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How Riot Games made Valorant a leading tactical shooter

Valorant agents

In just a short period of time, Riot Games has managed to build its first-person shooter Valorant into a title capable of competing with some of the world’s biggest games.

That first-person shooter is Valorant, an FPS that blends tactical shooting concepts inspired by games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with hero ability action similar to that seen in Overwatch. The result is a unique take on the first-person shooting genre that has found an immediate audience and supports an active competitive esports scene.

Valorant’s original release date

Valorant’s initial release date was June 2, 2020. The game was an immediate success upon launch, with millions of players worldwide downloading the new title upon release.

While Valorant has still only been live for a relatively short period of time compared to its chief competitors, its early development goes all the way back to 2014 when developer Riot Games first began researching early possibilities for the title.

Once it was decided that Valorant would be a new area of focus for Riot, multiple outside hires were made to bring in designers with experience building successful first-person shooters. Most notably, Riot hired former Counter-Strike professional player and map designer Salvatore “volcano” Garazoo, as well as former Valve developer Moby Franke.

Combined with existing Riot Games developers, these new additions helped to shape the new first-person shooter and mold it into the game that it would become.

How many agents are in Valorant?

Valorant features more than 20 agents, and the roster of agents in the game grows every year. Each new addition to the agent roster brings with it new abilities that add complexity to the game.

Valorant sets itself apart from most other tactical shooters by giving each of its unique agent characters a set of abilities that no other agent can use. These abilities can influence the game in a variety of ways, ranging from dealing extra damage to opposing players to probing the game’s map for information on enemy locations.

These abilities make a big difference. While most tactical shooters feature a selection of armaments that can for the most part be chosen by either competing team, Valorant’s unique agent abilities can make each game feel very different depending on which agents are picked.

Even so, abilities are not quite as impactful as in a game like Overwatch. Riot has attempted to strike a balance between precise shooting and careful ability usage in Valorant.

How to download Valorant

Players can download Valorant by simply visiting the game’s official website.

Interested players need only visit the official Valorant download page to download and install the game. Like other Riot Games titles, Valorant is run through the official Riot Games launcher, which works similar to prominent game launchers such as Valve’s Steam launcher and Activision-Blizzard’s Battle.net.

Valorant’s updates are served through the Riot Games launcher automatically, and must be downloaded upon release in order to continue playing the game.

The size of the installer download file isn’t overly large, though it does require some free space to be made available. The Valorant download may be as large as 20 GB.

valorant kay/o

Is Valorant free to play?

Valorant is free to play for all players. It follows the model Riot Games previously established with the successful MOBA League of Legends, another free-to-play game.

The free-to-play model encourages players to download and play the game, and if they enjoy it, to spend money on optional features such as cosmetic items. In Valorant, these cosmetics tend to be based around the game’s broad variety of armaments. Gun and knife skins are popular, as are other additions unique to the game.

While Valorant is indeed free to play, its weapon skins can be very expensive. Some players blanched at initial prices when cosmetics were first rolled out in Valorant. There are occasional sales that make it easier to acquire weapon cosmetics at a lower price, but players should expect to spend a good amount of money if they want some of the rarer and more visually striking Valorant skins and cosmetics.

How many players does Valorant have?

Valorant has over 10 million active players, as of November 2023, per tracker.gg.

That number often fluctuates, and can reach as high as 20 million players in particularly active seasons of play. On average, there are over 800,00 active players daily.

How does the Riot Vanguard anti-cheat work?

Valorant does have anti-cheat, and it’s one of the more robust anti-cheat systems among popular first-person shooters.

Valorant’s anti-cheat is called Riot Vanguard, and is a proprietary anti-cheated developed in-house by Riot Games. Vanguard must be downloaded in order to play Valorant online.

Vanguard works in part by running as a background process at all times. This means if a player has the game installed on their computer, they must allow Vanguard to run on their computer in the background. This constant processing allows Vanguard to check on programs being run by players and to ensure that they are not using any cheats.

What is the best Valorant stat tracker?

The best Valorant tracker is arguably tracker.gg, which is also used by the official Valorant discord as well.

Stat trackers like tracker.gg are important for players who want to improve their skills by analyzing actual data. It’s also a great hub to get a sense of what the meta is looking like.

For example, if there are seemingly a lot of Omen players running around, one can check the tracker to see how commonly used the agent actually is and how popular they are at different levels of play. This allows players to get an accurate, unbiased read on the overall state of the game and get an idea about what they might want to change in their own play.

What are the best crosshairs in Valorant?

There are many different crosshairs out there and it really boils down to personal preference. The website vcrdb.net  has a large repository of crosshairs for players to use. 

Players are strongly encouraged to change their crosshairs, however. The standard Valorant crosshair isn’t particularly great, so every player should find one that fits their preferred style, sensibilities, and possible visual impairments.

Here are some sample crosshairs that are commonly used alongside a crosshair code that lets them get loaded into the game:

dot crosshair

The dot

Crosshair code: 0;P;c;4;h;0;0b;0;1t;3;1o;0;1a;1;1m;0;1f;0

All major first-person shooters have a chunk of top players and streamers who use this style of crosshair. It’s just a simple, static dot with a coloration or border that makes it easy to spot on any map. 

crosshair

The small cross

Crosshair code 0;P;c;4;h;0;f;0;0l;5;0o;0;0a;1;0f;0;1b;0

The “cross” in crosshairs remains with this one, but retains the dot’s low visual profile and the static display. This is also commonly used by FPS pros, streamers, and other top players in and out of Valorant. 

Small cross with hollow center

Crosshair code: 0;P;c;4;h;0;0b;0;1l;4;1o;2;1a;1;1m;0;1f;0

This maintains the small, cross-shaped crosshair but removes the center. This gives a small window to players that may allow them to better discern enemy players from props in long-range situations.

Spaced-out cross

Crosshair code: 0;P;c;4;h;0;0l;5;0o;4;0a;1;1t;3;1l;0;1o;14;1a;0.34

While most crosshairs are designed for players to be able to maximize their ability to hit long-range headshots or amazing flicks, not all guns are meant for that. For short and mid-range weapons, a crosshair that frames opponents’ heads may be better for some players.

Best Valorant settings

Valorant settings that are uniformly low or medium are best in most cases, maximizing FPS and cutting out possible performance issues.

Although the game’s performance varies significantly based on the hardware being used, here’s a standardized array of settings that will work well on most platforms:

  • Multithreaded Rendering – ON
  • Material Quality – MED/LOW
  • Texture Quality – MED/LOW
  • Detail Quality – MED/LOW
  • UI Quality – MED/LOW
  • Vignette – OFF
  • VSYNC – OFF
  • Anti-Aliasing – MSAA4x
  • Anisotropic Filtering – 4x
  • Improve Clarity – OFF
  • Bloom – ON
  • Distortion – OFF
  • First Person Shadows – OFF
  • Show Corpses – OFF
  • Enemy Highlight Color – Yellow
  • Keep Player Centered
  • Don’t Auto-Equip Melee

For competitive play on a not-so-powerful PC, it’s best to set all visual options to low to reduce clutter and improve performance. A 144hz monitor and a mouse capable of high DPI are also highly recommended for the fastest performance. 

How does the battle pass work?

The Valorant battle pass system rewards players with XP and unlockable cosmetics.

There is no “pay-to-win” aspect to the battle pass, it is all purely cosmetic rewards. The battle pass system has 10 chapters and each completed chapter nets the player certain items that allow them to customize their weapon skins or profile.

Purchasing the battle pass grants exclusive access to premium cosmetics not available to those on the free path. Though there are free rewards available, players get more rewards for their progression by paying for the premium battle pass.

How do I get skins in Valorant?

Skins in Valorant are obtainable through normal gameplay or by purchasing them from the Valorant store

Agent contracts and completing tiers in the Battle Pass are the most reliable ways to obtain skins in normal gameplay. Beyond that, players need to purchase skins. All of the most noticeable and elaborate weapon skins come with a price tag and have no other way to get them. Paid weapon skins vary wildly in price, with sets like the Sentinels of Light 2.0 bundle costing upwards of $90 worth of in-game currency.

Unlike other titles from Riot Games and other hero shooters like Overwatch 2 and Apex Legends, there are no skins for agents in Valorant. Given the massive success that these types of skins have had in other games, it’s certainly possible that they will be added at some point.

What is the VCT?

VCT stands for Valorant Champions Tour, which is the preeminent global esports tournament series for the game Valorant.

It was established to provide a structured and competitive environment for professional Valorant players and teams. As with League of Legends, this system is directly handled by Riot Games.

The VCT has been a source of both joy and controversy. The competitive scene has attracted both elite talent like Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker as well as notable players who have fallen through the cracks of other FPS titles like Joshua “steel” Nissan.

The interests of pro players and casuals don’t consistently line up, however. This has seen some relatively innocuous changes like an audible warning of smoke grenades dissipating,  become a flashpoint among pro players.

evil geniuses valorant team at vct champions 2023
Evil Geniuses after winning Valorant Champions 2023

What’s the difference between RR and MMR?

RR and MMR are two different statistics that influence how players are handled by Valorant’s matchmaking system.

RR is an acronym for “rank rating.” There are nine divisions that the player can be in:

  • Iron
  • Bronze
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Diamond
  • Ascendant
  • Immortal
  • Radiant 

Each of the first eight ranks has three tiers that must be passed to achieve the next rank. For particularly skilled players, they can skip ranks entirely. However, poor play will result in a rank demotion. 

There’s no rank decay in Valorant for players who stop playing the game for a time. Even after a long break, rank remains the same. However, long absences will have the player undergo a placement game to see if they still belong at that rank.

Meanwhile, MMR stands for matchmaking rating. Unlike RR, there is no visual indicator for a player’s MMR.

In the simplest terms, RR is the visual indicator of a player’s current skill level, while MMR is what determines which rank they will attain next. MMR is particularly important for matchmaking players to others at a similar skill level and is most directly used in unranked matches and game modes. It’s a metric that ensures players are matched with players they can actually have fair games with.

Is Valorant available on consoles?

Valorant is only playable on Windows PC.

Riot Games has traditionally ignored consoles and it seems like Valorant is no different. Though there are many hero shooters available on consoles ranging from Overwatch 2 to Apex Legends, Riot has opted against porting the game in a timely fashion.

reyna valorant mobile MVP
Valorant Mobile MVP screen

A mobile port of Valorant is in the works for Android and iOS. A closed beta was held in select markets in 2023, which resulted in game footage spreading across social media. It is unknown when the game will be officially released.

Author image

Written by Jared Wynne

Jared Wynne has been covering gaming and esports for the past two decades. He's a former competitor in Counter-Strike, and still counts it among his favorite games along with RPGs like Baldur's Gate and Mass Effect. He studied journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

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