As part of their most recent ‘Ask Valorant’ Q&A, Riot Games have addressed the ongoing footstep debate — shedding light on exactly why sound cues often come across as two-dimensional.
Ever since Valorant’s closed beta, there’s been one gripe which has remained consistent with players of all levels — footstep audio.
While Agent tweaks, weapon balancing and map adjustments have all been made in a bid to improve gameplay, community consensus is that footstep sound cues lack the level of ‘depth’ needed for a tactical shooter.
Depth refers to the level of detail in the audio. So, for example, you can hear an enemy is to your right, but can you determine their exact location from running footsteps alone? Well as it stands in Valorant, that’s not the case, and Riot have detailed why…
Is stereo the way forward?
Riot’s sixth Ask Valorant addressed a number of topical areas within the community at present, including the ongoing Operator debate. Valorant’s Audio Director, Peter Zinda also touched on why acoustics in Future Earth are “flatter” than other tactical shooters.
“I’ve also heard feedback around the fact that people have a hard time telling how far away a footstep is, which there is truth to. We optimize for making sure footsteps are heard, as opposed to optimizing for portraying distance.”
This means Valorant prioritizes actually being able to hear running footsteps, over the direction. During a part of the round where your teammates are communicating and Agents are using their abilities, being able to hear the footsteps as well as their precise direction isn’t feasible with stereo audio. There has to be a trade-off.
“We currently mix the game in stereo, meaning there is no difference between a sound 45 degrees to your left in front of you and a sound 45 degrees to your left in the back of you. Some people expect to be able to hear this difference, but that is not currently possible.”
Zinda also added that enabling a specific “7.1 mode” on headphones would have no effect, and if anything, can prove to be detrimental to sound visualization. “There is no way for the headphones to decode our stereo sound into 7.1 and may even make spatialization much worse!”
So while other first-person shooters, such as CS:GO and Overwatch support 5.1/7.1 surround sound output, it seems that simply isn’t something that is on the cards for Valorant anytime soon.