How does Valorant measure up with Volcano’s vision for an FPS?

Nick Johnson • November 27, 23:39

Valorant is a great game for its players, but its sudden jump into professional esports without any established specatating tools was strange given that a senior game designer at Valorant had previously forced Valve to implement them in Counter-Strike Global Offensive nearly eight years ago.

CSGO is an easily understandable game from a viewers perspective. At its heart, five players face off against five other in a race to be the first team to win 16 rounds. While the game clearly has more complicated elements, CSGO owes much of its popularity to its simple formula for players and a suite of tools that let skilled observers catch all of the action in esports. For that, viewers can thank Sal “Volcano” Garozzo.

Valorant is almost as easy to follow as CSGO, but it took Riot nearly four months to implement tools that allowed its observing experience to be both watchable and easy to use for its observers. That is odd, especially since the same Volcano that came up with CSGO’s X-Ray is now Valorant’s senior game designer.

Volcano outlined the best tools of observing in CSGO

In a blog post on July 21, 2012, Volcano explained the exact steps needed to make CSGO a viewer-friendly experience. Things such as team health bars, equipment, and flash timers all started in this blog. CSGO’s famous X-Ray function started here, too, alongside the ability for observers to switch between players using the number keys. Valve adopted all of Volcano’s ideas, and they’ve become standards accross the first-person shooter genre since. His suggestions now seem like obvious solutions.

“Shoutcasters do their best to capture all of the action they can with the tools they are given, but it isn’t easy at all.  Watching the large map overview is great for seeing a round unfold, but once the action is about to start, it is extremely difficult to spectate the player you would like to follow. ” Volcano said in the post.

Why didn’t his ideas make it into Valorant after release?

Most known for his work on CSGO map Cache, Volcano spent years making maps and taking apart the game of CSGO piece by piece after a having had a successful playing career of his own. Now, he’s been working at Riot Games for five years, most recently on Valorant as the one of the game’s senior game designers. While players voiced criticism about Valorant’s maps early on, everyone has now learned to play around the tight corners found in its levels. But one thing remains oddly behind the rest of the game, which is Valorant’s spectating options.

Was Valorant’s release rushed?

When Valorant launched in the summer of 2020, Riot’s beta key program drew millions of viewers to Twitch channels for the chance to participate. But as the game’s release came and went and its tournament circuit was quickly announced and started, the game lacked several important features. Heather ‘sapphiRe’ Garozzo, likely the most experienced FPS observer in history, paid attention to Valorant’s odd observing tools in a tweet directed toward these features. In addition, sapphiRe and Volcano are married, meaning that Volcano likely understood how important his tools were to professional observers.

It’s odd that Valorant’s observers have had to deal with issues such as randomly assigned number keys for players when Volcano not only wrote the book on observation tools, but is married to a person who has also played professionally and has spent what must amount to thousands of hours observing and honing the skills needed to to observe esports at the highest levels.

One man didn’t make Valorant, but Volcano’s involvement in its production combined raise questions about the game’s sudden announcement and release. Unfortunately, unless Riot decides to explain the game’s production schedule and lack of spectator tools, fans will likely be left with these questions.

The release of Riot’s esports-focused game intially lacked even a simple free-moving mode for spectators. Updates to the spectating experience have improved the game’s watchability, but the improvements don’t explain why they weren’t there in the first place. As Valorant’s tournments fill up the calendar, it’s a question worth answering. 


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