Valorant lead character designer Ryan ‘Morello’ Scott has broken down exactly what Riot wants to achieve from its agents when they launch — creating meaningful gameplay and “disrupting” the meta.
There’s always a cry from the community about the power of certain characters, even before they were released. In Valorant, there was none louder than with Killjoy. Her turrets caught the ire of the community long before her official announcement.
However, since her release, the turret has been the least of the player’s worries. The rest of her utility has defined her kit as an oppressive zone controller that can capitalize if you fail to flush her out. Her kit has pushed the boundaries of what’s acceptable in a tactical shooter, but Riot are fine with that.
In an August 19 dev video, Valorant lead character designer Ryan ‘Morello’ Scott stated that Riot are looking at constantly pushing the boundaries of what a tactical shooter means. Every new agent is a new chance to experiment.
“We are looking to shake up Valorant with new possibilities in ways that fit the tactical loop of the game,” he said.
Regardless of whether it’s a hard fragger like Reyna, or a more control-based agent like Killjoy, each agent will have an impact on release. This impact is there not to make characters feel overpowered, but to give them a reason to be in the game.
“What we introduce is going to be a bit disruptive. The learning curve of a new agent means that it matters — it’s meaningful, it’s going to add something to the game. We think that’s a lot better that it might have a learning curve, or it might be frustrating to learn how to play against, than it is when you go ‘why did we even add this thing at all?’”
This philosophy applies from agent conception all the way through to release. Morello explained that each new character needs to not just be the shiny new playtoy, but something that can slot into a unique place in the “competitive ecosystem.”
“It’s not enough to be a piece of cool new content, or fun for the target player. We think the player experience does matter, but the health of the competitive ecosystem matters more. Looking at Killjoy as an example, we wanted to contrast her with other Sentinels, Sage and Cypher namely.
“Killjoy is about hunkering down, fortifying and creating risk within a zone — and that risk, if not managed correctly, turning into kills for Killjoy. This is a lot different [from Sage and Cypher] — setting up a turret or a nanoswarm and not being able to capitalize on it doesn’t do a lot. Dealing with two threats at one is how Killjoy accomplishes this defend and convert pattern we want.”
No matter the ability, or the purpose, Riot wants every agent to feel in place in Valorant. While they shouldn’t be must-picks, they need to have an identity that makes them worthwhile in specific situations. Riot wants to constantly enable new ways to play the game, even if this means breaking down the norms of character design.
“We want to set our own expectations within our roster and our game, ones that will likely be spicier or feel really inappropriate in another tactical shooter. The tactical loop is our foundation, but it’s the start of the journey, not the end.
“[Abilities] are the things that provide exceptions to the tactical loop, they are things that provide value. We use these things in sparse limited doses, or with strong constraints on them to make sure that when you do them it’s not about being able to do something cool, it’s about allowing new strategies, new opportunities, and new possibilities for the game.