Project A or Valorant: what was the first shooter from Riot Games

Impressions from a visit to the developers and a few hours in the game.

In October 2019, Riot Games announced that it no longer wanted to be a one-game studio and presented several projects at once in new genres for itself - from a Hearthstone competitor to a full-fledged AAA fighting game with League of Legends characters.

Among all the announcements of the company, Project A stood out the most. Whatever one may say, the shooter is the most popular genre, and there have been no really important competitive games in it for several years.

For Riot, this is a chance to at least attract a new audience and take pride of place among Rainbow Six Siege-level titles, and at the very least, take away the palm and the attention of millions of players from them.

At the end of January, in secrecy, DTF visited the Santa Monica office of Riot Games and spent two days there, playing the then current Project A build and talking to the developers.

As you may have guessed, this shooter is the closest of all the "projects" to release, and from now on it can be officially called Valorant.

Title announcement trailer

The Riot Games office is located 15 minutes from the ocean, and at first it’s hard to imagine how it’s possible to concentrate on work in such a place, but the company’s employees still manage to do it.

Accustomed to the California sun, Riotians do not miss the opportunity to joke about their climate when guests from Russia are on the doorstep. “What a harsh January we have here!” a representative of the company tells us with a sly smile, when it is already well over twenty plus on the street.

There are a lot of memes from players in the Riot office - one of them even got on the back of the most important sign

Immediately after the badges are distributed, we are led through a beautiful bamboo grove and a basketball court to the Star Wars-themed cinema (even the lamps in it turn on with the sound of lightsaber activation). It is in it that we first learn how Project A is actually called.

From the previous paragraphs, it may seem that Riot decided to impress journalists with a particularly pathetic presentation. But it's not. On the contrary, from the very first minutes it becomes clear that the company, which earned more than a billion dollars on League of Legends in 2019, decided to throw away marketing tinsel and tell as frankly as possible about its new game.

Harsh January at the Riot office

The world's first demonstration of the Valorant shooter is somewhat reminiscent of speeches at the university. Employees, many of whom are obviously not accustomed to public speaking, take turns coming out with small talks and simple PowerPoint presentations.

And the point is not that Riot was dismissive of the show, but that it preferred to bring not PR people to the journalists, but developers: they know what they are talking about, because they make the game themselves, they are simply not used to marketing language.

What surprised even more, guests were allowed to ask any questions about the shooter - from monetization to content at the start, although usually large studios try not to share such information so early.

We know that transparency is essential to the success of such a game.

Anna Donlon
head of Valorant development

How did Valorant

Many developers in recent years have been trying to flood players with content right from the release, believing that this is the secret of success. But Valorant was made "from the other end." Riot's task was to create a game where even one map and a small pool of characters would be enough to spend hundreds or even thousands of hours in front of the screen with interest.

Led by executive producer Anna Donlon (ex-Treyarch), the team spent a lot of time testing different modes and mechanics in search of a "secret sauce" - a combination of gameplay features that will keep players in front of the screen and become the face of Valorant.

What the developers immediately decided on was that they want to make a tactical shooter, and among the sources of inspiration in Riot they name not only the obvious CS: GO, but also titles like Rainbow Six: Siege, Sudden Attack and even Ghost Recon: Future soldier.

At the same time, the company did not want to go into completely unfamiliar territory, so in many ways the new shooter had to resemble League of Legends - it is a game with a pronounced competitive spirit that is easy to read, works even on old office computers and gives fans an almost endless curve. difficulties.

Three years of testing and iteration resulted in Valorant. It has a lot of familiar elements, but it stands out from the competition enough to make you want to talk about it seriously.

How are the matches

Valorant is a 5v5 team shooter with only one (so far) base mode. Death here is fleeting, and reborn - with the rarest exceptions - is possible only in the next round. One side is attacking and the other is defending, and then the roles are reversed. The task of the attackers is to install and detonate a bomb at one of the hard-fixed points in the allotted time, and the defense, accordingly, needs to prevent this. The first team to score 13 wins in 24 rounds (if the score is 12-12, the 25th is possible) wins.

The decision of the developers to take one of the typical CS:GO mechanics as the basis of their new shooter may seem strange, but it works. All the body movements associated with the bomb create the necessary tactical depth and the necessary intensity of passions, but at the same time do not require getting used to. If you have ever played Counter-Strike, then you will almost immediately get comfortable in Valorant.

The bomb in the game is called the Spike and doesn't look like a C-4 at all.

However, from CS:GO there is not only a bomb, but also pixel-by-pixel accuracy of shooting, with which even one hit on the edge of the enemy’s head is enough to kill (3-4 bullets are needed in the body). Valorant has a shooting range with damage counters where you can try all the rifles and see for yourself.

There are no blasters here, and the weapons in the game are mostly realistic - assault rifles, machine guns, SMGs, shotguns and revolvers. At the same time, each gun has its own character and well-calculated dispersion and damage parameters. The accuracy of shooting depends on how fast you move, so Valorant does not reward runners, but those who defend competently - especially since hits slow down enemies.

Important differences from CS:GO begin when Riot asks you to choose one of the characters (the journalists were shown eight of the ten planned at launch). Heroes at first outwardly resemble those in Overwatch, but first impressions are deceptive.

If in the Blizzard shooter the character determines almost the entire gameplay, then Valorant is closer to Siege in this regard: no matter who you prefer, the main argument in conflicts will still be the ability to shoot and navigate in space first.

By choosing a hero in Valorant, you block it for other players from your team and cannot change it until the end of the match. There is no problem in this, because the game has an offline training ground for testing all abilities. You will hardly feel "stuck" with any class, since the weapons are the same for everyone, and it is always with him that the last word.


Abilities affect gameplay, but not as much as shooting. In Valorant, you can quite successfully play an attacking medic.


So what is the real point

Explaining in words the very “secret sauce” of Valorant is not so easy. The first thing to note is that the game feels as far away from Overwatch as possible. The characters here walk and run rather slowly, practically do not jump and do not spam their abilities.

The Blizzard shooter was often criticized for being hard to watch from the outside, and Valorant does not have such a problem, it is much easier to read. She is esports to the marrow of her bones - even tomorrow arrange the first championship.

There is no place for chaos in Valorant, not only because almost all the characters here are overweight, like operatives in Siege, but also because their abilities are severely limited. You must have seen how in the first trailer a girl named Jett easily soars up a tall box. So, she can do this only a few times per round - and even then, if she has enough money to buy. She is the quickest here, and at the same time, she doesn’t even look close to Tracer.

Many clear landmarks have been specially made at the levels. You can always say "Meet me at the dragon" and you will be understood

Yes, there is a local economic model, like in CS:GO. For your success in the rounds, you get money, and before the start of the battle you buy weapons, armor and abilities with them.


Your ability to quickly stockpile almost does not matter - energy barriers will not let the enemy side ahead of time anyway. Unless, you can be the first of the team to grab the bomb, which lies on the respawn point.


Each hero also has his own “ult”, which accumulates when killing, dying, or actions with a bomb. It can also be replenished by picking up an orb lying on the level, but this is a risky business: it takes a few precious seconds to absorb it.

Most importantly, there are almost no abilities in the game that will help you destroy half the enemy team at once. This is not Call of Duty or Overwatch. Even the semblance of an air strike here is rather weak and designed for accuracy. The talents of the heroes are mainly needed in order to obtain tactical information, deceive the enemy or buy time.

Exploration, planning, implementation

After a few hours of playing Valorant, I can safely say that what defines this game is something you don't see in the trailers - the design of the cards. To create them, Salvatore Garozzo, who worked on several Counter-Strike arenas, including de_cache, de_nuke_ve, de_train_ve, was called to the team.

Since the game is primarily tactical, we tried to make the locations well readable and exclude almost any possible bottlenecks. All the useless beauties in Valorant are high - there is nothing colorful at the level of the player's eyes so that the enemy is always clearly distinguishable.


Anna Donlon jokes that she constantly had to frustrate designers: visual excesses were sacrificed without regret for better readability.


During our visit to Riot, we were given two cards to try - Bind and Haven. At the start of Valorant, only five levels are planned, but in this case, the studio hopes to cover a small amount with high quality. Before the start of the marathon, each location was first tested for a long time in the form of gray cubes, so that it would be unique not only externally, but also bring new tactical layouts to the game.

On Bind, for example, there are two points for planting a bomb, but there is no “mid” at all. The developers compensated for his absence by the presence of a one-way teleport. This means that if the attack on the first point is "choked", then the attackers can quickly spread to the second, and the defense will have to somehow react to this.

Haven Map

But on Haven, the situation is completely opposite. Her “Mid” is so large that they decided to turn it into a third point for planting a bomb. This greatly changes the layout of the game.


The developers claim that each Valorant map is created for esports competitions with the expectation of 10 thousand hours of play.


Bind and Haven, at first glance, have almost no bottlenecks. There are several passages to each point, and since one bullet to the head solves the issues in the game, it’s impossible to sit relaxed in the corners here. In neutral zones, the number of shelters is deliberately reduced to a minimum in order to spur battles, and opponents can always be taken by surprise by outflanking - there are no dead ends.

What already speaks positively about the game is that by the end of the second day, journalists from different countries stopped playing lone wolves and began to act in a coordinated manner. For example, we started to deliberately send two out of five people to make some noise at the "B" site in order to distract the enemy and in the meantime mine "A" or use abilities to create the illusion of our presence in another place. And the more matches we played, the richer the meta felt.


The Valorant build we played didn't have gameplay music, and it looks like it won't be on release either. In this game, it is very important to listen to steps and shots, so the stake was placed on precise positioning in space.


As I noted above, the abilities of the characters in Valorant are no longer designed for massacres, but work for tactics. For example, the local medic, Sage, can build one wall of ice per round, which temporarily blocks the passage for everyone except the jumping Jett. Sage is also able to cover the ground with a substance that slows down enemies and makes additional noise when walking.

Precisely due to the fact that most of the abilities in the game affect the environment, it is more like Siege than Overwatch. In addition, in Valorant it is also very important to force opponents to give out their location.

After the release of the first trailer, players joked about the fact that there can be no respawn in a tactical shooter, but it is here only as an "ult" that occurs quite rarely. This is not at all like the famous "Heroes never die".


The abilities of Valorant heroes can be divided into several main types. Many heroes know how to hide their movements in one way or another: some with a harmless gray sphere, and some with a wall of poisonous gas. And many have abilities sharpened for reconnaissance.

Yes, here you can send a drone or even find out the position of the enemy by reading the memory of the killed enemy, but Phoenix stands out especially against the general background. The “ult” of this character is the ability to “save”, break into the point, die, and then return to the place where the ability was used with full health. Of course, he also has a weak spot - he comes to life with a characteristic sound that can attract enemies.

How it's played

As you can see from the previous part of the text, Valorant is CS:GO with the tactical depth of Siege, which is reminiscent of Overwatch in visual aesthetics.

If you are suddenly interested in Valorant as an esports discipline, then the experience in CS:GO will help you the most. This was clearly seen in the way one of Riot's guests, a former Counter-Strike champion, quickly settled in and began to clearly dominate the matches.


Valorant rewards players who are more accurate in mouse movements - the speed of movement of the weapon, the length of the queue, and the speed of the movement of the character itself are important here. In firefights, skill comes first.


One more important conclusion must be drawn from this: the developers will have to work hard on matchmaking so that even novice players feel normal. Riot promises to use all the experience gained while working on League of Legends, but we, of course, could not verify these words in the company's office - we have to wait for the beta.

Yes, here you also need to switch to a knife to run faster

Another important point: Valorant gets much better in the team played. Even the economic system here suggests that you can buy and drop weapons for a comrade who spent the last round on an expensive sniper rifle and died.

I'm not talking about negotiations about tactical moments, for which the developers have added both voice chat and a ping system - in the manner of that in Apex Legends. Of course, you can enter matches as a lone wolf, but the game will not open up 100% this way.

You probably have a banal question: is it fun at all? Definitely fun. In addition to the successful design of the maps, Valorant is also characterized by the “honesty” of the gameplay: even in those rounds where I merged mediocre, I felt solely my fault, and this only spurred me on, not upset me. Here the game acts as the exact opposite of Battlefield V: in the Riot shooter, you always understand how and why you died or leaked a round. Luck plays almost no role here, unlike skill.


“Fight your opponents, not the game” is one of the main principles applied in the development of Valorant.


The level geometry was made as simple as possible: the developers guarantee the absence of invisible obstacles and collision errors

In addition to this, the authors seem to have managed to make the characters’ abilities work according to the “rock-paper-scissors” method: there is always a reaction to any action, so in Valorant you can never be 100% sure of anything.

In February, you probably saw the headlines about “The best thing I've played since CS:GO”, and this was clearly said under the impression of games where one team of journalists won back 5-6 match points from another. The score 13-11 is quite a common thing here, and the intensity of passions turns out to be serious.

All I can say for now is that in the first few hours, Valorant definitely works. What will happen in a hundred hours or even in tens of thousands? It's hard to judge. This is a game-service, and journalists were shown 1% of what it could be in a couple of years. But this percentage is good.

First the technical base - then everything else

It is impossible to talk about how Valorant is played without mentioning its technical part. Due to the minimalistic image, after the announcement, the network often began to write that Riot's game is similar to a "Korean shooter", but the main budgets of it are actually mostly under the hood.

The Riot shooter is positioned as a AAA game that can be played normally on a seven-year-old computer. It was made on the basis of Unreal Engine 4, but the team put the most effort into optimization, network code and infrastructure.

Today you will not hear the words “ray tracing” or “volumetric fog” from us. The main thing is the speed of work.

Anna Donlon
head of Valorant development

Riot Games promises that the minimum threshold for entering the world of Valorant is a $120 computer with integrated Intel graphics, where you will get a stable 30 FPS. But in fact, the game, of course, was created for eSports and the wonderful world of 144-Hz and even 240-Hz monitors.


Recommended requirements - 60 fps:

▪ CPU: Intel i3-4150

▪ GPU: Geforce GT 730

Maximum performance - 144+ frames per second:

▪ CPU: Intel Core i5-4460 3,2 GHz

▪ GPU: GTX 1050 Ti

Minimum requirements - 30 frames per second:

▪ CPU: Intel i3-370M

▪ GPU: Intel HD 3000

Also recommended:

▪ Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit versions)

▪ 4 GB RAM



Most importantly, Riot's high frame rate is backed up by a 128 tick rate on the game's dedicated servers. Roughly speaking, this means that the server and client will synchronize with each other 128 times per second. At the same time, Valorant servers will “smooth out” the gameplay of players with high ping or low FPS for the rest of the participants in the match, completing all its intermediate movements and, in theory, depriving it of any advantages. Sounds fantastic, and in fact, we just have to test it when the game goes into beta.

The developers promise to provide a delay of less than 35 milliseconds for 70% of players around the world. They want to achieve this with the help of the Riot Direct initiative, in which the company, together with providers, redirects traffic to reduce network load and bypass or restore damaged channels. If Valorant takes off, Riot promises to expand this infrastructure.


One Valorant server supports 108 matches for 1080 players.


These technical points are directly related to the gameplay itself. The studio set itself the task of minimizing the "Peekers advantage" or simply the advantage of the attacker, when, due to the poor quality of the connection, the player running around the corner a few moments earlier sees the one who is waiting for him.


In Valorant, the player is informed about the death of the enemy at the moment of the shot, and not at the moment of hit, so that he can quickly make the next decision.


In addition to this, Valorant uses standardized hitboxes (all classes have the same hit registration area) and an animation system that allows the player to instantly intuitively understand the direction and speed of the enemy. The latter makes the Riot shooter especially stand out against the background of CS:GO - you can immediately see where the game of 2020 is.

Riot also says that Valorant has been developed with an anti-cheat system almost from day one. This, for example, allowed the studio to make Volhaki practically useless. The network code of the shooter is written in such a way that the client receives information about the location of the enemy at the very last moment. This means that for such cheats there is a “fog of war” - in theory, they have nowhere to take information from so that an attacker can look through walls.

In addition, the developers note that shooting and moving in space are 100% calculated by the server, so teleportation or “god mode” should technically be impossible. Even the sight in Valorant does not change its color so that the cheater cannot bind automatic shots to this.

The game's anti-cheat is called Vanguard and is completely developed in-house: it will study the behavior of players using machine learning and, of course, reports.


If a cheater is detected in a Valorant match, the game automatically stops, its results are reset, and the offender is banned.


Cheaters are planned to be identified not only in relation to their accounts, but also by other parameters. The company says it has ways to ban violators, even if they create a new profile. Riot also intends to fight cheat developers.

World and characters

Plot Valorant is not connected with League of Legends. This is a completely new franchise. The game takes place on Earth, and all of its characters are technically human, just with superpowers. Each agent is from a specific country, and only one of them has no known destination.

Riot notes that in Valorant, the gameplay is still in the first place. Each character will have their own biography, and each card will reveal some important event in the world of the shooter, but in general, the plot should remain in the background here.

The developers have no plans to release PvE content or a full-fledged campaign yet, but if the audience is interested, the studio will consider this option.

In total, 8 characters were shown to journalists, although ten are planned at the start.

  • Phoenix (UK) - a dark-skinned guy in a stylish jacket who wields fire abilities (fireballs, walls of fire, rockets), and can also be reborn once after death if he uses an “ult”.
  • Jett (Korea) - a girl with high mobility, most often goes behind enemy lines, using the ability to jump high, hide her movements with the help of fog and accelerate for a short time. Her ultimate is throwing deadly spikes that require precision but can easily kill enemies.
  • Viper (USA) - a girl who wields acid. She can throw it to the ground, dealing damage to enemies, as well as creating an acid wall or an acid cloud. Her "ult" is the creation of an acid dome that damages all players entering it and highlights enemies. It's great to deploy this right at the point after the bomb has been planted.
  • Sova (Russia) - Russian scout and archer. It can launch an owl drone and a special locator arrow that highlights all enemies in line of sight (it can be quickly destroyed with a shot). His "ult" is three directed energy pulses that damage enemies and highlight their location.
  • Cypher (Morocco) - a scout who can set up a camera or find out the location of enemies by "interrogating" their dead ally (this is an "ult"). In addition, he puts stretch marks and cybercells. The former stuns and detects enemies, while the latter slows them down.
  • Brimstone (USA) - an elderly American warrior who can throw napalm, create a smoke screen and increase the rate of fire of his comrades-in-arms with a special beacon. "Ulta" - an orbital strike that is called using a mini-map.
  • Sage (China) - A medical girl who not only heals allies, but also creates inconvenience for enemies. It can erect an ice wall (melts over time and is destroyed by gunshots) or cover part of the level with a sticky substance that slows movement, disables jumping, and makes noise when enemies hit it. "Ulta" Sage - the resurrection of one ally with full health.
  • Omen (origin unknown) - can teleport over short distances and release an "ethereal shadow" that limits the view of opponents. It also creates a sphere covering the view. His “ult” is teleportation to any point on the map in the form of a shadow, the destruction of which does not mean the death of the hero himself.

Key points about monetization, platforms and launch date

  • Valorant, like League of Legends, is free-to-play. You can only buy "cosmetics" - for example, we were shown skins for weapons.
  • This is a PC game. The developers plan to experiment with gamepads and consoles, but if other platforms fail to preserve the essence of Valorant, it will not come to them. The main problem here is precisely the pixel-by-pixel accuracy of shooting.
  • This is a service game that will be launched gradually - first beta, and only then, somewhere summer 2020 release. The developers note that this is only the beginning - they are ready to develop the game for at least ten years, and the players themselves should suggest directions for development.
  • Planned release "in most countries of the world", and they include Russia.
  • Valorant is made by programmers, leads and artists of League of Legends along with veterans of CS:GO, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, Destiny and Gears of War. The project is led by Anna Donlon, who has worked for Treyarch, Beenox and Vicarious Visions.
  • The game will start via Riot's own launcher.
  • At the start, 10 characters and 5 maps are planned. Betas will differ from the release in terms of the amount of content.
  • The game will have a through progression - with tasks, skins, as well as free and paid content unlocks. It was not shown to reporters.
  • Developers are thinking about a casual game mode, but at release it will only feature hard-hitting, unforgiving tactical gameplay. Of course, Valorant will have ranked matches.
  • The game will not support mods at release..
  • They want to do the division by region only in order to collect players with minimal ping in matches. It is not yet clear how it will work.

Trailer with gameplay

For some reason, the video was posted at 30 FPS, which, of course, does not show the game in the best way, sharpened at 144 Hz or more.

Official site

With the result that

I must admit that I went to the Valorant private show with skepticism, but after showing the game, I still have by and large nothing to show her. Everything that the developers presented to us looked convincing, the shooter itself has potential, and Riot in this case looks like a company that knows what the audience wants.


High tick rate (128) and low ping, dedicated servers, pixel-by-pixel accuracy, low system requirements, readability, "easy to play, hard to master" - these are clearly the things that the audience of an esports game wants to hear.


The main image minus of Valorant, perhaps, is how much it resembles CS:GO. Riot feels like an aggressive attack on Valve's shooter, which turns eight this year and continues to break records on Steam. At the same time, Valorant does not dare to call the language a clone - only the basic things are similar in it.

The presentation of Valorant was open and geeky in a good way. The developers honestly admitted that there are many errors ahead of them, but since the release in such cases is a mere formality, they can be fixed one by one. Well, put on new ones, of course.

We have built a flexible team that will respond to the wishes of the players. If they need more cards, we will make more cards, if there are more characters, we will add them more often. We have our own hypotheses on how to support the game, and we are already developing new modes, characters and levels that will appear after launch. We just don't want to carve any of this in stone yet.

Anna Donlon
head of Valorant development

When we discussed the Riot shooter with colleagues from the Italian, they noted that Valorant really has the chances of becoming a very big game - only one map design is worthy of attention. The authors of League of Legends have both the staff, experience and money to achieve success. However, even the largest studios are not immune from strategic mistakes and leadership problems, so it's useless to guess here - it all depends on the next steps of the developers.

I can't predict what will happen to Valorant in a year or five, but the game now feels like a modernized version of CS:GO for those who are tired of CS:GO. About how Overwatch once lured away part of the audience of Team Fortress 2 and other popular shooters. And that alone sounds like a path to success, not to mention that Riot has experience with making League of Legends a global phenomenon.

In five years, we see Valorant as a shooter with millions of players, a strong fan base and an esports scene. Of course, we want it to follow the same path as League of Legends. We set ourselves ambitious, global goals.

Anna Donlon
head of Valorant development

At the press event, the developers were reluctant to talk about monetization, but did not keep anything silent about it, but simply clearly believed that this was probably the most uninteresting part of their game. All methods and all schemes have already been worked out on LoL, so the studio is focused primarily on players just trying Valorant and getting into it. With a starting price of zero rubles, this goal seems more than realistic. Why take a word when you can just try?

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