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12/12/20Dev

End of Year: Foundations Team

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Greetings from the Foundations Area!

Like our name suggests, we’re the teams that make up the technical foundation of VALORANT covering things like gameplay performance, tools, engine development, core gameplay systems, and our data pipelines. Our teams in the area are: Game Systems, Content Support, Gameplay Integrity, and Data Operations.

One of the main goals for our area since it’s start has been to have you as players focus more on playing rather than if the game is working. We’ve come a long way since the early days of closed beta but we’ll admit, there have been a couple of bumps here and there (Looking at you patch 1.11 hitch on death!) Our work isn’t done but we want to thank you for joining us on this journey and are looking forward to sharing with you the system improvements we have in store for VALORANT in 2021!

—Steven Eldredge (Riot Roopkool), Kevin O’Brien (Riot Koalifer), James Beaumont-Field (BF Butterknife) and all of the Foundations Area

GAME SYSTEMS

Game Systems is the team that builds and maintains the core gameplay experience of VALORANT. Movement, gunplay, and abilities—how you interact with the game world is our area of focus. We also build the tech that enables our designers to create new characters, maps, or gameplay systems. Recently, we’ve partnered with our esports team, tournament organizers, and professional observers to build in-game features that improve the broadcast experience.

Alongside the other teams in the Foundations area, our top priority is keeping the VALORANT competitive experience healthy and fair. This year, that has meant a lot of late nights sweating over reddit posts and continually improving our netcode and hit registration. It’s hard to believe that Project A hadn’t even reached Alpha by this time last year. While we’re proud of the work we’ve done so far, we know there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Here’s some of the areas we want to focus on in 2021:

  • Improving the onboarding and learning experience for new players
  • Empowering content creators with new features and tools
  • Building unique characters and map functionality
  • Continued improvements to the e-sports and broadcast experience
  • Ongoing commitment to ensuring a stable and fair gameplay experience for all players

Lastly, we want to say thank you. To you the players, thank you for all the time and passion that you've poured into VALORANT. Thank you for all the dank memes, hilarious videos, and epic fails. Thank you for all the insane clutches, nerd lineups, and hard carries. Thank you for all the passion, care, suggestions, feedback, bug reports, highlight plays, reddit posts, tweets, and everything else that you've done to make VALORANT the game it is today.

—Matt deWet (Shaedyn), Kevin Lee, Alex Hampton (Riot CasualPenta), Tiffany Li, Blake Soberanis (Sobey), Tim Austin, Wade Winebrenner, Matt Le (Riot Shadow)

CONTENT SUPPORT

Content Support is the engineering backbone for a bunch of other content teams. Behind the scenes, we’ve been fixing crashes to make the game more stable every day, updating our engine to keep allowing us to create new shiny things, as well as some direct support for things that need a bit more engineering help.

TLDR; Most of our work isn’t very visual, but here are some snippets of some we’ve worked on.

Here’s some things we plan to focus on in 2021:

  • Audio HRTF for better perception of 3D sounds
  • Content workflow improvements to help us develop and release content to you faster and more reliably
  • Upgrades to key technology pieces like Unreal and Wwise to add features, fix bugs and make the game more performant

As for why we’re writing this to you… You help us figure out what to fix for the game! Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to find all the small bugs that we didn’t hit internally (yes, we are thanking you for that time you crashed out of that competitive match in overtime and we know you will never forget it, but at least you’ll know that we made the game better because of it... Okay, maybe that doesn’t actually make you feel any better, but still it helped stabilize the game, and we know we need a lot of that. Fine, it still doesn’t stop the nightmares but thank you anyway.)

Left-handed mode was a thing that players kept harping on us to add, and all the meme videos of VALORANT looking horrible on potatoes pushed us to make it better. We also had that time we accidentally shipped Experimental Sharpening and we were going to turn it off, but Reddit told us to keep it on.

What we’re saying is, this game is nothing without you. We’re not making this game for ourselves (even though we have fun one-tapping you in Competitive). We’re making this game for you, and it’s your dedication, highs, and lows, that fuel us (also the memes). Without you guiding us, we might have just gone off and made a player housing system (no we wouldn’t have, but you get my point). So please, keep making those VALORANT.exe’s, highlight clips, and sick clutches. Thanks!

—Vic Keenan (coolbreeze), Marcus Reid (Riot Nu), Brian Whited (Riot Fender), Evan De Back (xepel), Patrick Mera (meratime), Brandon Wang (mochimisu), Jonathan Lee (Riot Swirl)

GAMEPLAY INTEGRITY

Let’s talk about our team for a second. Most of you probably haven’t heard from us and hopefully that’s because we’re doing things right. Performance is one of the most important pieces of maintaining VALORANT’s competitive integrity and that’s what our primary focus is. Leading up to launch the team spent countless hours squeezing micro seconds of optimization out of every system and subsystem so that we could launch on 128-tick servers.

We also have a whole group on Gameplay Integrity working on our build and release pipeline. We’re working everyday to make sure you can download and play the latest version of the game. They’re responsible for the tools and technology that package up all the really cool things that our developers make and deliver it out to you.

As we rolled out and added new content and features, our team continued to push for performance wins. And while there have been a few hiccups along the way, nothing had us more stumped than the hitch on death in Patch 1.11. We couldn’t reproduce this issue during our internal playtests and we had no leads. We combed through videos, posts, tweets, and finally noticed something in common. Turns out showing off those shiny tortilla chips in the combat report costs us some milliseconds that we needed. Without your help we wouldn’t have been able to solve this. We’re watching and reading your reports and can’t thank you enough for your continued support.

But enough about what we did, let’s talk about where we’re going. We want to push the performance limits of VALORANT. Before we launched we spent a lot of time focusing on low end systems and how we could support the widest range of hardware possible. In 2021, we’re turning our eyes towards all of you mid and high spec players out there and hope to make the client experience even crisper.

—Brent Randall, Sameh Kamel, Sean Sutherland, Stephanie Rosales, Mark De Ruyter, Aaron Cheney

DATA OPERATIONS

Hi from all of us on Data Operations! Our mission includes supplying the VALORANT studio with a foundation for data empowered product development and decision making. We also work with other teams in VALORANT to augment their systems with data science and data engineering components. Among many other examples, we:

  • Analyze network telemetry to help Core Services and Infrastructure teams stand up new game servers and tweak the network to improve your connectivity
  • Collaborate with the compet team to define and adjust match making systems
  • Ensure our colleagues on Game Systems can quickly dig into performance data to find and fix issues
  • Empower our Insights colleagues with the high quality data they need to advise on game balance.

Although typically behind the scenes, you will occasionally see our work directly—remember how some of you got into closed beta through Twitch drops? For those of you who endured waiting, thank you. For your patience and passion and all the awesome memes that remind us that what we do matters to you.

We’ll start next year by focussing more and more on supporting the behavioral systems for our Player Dynamics team, adding personalization to the game, and improving our ability to detect and prevent cheating. From all of us on Data Ops, thanks again!

—Yilin He, Tim Shen, Andrew Madler, Colin Borys

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