Riot dev explains why Valorant performance optimization is not easy

Fariha Bhatti • June 10, 14:23

Following the recent update that improved the framerate by 1%, a Valorant developer has provided an insight into the complicated process behind game optimization and performance. 

Playing video games is undoubtedly easier than creating and optimizing one. There’s tons of work that goes behind managing Valorant’s assets, keyframing, and test planning, QA Manager Kevin O’ Brien revealed. In a detailed thread, the developer explained how the process keeps getting complex as the game gets older. 

Improving game performance isn’t as plain as it seems to a casual Valorant player tired of looking at the laggy screen. Performance of the game is highly correlated with CPU, which often causes large spikes during animations. The developer explained that something as minor as switching agent nades and weapon also runs through the CPU.

“How does the game task work to the CPU, what is it doing each frame, what kinds of things are constant every frame, what changes frequently? Broadly speaking, everything you do or see in the game probably has SOME CPU impact,” Kevin O’ Brien said. 

The developers have to patch up issues from the grassroots. Even if just one frame is skipping animation because your CPU is hindering it, the developer will try to remove that tick. But to do that, it needs to add a guard that verifies your client has correctly confirmed which weapon you are holding before it “sleeps” that weapon’s equip status.

Kevin O’ Brien pointed out the generic process that goes: 

  • Identify expensive subsystem 
  • Determine if there’s another way we could achieve the same result, but with fewer resources 
  • Implement the new system 
  • Test to make sure it doesn’t break functionality 
  • Remove old system and test more 
  • Release it

While this is usually the applied method, sometimes performance issues can be resolved by completely turning off a tick. However, now that Valorant has fully developed into a highly mechanical game, it has become tricky to optimize it. Adding or removing ticks isn’t as simple anymore, and the developers must analyze “what can they NOT do.”

“Now, we’re trying to squeeze the juice out of an already squeezed lime. It’s much harder to get each subsequent gain, which leaves us with a couple of options. We can look for more juice in the lime, (squeeze harder), or we can rethink how we get more juice (add more limes?),” O-Brien said. 

Managing game performance was much more accessible in 2020 when the game was released, O’ Brien explained. However, at this stage, the developers employ multithreading, which can be extremely risky as it directly relates to the central core. With an already complex optimization process, the developers have to ensure that the main thread remains unscathed while they work on multithreading. 

All in all, Kevin O’ Brien tried to explain how Valorant optimization isn’t as simple as saying “just optimize the game.” The developer clarified that generating more frames “is really hard” and hoped that players would be more tolerant and kind.

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