One of the most sought-after features in Valorant is an update to the matchmaking system that allows players to choose which map they will play on. But will Riot ever add this option to the game?
For converts from other team-based shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Team Fortress 2, this seems like it should be fairly obvious as these games have always allowed players the ability to queue for a specific map or to vote to move the game to a specific map. For those coming from many other popular games, this is a relatively novel concept. But should Riot Games implement this feature into Valorant?
In CSGO and Team Fortress 2, this level of flexibility in official matchmaking is basically necessary due to the games’ prominent use of unofficial servers. Maps like Dust 2 in CSGO and 2Fort in TF2 have large, dedicated player bases that almost exclusively play those maps and little else. Player-run servers can offer these maps on a 24/7 basis and Valve benefits from having these players participating in official matchmaking, making map-specific queueing a must.
That isn’t the case with many other popular online multiplayer games. In Overwatch, players queue for a rotating lineup of maps that changes seasonally.
In Apex Legends, all players queue for the same map, which is changed every few minutes. Players are aware of which map is currently active, have the choice of either playing on the map or waiting for a few minutes to play a different one.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds goes in a different direction by having different systems depending on the region’s playerbase. In regions where the game is more popular, players can pick which map to play. In smaller regions, the map changes every few minutes with all players queueing for that one map.
All of these different systems have positives and negatives and switching Valorant to something more similar to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has some good points and also some causes for concern.
If Valorant copied CSGO’s matchmaking, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. There’s certainly some appeal to the system, but there’s also a tradeoff that would happen.
First and foremost is that forcing players into playing a variety of maps encourages teamwork and prevents players from reflexively trying to simply frag out in an optimal setting for their preferred playstyle. In CSGO, wannabe star AWPers routinely go to Dust 2 so they can safely snipe people. This ultimately sees their knowledge and skills stagnate and can make for a poorer experience on the map for those who don’t spam it.
Another key difference is the sheer number of maps that are available on official matchmaking servers. CSGO’s competitive matchmaking has a total of nine different defusal maps currently available for play to go along with two hostage maps. By comparison, Valorant has just six maps in total.
The other big issue is Valorant’s player count. Unlike games on Steam, Riot does not offer trackable player count numbers. This makes it impossible to know how many players regularly play Valorant and where they’re playing from.
If Valorant’s playerbase isn’t especially large or is unevenly distributed regionally, fragmenting it further into queues for individual maps could either lengthen queue times or make it so players play a single map disproportionately often.
That isn’t to say Valorant’s matchmaking offering couldn’t be improved. The inability to queue for a new map in the days following its release is a glaring omission from the game, and something that has resulted in unnecessary toxicity and game-ruining behavior. Offering up the ability to play a new map immediately after its release should be a no-brainer, and has been done effectively in Overwatch. Valorant did take this up with the release of new map Breeze, but it’s unknown if they’ll continue to offer this feature in the future.