Valorant devs want to “iterate faster” on agent changes, but there’s a catch

Riot Games

Valorant doesn’t have the rapid balancing cycle other live service games like League of Legends are known for. It can lead to some stale metas ⁠— ones Riot want to fix and “iterate faster” on, but there are a few catches stopping them.

It can take some time for agent changes to make it into Valorant. Riot does take their time tinkering with balancing, with some long-touted updates for the likes of Yoru and Cypher being months in the making.

The latter was an especially sore spot for mains ⁠— the Sentinel fell out of favor early on in Valorant’s life cycle due to a number of nerfs, and it took more than a year for Riot to give him a look in for buffs. They finally launched in patch 5.10, but there’s still some work to be done.

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Why? Well, Chamber exists, and he’s taking up a lot of space. 

The French Sentinel has been a must-pick in Valorant for months, but Riot hasn’t really moved towards pushing changes live yet. As they settle on smaller updates for Harbor and Fade in the face of the Chamber problem, those calls are ramping up. 

Balancing, and the pace of agent updates, is a point Riot wants to get better at as time goes on. However there’s a few considerations as to why they are taking their time, and esports is near the top of that list.

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“We do want to iterate faster,” lead agent designer Jay Watford said on a podcast

“Oftentimes we have esports going on and that’s a really big consideration for us. We want to keep the game fresh and interesting and solve problems, but we also want to respect these pros who spend so much time learning specific ways to play agents. If we just come in and constantly change the game, they never get the time to achieve that high level of coordinated Valorant we want to watch.”

Chamber standing adjusting tie in ValorantRiot Games
Riot has to tread lightly with balancing Valorant with the packed esports calendar, as well as how complex some updates are.

There are some smaller things though. How much “production budget” do the changes take up? In the case of the recent Harbor changes, increasing his Cascade cast charges from one to two, take very little effort as it’s a numbers change. 

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Something like the long-awaited Chamber update will take significantly longer because of that: “I know a lot of people see the patch come out and don’t see Chamber and they’re like ‘why are they focusing on all this other stuff instead of Chamber’ but the reality is some problems are just more difficult, and some problems you feel really important to get right at a certain time,” Watford added.

“Chamber has taken us longer just because we want to test, we want to know, we want to see all the outputs. His changes have more complex systemic outcomes. But with Harbor’s, we felt like it was hitting a problem we saw on live very clearly and sharply, and we could move forward without a bunch of production support.”

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It comes after Riot has long promised more communication with players about balance changes in Valorant. With the offseason starting and no VCT competition for a number of weeks, expect the developers to jump in with the updates they’ve been itching to ship for months soon.