To build a new esports sensation, Riot Games had itself as an inspiration. Ten years after League of Legends’ release, the developer gifted the First-person shooter fans Valorant; a game that has all the right ingredients to upstage major esports titles.
In 2009, Riot Games plucked a leaf out of Valve’s book and created League of Legends, reminiscent of classic MOBA Dota. The game later proved that it wasn’t Dota’s copy by any stretch of the imagination as the game’s player count easily surpassed Dota. After garnering more than 115 million LoL players, Riot Games finally earned the “s” in its name by producing Valorant.
The developer’s debut in tactical FPS may be fruitful for business; however, it’s the monotonous esports ecosystem, deprived of a new shooter, that actually gains from it. Overlooked, neglected, and rusty FPS genre hasn’t seen a game as colorful, lively, and well-optimized as Valorant in a long time.
However, calling Valorant an “original” concept is a folly. A pinch from Overwatch, pinch from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and some inspiration from Fortnite complete’s Riot’s FPS. In simpler words, Riot Games filled Valorant’s vial with all the right additives to patch up the FPS experience.
Unlike other genres where one game could easily replace the older one, Riot’s shooter pick was a bold decision. The developer had stepped into an arena that Valve’s CSGO owned. Surprisingly, cornering the market of FPS was another cakewalk for Riot Games.
With every new patch, Valorant refutes those who called it a “FAD”, and every new milestone proves that Valorant developers are whip-smart and versed.
The developers are not resting
Riot Games’ decision to extend its game list was not only smart but much needed. When you have an employee count exceeding 3500, one blockbuster game may not be enough. And again, Riot Games’ is one the few gaming developers to have an extensive team, unlike Valve where 35 people worked on the developer’s “Labor of Love” in 2018.
While two FPS games can surely co-exist, a constant comparison between CSGO and Valorant has been unavoidable. It seems that Riot’s focus on Valve’s neglected areas was its key to making Valorant so adored. One of the most overlooked areas is constant updates and new trends.
Also Read | A look at Valve’s cold attitude towards CSGO
Since its release in April 2020, the game has gone through over 15 patches. Riot Games burnished it’s newborn with consistent updates that tackled minor bugs, issues, and other shortcomings. A bird’s eye view of the developer, derived the game to near-perfection during its embryonic phase. While CSGO fans’ constant pleads for 128 tick serves always fell on Valve’s deaf ears, Riot Games took notice and gave the players just that, attracting a herd of CSGO players.
“We decided on 128-tick servers early on in development. A significant amount of our players have client frame-rates above 128, and we want to provide our premiere experience to as many players as possible, “Game tech lead, David Straily told Eurogamer
The monotony that has killed many FPS games, never lurked around Riot’s shooter as developers ensured that regular patches added something new to the game. With every update, the developer would meddle with agent abilities, map changes, and sometimes even add a whole new character to the game.
In dried up summer scenery, the addition of Icebox revived the shooter. In other patches, Riot added Reyna, Killjoy, Skye, and finally Yoru to keep the FPS players invested in Valorant. With developer’s promise of loading up the roster in intervals, it seems that Valorant will remain cut-throat, keeping dullness at bay.
They know the community
Riot’s secret to growing its game is simple: ask the players.
It’s a powerful feeling for the players to know that they’re being heard. Not only does it make the game entertaining, but it also benefits the developer. Valorant team members are often spotted on social media platforms, resolving minor issues, spelling out game mechanics, and dropping hints about future updates. It’s as if the developer is scouting for new suggestions to make good in FPS.
Whether it is players creating their own ideal agents, maps, reporting hackers; Riot Games’ members are there to pick up cues on how to improve the game experience. The cycle of response has, in turn, created a more wholesome community. For example, a refreshing change in the gaming ecosystem could be observed on Reddit, posts dubbed as “dev suck” are rare. Instead, players choose a different, more effective approach now that they know they’re being heard.
From toxicity in chat, ranking system, to issues regarding smurfers and hackers, the developer was quick to observe and solve. A hotfix, is always a tweet or reddit post away. Unofficial responses aside, ask VALORANT series testify that the developer wants to know the target audience better.
Smaller prize pool, bigger impact
A bombshell release leading to a game that no one revisits has become a common thing. Fortnite, for example, broke all records upon its release. Not only was it the most streamed game, Epic Games’ battle royale pounced over major gaming titles, emerging as an esports giant. However, in 2021, a large chunk of Fortnite esports base has declined. Professionals like Williams “Zayt” Aubin are stepping down, streamers like Ninja have moved on from the game. A dwindling prize pool can easily be blamed.
Releasing a game and sugar coating it with money is expected to attract players. What about when a better game piques the interest of users? The player base declines.
“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,”Valorant executive producer Anna Donlon said.
Unlike other esports titles, Valorant’s popularity doesn’t rely on anything other than its dopamine-kicking, spark plug competitive quality. Created to draw “real gamers,” with heavy-duty PC’s, Riot introduced Valorant as an esports prodigy set to update the five versus five format. Smartly enough, the developer didn’t release the game on a bed of million-dollar prize pool. Instead, Valorant had realistic characters, tactical shooting, game balance, and competitive spirit as its bedrock.
Ten successful months after the release, the game continues to make and break records without a massive prize pool. However, much like League of Legends, it’s evident that Valorant’s prize pool is set to be massive in the future. The only difference is, it’d be reliable and long-lasting.
A diverse game for diverse people
Gaming is an industry that houses a mere 30 percent of women, who have less to no representation on esports platforms. It took years for female teams to emerge on top in CSGO esports, and even today they don’t compete alongside men in the same tournaments, for the same prize pool.
Conversely, women are entering Valorant in herds, and they’re vocal; literally and figuratively. Riot’s quick bans on sexist and toxic players allow women to use their microphones, communicate, and play like any other user. Unlike other FPS games where gender discrimination was met with the developer’s cold shoulder, Riot Games is scouting for sexist remarks. Again, the diverse team at Riot Games has women contributing to making the game great and safe for everyone.
Issues regarding sexism and discrimination have always been reprimanded. With a strict ban system, that actually works, Riot Games ensures that those who abandon Valorant may do it for any reason, but not toxicity.
Action-packed trailers with sharp looking protagonists have derived hundreds of games to their 15 minutes of fame. However, a few games have been able to grab the brass ring and hold on to it for years. The esports scene has been stagnated with similar titles, and Valorant enters at a crucial time. With its unique approach, Riot Games is not only patching up the FPS experience, but it promises gaming ecosystem another esports giant.