Ask VALORANT #6
Ask VALORANT, and we respond. This time we go deep on the state of the Operator, why updates are rolled out rather than all at once, and insight into what’s going on with the sound of footsteps.
What are your thoughts on the opinion that “the Operator is too OP”?
We think the Operator isn't "too OP" but do believe that the feeling sometimes comes from a lack of personal agency against the weapon (for Agents that don't have tools to break line of sight for themselves), coupled with an overwhelming amount of team coordination to effectively counter an Operator. We're looking into a lot of avenues to help smooth out the experience but we do believe the Operator should be powerful and should encourage a team to thoughtfully enter a space where it might be in play.
To give an anecdote: we've tried iterations of the game where the Operator's strengths weren't as sharp as they are today (especially in holding defensive angles). We discovered that without moments where a team was forced to sit down and plan how to play against (or around) a good Operator, a lot of gameplay became about who could rush faster.
The Operator—like all weapons, maps, Agents, etc.—is a part of our continuous holistic review of the state of the game, and we’ll make changes in the future if we feel it’s needed. No changes now doesn’t mean no changes ever.
—Nicholas “Nickwu” Smith, Game Designer
Why do EU/CIS/TR regions get patches and features later than everyone else (like Deathmatch)? Why can’t you just turn things on for everyone at the same time?
[Editor’s note: For anyone who wasn’t aware, when we ship major patches, we typically patch in 3 regional chunks. The NA/LATAM/BR regional cluster first, then the KR/JP/SEA/OCE regional cluster, then the EU/TR/CIS regional cluster last.]
There are two things we consider when we select the time to ship new content: server stability and game stability. For server stability, if there’s high demand for a new feature (as there was with deathmatch), we see massive amounts of players logging in simultaneously to play. If we launch a high-demand feature on top of peak login time (typically around 4-7pm anywhere), we’re deliberately DDoSing our servers by creating the largest possible spike of logins. This is why we try to ship ‘off’ peak playtime (which we know is a little frustrating for people who want to play when they get back from school or work). This lets us spread out logins for those who just want to play a game normally vs. those who want to try new content as soon as possible. This might not explain why the EU/TR/CIS regional cluster goes last, but it does highlight why we don’t like to ship highly anticipated patches everywhere at the same time: it’s always peak play time somewhere in the world.
Game stability is the main reason EU/CIS/TR regions typically get big, complicated patches last. We want to make sure if we do hit a critical game-breaking bug, we don’t have to hotfix it across every region simultaneously. EU/CIS/TR regions tend to get more stable patches of all 3 clusters because we can quickly integrate hotfixes before the main patch goes out, rather than having to triage it while it’s already out there. EU/CIS/TR also happens to be the largest population of VALORANT players, so major disruptions have an objectively bigger impact.
Finally, if it makes sense that we need to ship patches ‘off’ peak hours in every region and we want to be able to put in hotfixes before the next region gets a patch (if necessary), then the last consideration is that we’re a Los Angeles-based developer. We try to make sure we ship all patches across a single day (in Pacific Standard Time), because if we have to wait overnight (or work overnight), we’ll have less developers available to fix things at any time. So we start patches as soon as we get into the office (off peak hours, so we can’t start with the EU/TR/CIS regional cluster because EU is right at peak play time), and try to ship our last patch before the end of the night.
This is a long explanation, but hopefully it highlights that we’re not playing favorites.
Sometimes it feels like sound is off in the game, like footsteps are much closer than they really are, or I hear them in the wrong direction! Am I going crazy? Does VALORANT do something different with sound?
The footstep radius is set up to give players who hear enemy footsteps time to use an ability and re-equip a weapon before they are in danger.
I've also heard feedback around the fact that people have a hard time telling how far away a footstep is, which there is truth to. We optimize for making sure footsteps are heard, as opposed to optimizing for portraying distance. What this looks like is an attenuation curve that is somewhat flat, versus one that drops off a lot over distance. There are a couple reasons we do this. One is that under chaotic conditions where abilities are being used and you are probably hearing a lot of VOIP from your team, it is essential that you don't miss a footstep.
Based on internal playtests, not hearing a footstep and getting killed by someone you knew had to run to get to you is very tilting. This feels especially bad for players who have internalized rotation times on the map and have good communication and callouts on their team.
We also know our game will be played in a variety of contexts. NA players may be used to playing in a quiet room and hearing every detail, but players in China or Korea may be playing in a loud PC Bang, where a footstep that was quiet but gave more information on distance would be lost. I have never played professionally, but I imagine clarity would also be appreciated for esports players who may be in a noisy stadium (hopefully someday!)
Another reason for this is that we don't want to give players the incentive to turn their volume up to painful levels because they have to listen for faint audio cues to be competitive, or to add external DSP to compress their audio (which happens for some other FPS games.) If the game designers want you to have the information, we want you to clearly have the information.
While there's a drawback from having the attenuation curve flatter, I think the advantages are more important.
As far as panning direction goes, we have heard reports of this both internally and on live. When our design playtest has investigated this in the past using videos of multiple viewpoints, the panning has turned out to be correct.
We currently mix the game in stereo, meaning there is no difference between a sound 45 degrees to your left in front of you and a sound 45 degrees to your left in back of you. Some people expect to be able to hear this difference, but that is not currently possible.
Also, engaging the “7.1” mode on various headphones does not help. There is no way for the headphones to decode our stereo sound into 7.1 and may even make spatialization much worse!
—Peter Zinda, Audio Director