Riot Games' process of creating VALORANT guns and gun skins


As the hottest new game of 2020, Riot Games' tactical shooter, VALORANT, topped the Twitch viewership charts for over a month straight after its Closed Beta Launch on April 7th. Now, with the game solidified in its popularity, game devs and designers have begun to explain more of their processes for creating different aspects of the VALORANT world. 


Last week, Riot detailed "How the VALORANT arsenal was built,showing their decision making process that led to each gun's creation. Riot explains why they use bullets, not lasers. They explain their art style and that each gun is recognizable and visually unique. Each also has its own specific animation for reloading, including consistent audio cues for additional information on a player's gun state. 


They also explain their philosophy around other weapon functionality, like ADS (aim down site). While some other tactical shooters, like CS:GO, don't employ an ADS function, most other shooters do, and Riot wanted their players to be comfortable and confident, while not making one style of play more powerful than the other.


They also have other attachments, like silencers on certain guns, that provide some information denial. Some guns shoot differently when aimed down the site, and others have a different right click function entirely. Overall, Riot wants there to be balance and purpose for each weapon they create. "There should not be an overpowered or 'best' weapon in the arsenal. It should be all about trade-offs between power and economy."




Then this week, they take their explanation one step further, diving into their weapon skin creation. "Our goal for skins is to give players another way to express who they are and what they love without ruining another player’s gameplay experience."  The game is a tactical shooter, meaning it is focused around gunplay, proper usage of abilities, rotations, angles, etc. While players can show off their personality with skins, Riot wants to ensure it doesn't ever affect the outcome of a game.



To ensure the integrity of their weapon skins, Riot made a set of rules for their design process.


  • A skin’s model, art, visual effects, animations, and sounds are fully immersive in 1st-person only
  • Only a skin’s model is seen from another player’s perspective (3rd-person)
  • No pay-to-win. No pay-to-lose. Nope. Never.
  • If we find any skin that breaks these rules, it was accidental and we’ll fix it! Sorry, only some of us are robots—the rest of us make mistakes!


Some skins change the way a gun sounds or feels, and adds some extra visual effect, like smoke flying from the gun cartridge while reloading. While the smoke could be distracting, audio effects would change the information that an enemy receives, altering their play, and making skins function as a pay-to-win feature. Riot has essentially removed that problem by making all effects 1st-person only. 


But ensuring game balance isn't the only job of weapon skin designers - of course - they also have to design the skins! For each weapon skin they created, they asked a list of questions to help them focus on a creative idea that would add to the game experience rather than distract from it. "Your focus in VALORANT is to frag, plant or defuse the Spike, and take home the win with style. This should not change with weapon skins."



Each skin takes up the same amount of screen space as the base gun. No more, no less. Added/changed audio is minimized, (and again, only for 1st-person), but remains on the same priority level as the base skin as well. Essentially, if a skin has special audio for a reload, it won't interrupt other audio cues around you in the same way the base skins interact with it. If you're in the middle of the action, it's more important to hear footsteps and shots than your fancy weapon reload.  


Riot Games made each skin unique, purposeful, and fun, while maintaining clarity and limiting game-altering effects. Not all guns have skins yet, and Riot hasn't stated what their plan is for development long term, but expect more skins to come out leading up to the game's launch this Summer. 



For more VALORANT content including guides, patch notes, and news, check out our dedicated VALORANT section!


Images via Riot Games

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