Riot Games’ Valorant, a multiplayer first-person shooter game for PC has grown massively since its official launch in 2020. This has been possible not only because of the gameplay but the success is also heavily reliant on the top-tier and premium cosmetics which have now become a defining characteristic for the game. It has driven the developers’ revenue and also prompted them to fund and design new characters.
Riot Games’ producer Preeti Khanolkar and Sean Marino, (Valorant’s Art Lead) were seen at the Game Developers’ Conference 2021, shared insights about the cosmetics production process behind the aesthetic, unique and breath-taking animation-intensive cosmetics seen on the game. They spoke in detail about how Riot Game has struck a perfect balance in how the resources are spent while designing them. They elaborate by taking the Reaver and the Elderflame cosmetic sets as instances.
The main motivation that drove them to develop such elaborate skins came from the company that designed League of Legends. Their flagship game had set the bar high and the developers got to the uphill task of matching and even outdoing the lavish and intricate animation skins that were seen in League of Legends. Valorant being a first-person shooter game, the developers thought to focus on the weapon skins here. It must be noted that these skins were being developed alongside several other aspects of the game. Also, they did not yet know how the players would accept the same.
The main challenge here was that attempts were being to bring inanimate object things (weapon) to life. The duo talk about the process behind bringing Elderflame Skin Set, a very expensive dragon themed cosmetic found on several guns which bring them to life. Comprising of four different guns, it allowed the developers to explore more about the skins.
They added Reaver Skin Set, which is Valorant’s first ever weapon cosmetic. Since it was the first, the team had no idea what direction to follow or even how the players would react. This was only a part of the Beta testing phase of the game and which was not officially launched. However, players demanded for it to be returned and thus, developers got together to include several improvements before relaunching it once again.
Through the process, it became clearer that these skins were something that worked in their favour. The success of these skins also gave them a reason to pitch skins development as a potential selling point. Introducing Elderflame early on set the standards high and ensured the path for other high-quality skins in the future.
Marino and Khanolkar added that for the process to be successful it is very necessary that both parties are open to criticism. It is also important as an artist that they take feedback from fellow colleagues who might approach them as a player.
‘Trust is the key to the process’,One must trust oneself, the team and above all their gut instinct.’ Their insights on the cosmetic design process for Valorant can not only help in better production design but also increase the saleability of the game.