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Published: June 14, 2021

Written by: Hannah

  • A recent patch has improved VALORANT’s performance by a single percent
  • Despite sounding small, such a fix usually requires a lot of work
  • Riot’s quality assurance manager gives insight into the developers’ approach to optimization

Riot reveals how difficult it is to optimize VALORANT. It takes grit. It takes dedication and the superhuman effort of an entire team. 

Cutting Where Possible – Not as Easy

Being Riot Game’s title, VALORANT has a high standard to reach. The company is constantly looking to make the game as appealing and issue-free as possible. The VALORANT development team released a new patch three days ago that improved performance by 1%. Even though it sounds like a small number, it took changes to abilities, equipment, and weapons. Riot’s quality assurance manager Kevin O’Brien shared some insight on the arduous process of optimizing the game.  O’Brien first pointed to the CPU.

“How does the game task work to the CPU, what is it doing each frame, what kind of things are constant every frame, what changes frequently, what causes large spikes?”

The quality assurance manager said that all this needs to first be figured out. According to him, it all then comes down to deciding what frames are unnecessary and can be skipped. Since every single happening in the game impacts the CPU, the team must carefully examine all actions, including some seemingly minor ones, as a player changing their weapon. Every frame should be carefully figured out. Otherwise, there may be a discrepancy between player action and server state

For example, removing some ticks may cause the server to not know what weapon you are holding and prevent you from shooting it. To combat this issue, the developers use a “guard” system that verifies the client’s state and what weapon a player is holding before stopping the unnecessary ticks. 

However, this system brings a whole array of potential issues. Therefore the team has to plan out and test everything carefully. 

Riot’s Way of Handling Things

Here is Riot’s flowchart on treating the game’s systems:

  • Identify subsystem
  • Determine if there’s another way the devs could achieve the same result but with fewer resources
  • Implement the new system
  • Test to make sure it doesn’t break functionality
  • Remove old system and continue testing
  • Release it

Sometimes the approach may vary. O’Brien said that if a system is too outdated, sometimes it is just turned off instead of being replaced. However, as the game becomes more and more polished, it is increasingly difficult to make such drastic decisions. Moreover, each additional performance gain requires more work, as evidenced by the recent patch. 

O’Brien described the two usual options:

“We can look for more juice in the line (squeeze harder),” he said, or “we can rethink how we get more juice (add more limes).”

O’Brien shared that usually, the developers split and try both. He added that a major issue is devising a way to push more work off the main thread and onto other cores. In the end, the quality assurance manager jokingly concluded by saying that, in short, optimizing is really hard.

Riot’s team has years of experience with making blockbuster games. Although it may take time, VALORANT will surely reach a nice and neat state where everything runs smoothly. The game is currently waiting for its mobile release. Squishing it to run on mobile will probably give the developers some additional insights on how to smooth out things. 

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