In a land where aim is holy and auto-firing turrets are evil

18:00, 28 Jul 2020

When the new abilities of the 12th VALORANT agent Killjoy leaked, we didn’t have to wait long for sizzling hot takes on the underlying mechanics of her abilities to pop up on the timeline. 

The initial reaction of a specific group of pro players immediately focused on the ability “Turret”. Riot Games had erroneously put the agent’s webpage with the following description up before it was taken down:

 Sometimes it’s good to plant some roots. Deploy a turret that fires at enemies within its 180-degree cone. Hold equip to recall the deployed turret.

An auto-aiming turret had made it to another competitive shooter and the zealots of pure skill church called it blasphemy.

Lucas "Mendokusaii" Håkansson, former Overwatch League player for the Houston Outlaws, and now professional player and streamer in several FPS titles for Team Liquid, shared the following: “Valorant accidentally released next years April Fools joke designed to target specifically me so I have to relive the horrors from Overwatch of walking around a corner and being shot by a torb turret from behind when I’m mid duel with another player.”

In his tweet, Mendo refers to the Overwatch hero Torbjörn, a playable character with an engineering theme that has gone through several iterations of his kit, always sporting some version of an auto-targeting and firing turret. Fellow ex-Overwatch League pro Timo "Taimou" Kettunen shared his frustration. 

A sense of good ol’ memery swings with both of those messages and it’s not intended to imply that either of these gentlemen would start a holy war over them. That said, at least an allyship to FPS purism is noticeable in these tweets, as well as the consistent identities that both of these players have portrayed towards the public - and we love them for it. 

It bears pointing out that we’ve not received key specifics for the ability such as how much health points the turret has, how long it lasts and how much damage it deals. While most would agree that these values would weigh heavily in the evaluation of how strong this ability will turn out to be, you’d be misunderstanding this group of players if those aspects mattered to them. Killjoy to them is a killj… Right, let’s not.

To illuminate this line of thinking, we have to go back to the first principles that these idealists have in common. As with any core belief system, they share premises or axioms that don’t necessarily find their grounding in pure logical juice (because they can’t), but in things that feel right. While their points may seem elitist and idealist, the best of them have clearly defined lines in the sand and will simply avoid games in which they know they won’t find mechanics that scratch the itch of their desires. 

To them, the core assumption is that in an FPS game, aim based duels or abilities with a high mechanical ceiling are the gold standard of competition. They didn’t flock and attach their careers to just any FPS title, but made a choice based on the design vision Riot sold. In the defence of the zealots, the expectations set for VALORANT by Riot Games themselves justify a feeling of betrayal.

At the very least for the agent Raze, we can question the validity of those claims made by Riot Games’ CEO Nicolo Laurent and whether or not we’ve long passed the outlined vision. Killjoy on top of Raze is not merely another design decision but communicates a trend which future agents, trickling in at a solid rate of two a month, may look like. 

Highly skilled players and specifically gifted aimers like Taimou and Mendo represent a line of thinking that is as old as professional gaming. Being vocal about their intentions to uphold idealist design standards, they push back against the simplification and erosion of core FPS mechanics and may be argued to provide a valuable counter-balance that is paramount for an esports to uphold its competitive integrity. 

The opposing notion of trying to make all kinds of skillsets (such as strategical use and placement of the turret in Killjoy’s case) have an equal impact is generally speaking a valuable one, the pushback could be argued to challenge game developers to think of solutions that satisfy all parts of the community. 

In the end, the player base will vote with their attention given towards VALORANT and if they deem the game to be more fun with blasphemous low skill abilities, the zealots of pure skill church might have to move to the next game. In Quake they trust, amen.

Images via Riot Games

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