VALORANT Designer on Fracture and Pearl removal, console ports, and Breeze balances
With VALORANT's latest map Sunset landing in Episode 7 Act 2, the community has been torn with bittersweet excitement as two of the more complex and team-focused maps have made their way out of the rotation.
But there remains a lot to look forward to, and Riot Games is full of optimism that the design team has done everything right in making this current map pool the right medley.
Speaking exclusively to GGRecon, VALORANT Lead Map Designer Joe Lansford revealed why Fracture and Pearl departed, the reasoning behind the revealed Breeze tweaks, and what a map designer would have to bear in mind if console ports ever arrived.
VALORANT Lead Map Designer defends Fracture and Pearl removal: Sunset and Ascent reign supreme
While Sunset arrives, many players have voiced their concern about having many of the similarly-simple maps left in the rotation, as Fracture and Pearl make way, taking a lot of creativity away from players with different agent compositions.
But Lansford has now claimed that this decision is just to give players some time to get used to Sunset and the recently-adjusted Breeze, as well as allow the new players in China some time to settle in on the easier-to-learn landscapes.
"We had to get rid of two maps because two maps are coming in - Breeze and Sunset - but in terms of those specific choices, Fracture has been in the pool for I think over two years now and it is one of the maps that is pretty difficult for players. It's a very complex, deep map that requires a lot of coordination and it's really interesting to watch competitive play as pro players have those strategies and they're gonna bring unique team compositions and stuff," he told GGRecon.
"But when you're playing in public games and there are dude's not on comms - I got my one buddy and we're in Discord together and not coming with the rest - it can be hard to play on that map. So we wanted to give players a little break from Fracture.
With Pearl, we're looking at the rest of the pool and how the holistic pool all comes together. It didn't make as much sense to have Ascent, Pearl, and Sunset all in the pool at once, which are all two site mid-control maps. Ascent is the chosen map, right?"
It's also evident that the launch in China has played a part here too, as Lansford revealed that they didn't want to remove some more popular maps for newbies shortly after its launch.
"We just launched in China too. They have just got all of these maps, Ascend being one of them. We didn't want to pull out maps that they have just started playing on," he added.
VALORANT Lead Map Designer explains Breeze balances
Breeze does come back into rotation alongside Sunset though, and now Lansford is hopeful that it will be much more evenly balanced, rather than being quite attack-heavy.
"So with Breeze, we wanted to strip away some of the complexity of the map, especially where that mid area is really hard to control for both teams. So you'll see we kind of closed off a big portion of that and now there's like a single route that goes through mid.
Now it's a little easier to find the right place to put your utility. Similar to the approach to A, we closed off all the cave. So we have removed some of the other paths - we closed off the upper halls, letting defenders have less to worry about so they're able to avoid being spread too thin. You know, too much toast, not enough butter."
VALORANT's Lead Map Designer on future possible console ports
Overall, the map pool is now significantly diverse, with ten maps in total combining to offer a nice balance between two and three laned designs, with different levels of creativity and complexity, allowing players many different ways of playing.
"I can't confirm if any ports are in the work, but as a designer, I would love to maintain parity. So, say we have VALORANT on the Switch or VALORANT on mobile or any platform, I would love to have the same experience across the board.
That can be difficult because we're working with different controls, different control schemes, and different player needs, but I think ultimately it's going to come back to what is our core promise of VALORANT and what is the best way to deliver that. I honestly believe that that is parity."
VALORANT's map pool is now extremely balanced, with Icebox also undergoing a massive surgery procedure in the background, and it could be setting the game up for the long haul while agents are added and others tweaked.