Valorant developers reveal the truth behind agent designs

Olivia R. August 21, 2020

Not everyone is happy about the addition of Killjoy. A lot of Valorant players feel like she lives up to her name thanks to an overpowered flame attack. She was also banned from upcoming Valorant tournaments because developers felt she isn't "stable" quite yet. 

But this is all part of the process of designing new agents, according to lead character designer Ryan "Morello" Scott. In a new Dev Diaries video, Morello opened up about what it takes to design new agents like Rena and Killjoy. 

The first thing developers do is focus on a mindset Morello called "extreme intentionality," which means they try to have a deep understanding of what they are trying to make and what it will look like before they sit down and start making it. 

Developers attempt to identify player needs. They ask themselves, who will want to play this particular agent, and why? 

"Reyna was an example of a really clear player type," Morello explained. "She's for players who want high frags, who value combat dueling, and who are making the commitment that they will be the top fragger on the team." 

Once they have a vision in mind, Morello said that they will "make it come to life" by focusing on the agent's gameplay and their impact on the roster. They don't want a new character to just be "fun to play" for certain people. They also want them to add something new to the game, whether it be a challenge to fight against them or new team composition opportunities. 

"It's not enough to be a cool new piece of content or be fun. Player experience does matter, but the health of the competitive ecosystem matters more," Morello stated. 

Reyna is grounded and balanced with the addition of her passive, Leer. This gives her some "angle value" so that she doesn't become such a simplistic agent that she's "never used at all." 

Killjoy is another example of this, he continued. She is about "hunkering down" with her turrets and traps, unlike other agents with similar abilities. She is "two threats at once" because she doesn't just want to stall. Killjoy wants to kill attackers that fall into her traps. This creates a new challenge for players who now have to "walk on eggshells" to avoid making a mistake that results in Killjoy eliminating them. 

Killjoy Valorant design

Valorant developers address hate for Killjoy

Morello also addressed how adding new characters often leads to some anger or frustration in the community. But that's actually expected. 

"People who really like playing Sage for defense or support probably aren't super thrilled about Reyna," Morello said, "and that's okay. Sometimes that's even a success." 

That's because it's all about adding a new gameplay style or strategy for players to utilize. Not every player will like that new style. But Morello also noted that they do have "tuning levers available" for when an agent is "OP or butt-tier." They want to have some options available without having to change the character's entire identity. 

So even though Killjoy is not quite balanced right now, that doesn't mean she will come back from a patch with entirely new abilities. Morello noted that a new agent will always be a bit disruptive, leading to some complaints or frustration. 

"It will add something to the game and be meaningful. It's better to have frustration or a learning curve then, 'Why did you add this thing at all?' We want it to feel spicy or inappropriate in another tactical shooter. It's not about doing something cool. It's about allowing new strategies and possibilities or the game," Morello said. 

He then promised that Valorant developers are always "listening" and "adjusting." 

"I hope we will be doing this for a really long time," Morello concluded. "Today is just the start, not even close to the end."