unique characters. We’d like to have Valorant tell many different stories through a similar way.
There’s a successful world, Runeterra already. Why did you create an individual SF world? Is there something you’d like to emphasize in Valorant?
David: Runeterra is a world that soaked in naturally while operating League of Legends. But don’t you think it doesn’t meet well with an FPS game using modern weapons? The world of Valorant was created in the near future time period because we wanted to have a world that goes well with the FPS genre.
Moby: What Valorant aims for is a modern, refined, defiant, and challenging image. Although it’s SF, the earth is the closest to what Valorant aims for and I think it was the best choice considering the worldwide gamers. Also, it’s more convenient to develop characters that are loved by people around the world. For example, we can attract more love from Korean gamers through the Korean agent, JETT.
The hit effects were rather plain. Do you plan to improve it?
Moby: There was some feedback within the team about that as well. We also think that the visual effects are lacking right now, so we’re still working on it.
Unlike the near-future time period, all the weapons seem modern. Are you considering adding different types of weapons?
David: Although it’s the near future, we set it up so that it’s not that different from the modern era. Interesting new weapons sound great, but we thought it would be more important to maintain the purity of the gameplay so that FPS users can intuitively understand what weapon Valorant’s guns are similar to.
Can we look forward to storytelling by cinematic videos like LoL did?
David: We will be revealing CGs and cinematic works that people are expecting, but we won’t be doing just that. We would like to spread out our energy to tell stories in many different ways.