Tuning into Valorant First Strike this week, I was pleasantly surprised to see a new heads-up display (HUD) for viewers. It expanded on the info we were getting previously with the default HUD, and it really seemed like a step forward.
My initial thought was “wow, Valorant really is going all-in on the CS:GO clone meme.” It’s almost a spitting image to the HUD we’ve become familiar with over the last decade in Counter-Strike — framing the scene and keeping all the information in the periphery.
But the more I watched First Strike, the more I felt like the HUD wasn’t there to inform me. It was blocking the stream, and ultimately ruining the experience. I found myself more fed up with its existence, craving the old (yet simple!) one that’s already built into the game.
How could the new HUD, which looks better, and should function better, be so much worse? Let’s break down the major gripes.
First of all, it’s lacking critical information. How many HP does a player have? How close are they to their Ultimate? Unless they pull up that player’s POV, it’s impossible to tell at a glance.
The other major one is the delay. The second-long delay between something happening and it showing up on the HUD makes clutch situations awfully confusing to track.
Behind closed doors, tournament organizers have been scrambling to deal with the problems, leading to botched overlays, and some outright disabling it when things have gone awry. The Japanese stream still uses the old overlay, while Western events are still pushing the square into the circular hole.
Although I loathe to base any analysis on what Twitch chat has to say, there were plenty of viewers asking why the HUD is broken. This then spills out onto Twitter, with everyone and their dog providing suggestions for a fix — some of which are incredibly valid.
The fact that there’s no health counter means it’s impossible to judge if a player is ‘one-shot’ unless viewing their POV. One HP can make all the difference, so this should be an easy addition.
Then we arrive at the issue of tracking a player’s Ultimate status. Moving the Ultimate logo outside of the player box and surrounding it by a circle that gradually fills would be a simple solution.
This HUD that riot has enforced for first strike is making rounds like this feel completely bland.
Deo manages to pull off a 1v2 clutch but we don't really hear any of the kills nor hear the announcer say "clutch."
Just makes the viewing experience seem quite empty almost. pic.twitter.com/F4qXfJrkj5
— Crash (@CrashMaaate) December 5, 2020
There are countless more issues, but I’m not a software developer and I don’t know the limitations. What I do know is that right now, I prefer the old HUD.
Aside from the issues, there is one thing Riot got right — and that’s the new HUD as a concept. This new display has the potential to really shape the Valorant viewing experience as we move towards Valorant Champions Tour.
In reality, however, this HUD came too early. It’s a change that could have waited until next year’s Valorant Champions Tour. Of course, commercially speaking, the new HUD provides Riot with a neat way of incorporating partners into the broadcast.
And while I’m happy it’s here — despite all of its flaws — debuting a proper HUD during next year’s Champions Tour (with all of the creases ironed out), would have given more spectator impact.
After all, it was a surprise. Its absence wouldn’t have been noticed anyway. Now, it feels like First Strike was just a beta test for Champions Tour — and maybe it should be.