Back to Valorant in 2020 – Part 1: The Genesis
Here we are! 2020 is coming to an end, so it's the end of the year that saw the release of VALORANT. And in the space of a few months, the game has evolved tremendously, in many different ways. In order to take stock of Valorant in 2020, we've prepared 3 recap articles for you! This is allow early fans to see how far the game has come and new players to understand where it's coming from.
First, we will focus on Valorant as a service game. We will come back, in a few days, on the esports dimension of the game.
An unexpected announcement
It all started the 16th October 2019. As Riot Games celebrated 10 years of League of Legends, the studio decided it was time to unveil its new projects, beyond the MOBA. Out of the many games unveiled this day, Project A is the one that drew attention the most. It was the only title that didn't take place in the League of Legends' universe. More importantly, it was a strong statement from Riot Games: they were determined to compete with Counter-Strike, the King of esports FPS for over 20 years. A somewhat crazy bet, the outcome of which will only be known in a few years.
The game then disappeared for five months before Riot Games released a new video: The Round. This is the first time players could see the actual gameplay footage. It showed Haven, the Agents, and some of the Agent's abilities. But most importantly, this is the first time we heard the name of the game: VALORANT.
Surprise beta and effeservescence
After a very confidential alpha period and as the game was expected for Summer 2020, Riot Games decided to launch the closed beta of Valorant on 7th April. The terms of participation to the beta were very specific. Initially, access to the game was only distributed to influencers on the Twitch platform. Those who also wanted to play Valorant would then have to watch streams of the game in order to enter a random draw.
This method highlighted Valorant from its launch, with everyone wanting absolutely to try their hand at the new "trendy" FPS. By a snowball effect, the more streams people watched, the more visible the game became and attracted new curious people. This system also had the benefit of ensuring that the game servers were populated with motivated players, with basic knowledge of Valorant. By watching streams, player familiarised themselves both with the basic mechanics, but also with the Agents and Maps that make the game unique.
The closed beta also allowed developers to gauge the player's interest, fix numerous bugs and test various changes. Gradually, the different game options, such as ranked games, were added into the overall experience. For its part, the competitive scene was beginning to take shape.
A release in a complicated context
The year 2020 will remain a year marked by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many studios have had to review their organisations as well as their plans. As E3 2020 gave way to the Summer Game Fest, an online event, the Valorant developers had a special announcement to make: Valorant will be released on 2nd June 2020. Once more, Riot Games surprised gamers by advancing the development of Valorant faster than expected.
The official release of Valorant marked the opening of the servers to all players, the arrival of a new Agent in the person of Reyna, as well as the arrival of the Ascent map, much awaited during the beta.
But by getting the game out so quickly, hasn't Valorant cut corners? When launched, Valorant still faced some pretty crippling bugs, as well as server, latency and hit reg issues. With only 4 maps and barely developed features (including an observer mode reduced to its bare minimum), Valorant didn't have much of a finished game.
And for good reason, it was not.
A long-term vision
They announced it from the start: the Valorant developers want their game to live and thrive for at least the next ten years. This is a real long-term project, and Riot Games intends to use the service game status to build Valorant bit by bit, with its community.
Unlike many games that undergo notable upgrades once or twice a year following a big expansion patch, Valorant has a very steady pace of updates. Every week, the game is enhanced with new features. This ranges from a simple interface improvement to adding features like the surrender system or the arrival of the overtime. Agents and maps are constantly revisited and optimised.
It's very easy to lose sight of the evolution of Valorant when you play it every day. Yet, someone who would re-play Valorant for the first time today wouldn't necessarily recognise the game they discovered in beta.
In the end, the bugs and hiccups of the first weeks are already forgotten and the huge problems due to the Patch 1.11 deployment seem far away. If everything is not necessarily perfect the first time, it's undeniable that Valorant is improving very steadily.
Community and flexibility
While Riot has more or less established plans for the future of the game, they still listen to the community. One of the criticism the most leveled against Valorant was the few maps available in the game. While the developers had decided to release a new one very six months, they rearranged their resources to release Icebox two months earlier than planned. Even if the map wasn't perfect (and it was still subject to changes in the last patch), it brought a welcome diversity in terms of both mechanics and environment.
This is just one of the things the community has helped add, improve or speed u. One could also mention the arrival of Rank Badges or Operator's nerfs, whereas the developers have long argued that the weapon was balanced as they hoped.
In terms of clean content and without counting the skins, Valorant got three new Agents, two new maps and not less than three new games modes in the space of six months.
And in 2021 then?
The year 2021 must be the year of confirmation for Valorant. The game will no longer be able to count on its freshness to attract an audience. Riot Games teams are going to have to prove to players that they are right to stay invested in Valorant and deliver even more compelling and engaging content than this first year.
If Riot sticks to its original plan, we should see at least 6 Agents in 2021 (including one as soon as Januaryas well as 2 new maps, minimum. Since each of these elements generally brings new ways of playing Valorant, we might as well say that the game still has surprises in store!