Explaining the hit registration and latency problems in Valorant

Nick J. June 25, 2020

While the release of Valorant's ranked mode excited the game's many players, some major issues with the game's basic functionality have slowed that excitement.

A video recently shared on social media showcased a number of issues that Riot Games’ Valorant seems to be having with its hit registration. The problem seems to stem from how its models line up with their virtual representations in the game. The video shows numerous examples of the player hitting an enemy in the head and seeing the telltale blood spray, but ultimately failing to confirm the kill and then dying. Unfortunately for the player, many times the enemy would kill them outright even though Valorant’s damage breakdown would show numbers that didn’t line up with what players are actually seeing in-game.

This isn't a new bug, either. Early in Valorant’s beta period, a video surfaced showing that the Valorant agent's head hitboxes were actually much larger than their models implied. So while it seems as though Riot has fixed the actual size of the head hitboxes, it also seems like shots are still registering as headshots graphically, even if not in reality.

Valorant headshot may not register properly

In Valorant's case, the hitbox showing the telltale blood splatter that indicates a headshot is still the same size as the old models, even though the actual size of the head hitbox has changed. That would explain why players are sometimes able to see the effects of landing headshots even if they miss.

Here's a Reddit post detailing just how large Jett's headshot box used to be before Riot Games stepped came in and trimmed it down.

There's another reason why players may be seeing the headshot splatter but not actually getting a headshot. Early in the beta, one player offered a visualization of Raze's hitbox. Shown below, players should notice that there's actually another hitbox, colored in purple, that covers Raze's chin and neck. Shots there might not register as headshots, especially around the neck, but might still produce the headshot splatter effect.

While most of the examples in the more recent video are probably due to the hitbox graphical bug, there is more at work here than just a simple hitbox problem. The effect has several parts to it, specifically related to how an agent's hitbox shifts when they crouch. Valve's first-person shooter, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, has dealt with similar problems over the years simply because of the way online games work.

Due to the way latency affects first-person shooters, the server is always slightly behind in processing and sending out a player's actions to other users around them. This means that while a player might be shooting at an enemy's head on their screen, that player may have already ducked. This means that which player's information the server processes first can determine the outcome of the kill.

Valorant sees interp issues even with 128-tick servers

Even with Valorant's 128-tick servers, there's no way to combat latency outside of one neat little trick called interpolation. Game makers use this to smoothen or predict a player's movements. Sometimes called "interp," this feature works well most of the time to cover up the small stutters that all players will have due to their connections. Even with a ping as low as 30ms, interpolation smooths out player movement subtly enough that it's rarely an issue. But it can sometimes lead to unregistered shots. While the game shows the player an enemy's predicted path though interpolation, it still relies on the server to tell the game client whether they actually scored a hit or not.

That's why players with high pings sometimes have an advantage. Their client is so slow to send data to the server that they get the player's position on their screen first and can counter that movement, shoot, and score the kill.

This results in the famous "running one tap" phenomenon. Rarely does a player actually hit a legitimate shot like this. In reality, the server didn't receive the enemy's new position fast enough to get it to the player in time to show the enemy on their screen. All of this happens in less than a second.

With so many players switching to Valorant, there are bound to be bumps in the road for Riot's new shooter.