Few developers update their games as often as Riot updates League of Legends. Whether it’s new champions, reworked versions of old champions, or even simple balance updates, League of Legends feels like it’s always evolving. Later this year, Riot is bringing that same philosophy of frequent changes to Valorant, its new tactical shooter.
According to Riot’s development team, Valorant’s updates will take the form of new characters, called Agents, new maps, and frequent balance changes that will shift the meta. Riot doesn’t have any concrete plans for how often these changes will happen, but the company did share a few details with Polygon.
Keeping things balanced
Balance updates will happen frequently in Valorant, but Riot isn’t committing to any specific time frame just yet. Senior gameplay designer Trevor Romleski mentioned League of Legends’ release schedule of a new patch every two week as an example, but he was quick to clarify that it’s only a model and wouldn’t necessarily be the pace players should expect for Valorant.
Early on, the balance team is focusing on making changes as often as necessary — for instance, if there’s a bug in the game. That way, players — and Riot — can learn the difference between a character being weak, and the player base simply needing a bit of time to learn how to play them.
When the changes do start, Riot’s balance team for Valorant will tweak whatever they have to in order to make the game fun for players. That could mean anything from changes to individual characters and their abilities, alterations to weapons, or even large-scale map changes.
“We’re totally open to changing all content, if that’s where we think the problem is,” Romleski says. “If we ultimately think that the experience is poor because of a certain thing on a map, even if it takes more work, we’re not going to shy away from fixing that.”
Romleski does mention that weapons can pose an extra complication though. “One thing we have to consider is there’s a part of the mastery of the game that’s muscle memory [...] We don’t want to undermine the knowledge and muscle memory that players have built up overtime. So we have to be really careful about certain things. Maybe we’ll be a little more reluctant to change recoil.”
One example of balance that seemed particularly interesting in the character-shooter space is the idea of Valorant’s meta. While certain games like Overwatch are often dominated by one or two characters that show up on both teams in nearly every match, that won’t necessarily be the case for Valorant. According to character producer John Goscicki, the team never wants certain characters to feel mandatory.
“I think if you ever felt like you needed this character to win, and this may be a bold choice of words, but I would almost say we failed,” Goscicki says. “If there is a large surgical thing we need to do, we’re down to do it. But that comes with a lot of diagnosing. We don’t want to do it willy-nilly.”
Riot on adding maps and characters
New maps and characters are definitely part of the plan for Valorant. But once again, the Riot developers we talked to were careful to stress that the company doesn’t have any specific timeframes for their releases just yet. Rather than planning those things out, Riot wants to release the game, then see how the community adjusts to the content that’s already there.
Goscicki explains that Riot wants its character releases to feel “appreciable” and never too far apart. So the players are never left waiting a whole year to get a new character, for example.
But Goscicki also says that the character team doesn’t want to make additions just to say there’s new content. “Every [new] character changes the way you’ll see and play the game. It’s something new and fresh, and some will do it more than others. But we never want to add a character for the sake of adding a character.”
He says that future characters could specifically be designed around problems that players are having in the game. If attacking players are often having difficulty taking sites, for example, an Agent that specializes in breaching bombsites and killing the waiting defenders could be something the team investigates.
As for new maps, Riot’s developers were similarly vague, again reinforcing the idea that it would really depend how the community acclimated to the maps that are in the game at launch.
Senior game designer Salvatore Garozzo, who works on Valorant’s maps team, says about map additions, “We’re thinking anywhere in the range of six months to 12 months […] But that really depends. Once we go live and see how players are reacting. Are they clamoring for more maps? If so, we’re playing up on the faster end of the spectrum.”
Garozzo also notes that the team is sensitive to just how complicated maps can be in a game like Valorant. After all, maps are subject to players’ knowledge, as well as the nuanced abilities of every single one of the game’s characters, so the team doesn’t want to overwhelm players with too many maps too quickly.
While Valorant’s developers aren’t quite ready to nail down specific schedules for any of the game’s content yet, it’s clear that it’s something they’re thinking about. Whether it’s new characters that totally change the game, a new map with a totally different idea, or just a nerf to the game’s most overpowered Agent, it seems like the development team is content to wait for players to get their hands on the game before it commits to anything.