Gylfason (Riot): “We have many agent and Agent ideas in the pipes already for the future”

Gylfason (Riot): “We have many agent and Agent ideas in the pipes already for the future”

The director of game production of Valorant share the past and future of the game.

In just two years, Riot Games’ shooter has grown exponentially, both as a casual game and as an esport. This growth can be attributed to conceiving a clear plan for releasing new in-game content and creating new ways to engage the Valorant community to take part in its competitive scene.

But Valorant was not always the game we know today. The Riot team went on a long journey of exploration that led them to evaluate different setting options and play styles before arriving at the first-person shooter (Fps) we are used to.

We had the chance to interview Arnar Hrafn Gylfason, Director of Game production for Valorant, about the creation of Riot Games’ first Fps and its conception as a game geared towards becoming an esports game, while also discussing the future of Valorant

So what did Valorant look like in the early stages of exploration?

“Valorant has looked like a lot of things throughout development. But it’s always felt like the shooter that it is today. So while we’ve explored different approaches to the IP, different types of thematics, and kind of different looks and feels for the art style, at the core of the game it’s always been this kind of tight five-vs-five tactical shooter. And that’s never really changed. I’ve been on the project for about five and a half years, so even if I go all the way back to when I joined, it’s 80% still the same core shooter loop that we have now, even if it looks a little different”.

What were the other vibes that you were exploring In the early stages?

“Oh, we went all over the place. There were some very whimsical ones, there were some very grim dark ones, like super MilSim, like ugly, grim, dark. And it never fit the vibe of what Valorant is, which is like a very vibrant, very kind of colorful, very weird to say happy, but it’s a very happy, joyous game. So when we found the IP that we’re using today, the Valorant IP, it just really clicked”.

What are the implications of designing a game that is going to be focused on the esport side?

“One of the things we have to be careful about as obviously is, we want Valorant to be kind of colorful and vibrant. We have to at the same time be incredibly careful to retain the competitive integrity of the game, to not accidentally kind of make it hard to see certain agents against certain backdrops to make certain ability usage be a little bit obfuscated around what it looks like or sounds like. And so that’s where we start with every kind of design philosophy: maintaining the sanctity of Competitive Play and the tactical shooter and the kind of the tactical shooter gameplay that we want. And so then we figure out how we push the boundaries of what we can do within the game in terms of color in terms of kind of vibrancy and noise, kind of how much is happening at any given moment. And it’s often a delicate line to write. But I think so far we’ve done a good job of retaining the full sanctity of a competitive shooter and the competitive integrity of the game, while still finding ways to make it kind of very vibrant. And I think we’ll keep pushing that limit as much as we can. But that will always be our first priority is maintaining the competitive integrity of the game”.

You worked on Valorant for five years, how far in the future is your creation program? For example, right now do you already have prepared the next agent or next map?

We have many agents, agent ideas and maps in the pipes already for the future, and we have just an absolute ton of ideas for features and content and fun things to do for players. It’s just a question of getting it right iterating on it and development, making sure it’s coming out at a good time making sure it’s, I mean, it has to adhere to all of our standards, competitive integrity, it has to perform really well, we have a very low mid spec machine, so we have to make sure it all runs very smoothly. And so a lot of the development efforts are around just making sure we don’t break the game that we have by introducing new and cool elements into it. But we have, we have many, many fun things coming for a very long time.

So, when creating a new asset, whether it’s a map or an agent, what are the factors linked to esports that you need to take into consideration?

I would almost say it’s not even about what is linked to esports. The game is the sport, it’s not one or the other. It’s the exact same thing to us. You can’t create the game and then think, but how does it play in the esport, we have to think about it holistically all the time, because to us, the esport is just a reflection of the highest level of competitive play. It’s not a show that is put on that is different from the game that the players play. And so to us, it’s really about making Valorant the best game that can possibly be within the design principles we have and the creative vision that we have for it. And it turns out that it’s also a really, really great Esport but we don’t make things not game content for Esports specifically or for players specifically. It’s all one game. And what you see on stage today at Masters is just the very highest manifestation of that gameplay.

Talking about in-game assets, you already broke any frontier with fracture and its peculiar structure. So thinking about agents, are there certain things that you cannot implement in the game because that would totally be a game breaker? Like, for example, an ultimate ability that kills everyone?

Yes, that would be, that would be one of them. I mean, there’s tons of things that I think we, we think at least today makes no sense in the game. It’s hard to think through them, because they don’t make sense right now. But there are definitely boundaries that we’re not willing to cross. There are certain, almost like, game game boundaries within our maps, for example, that we can’t break. So for example, you can never create an agent, or I say never, but never in today’s boundaries, create an agent that kind of goes up in the air and is able to look all over the entire map and have sight lines everywhere. Because our maps are made very specifically for the idea of what is verticality in our game. So we can’t, that’s just a thing we can break today. Is it something we might explore in the future? Maybe, but the game as it is today is very well placed together in terms of what you’re able to see, what information you can gather, what information you can’t gather. So breaking some of those boundaries would very fundamentally break the concept of a game gameplay that we have today.

And within those boundaries, there were some features, even from the early stages of creation that you had to rethink because they were going too far?

Yeah, we sometimes go too far. And it’s good and healthy for us to go too far, especially in kind of early ideation. It’s healthy for us to go too far and say: “Oh, no, that is actually too far, let’s not do that.” But that creates a stronger boundary for us and more cohesive learning for the team to say: “Cool, now we know what one of the boundaries are,” and we don’t even have to think about them anymore, which just become inherent to how we design and develop the game.

And speaking of agents on the side, if you think about it all agents, they have specific features that are connected between one another. Basically, it just flashes or smokes, they have different agents in different settings, but they have the same fundamental things. The one agent that stands out is Sage who for now is the only one that can create something solid within the game. Are you planning on adding more agents that might have that feature?

I can say we have played around with more abilities that create solid objects in Valorant, breakable, but solid. But I’ll leave it at that, I’m not even going to say if we’re still looking at them.

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