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Valorant makes you watch before you play — that's’ll change online games forever, Ars Technica

Valorant makes you watch before you play — that's’ll change online games forever, Ars Technica

      Nerf Raze, plz –


How do you weed toxicity out of a brand-new online game? Change the terms of entry.



/ Riot and Twitch have partnered for a first-of-its-kind game-test giveaway. Its success is a good sign that we’ll see this gimmick happen again — and that it’s, surprisingly, good news. Why do I keep coming back to Valorant , a new online tactical-combat game from Riot? Most of my reasons can be found in my April 8 closed-beta impressions article , in which I break down the game’s impressive twists on Counter-Strike
In that article, I briefly pointed to one unique aspect of the game’s closed beta state: how players actually get into this early test. You did not sign up for a newsletter, enter a contest, or otherwise look for digital unlock keys. No, you had to watch other people play the game before you could join in.
I want to expand on this. Restricted access to early beta tests of games has been done for years but never like this — and Riot and Twitch’s partnership is worth dissecting. Its success is a guarantee that we’ll see other games attempt this trick again. Link, watch, and pray       


                      Depending on what screen you look at, you might mistake
Valorant for a pure Counter-Strike clone. Indeed, Riot’s new shooter borrows a ton (of ideas from CS                                                                        

                      Even though the game includes special characters, each with their own unique abilities, these are tempered for slow-and-tense, (CS) – like combat, not

(Overwatch) – styled craziness. Here, we see Sora’s “slowdown” patch of ice and her wall-of-ice barrier. Both of these help this character control a given map.



                      Hiding spots abound in each of the closed beta’s four maps.                                                     

                      If you get knifed in

Interested fans started buzzing when invites began going out. Who got in? How’d they get in? Riot hasn’t clarified an answer beyond pointing to its official messaging of “sign up and watch,” but a good answer may come from understanding Twitch’s verbose tracking of viewers’ habits.

The system as implemented meant you couldn’t get a code, then turn around and sell it on eBay.

Here’s an example: Twitch has built-in bandwidth-limiting measures that automatically toggle if you leave a stream open in an inactive tab. You can test this out yourself by opening someone’s gameplay stream, then switching to a different tab for a few minutes. Come back to it, and you’ll see a few seconds of grainier video resolution and compressed audio, which will hitch over with a one-second jump in time once the resolution and audio quality catch up. And it’s not hard for Twitch to further measure user engagement, whether because you haven’t moved your mouse in a while or because you’ve left a feed muted.
As interested players watched other fans claim invites, they started whispering to each other about Twitch’s all-seeing eye. Don’t mute your feed. Don’t set-and-forget. Make sure you’re watching a stream with the official “DROPS ENABLED” tag, which Twitch makes easy to confirm. These techniques seemed more effective in eliciting invites than those who opened dozens of browser windows, each dedicated to a different streamer.

Additionally, Riot could choose to prioritize “legitimate” Riot and Twitch accounts — maybe with certain gaming habits or at least those older than 150 days — instead of rewarding anyone who created dummy accounts the instant the closed beta’s unique gating was announced. Neither Twitch nor Riot has confirmed anything of the sort. But the system as implemented meant you couldn’t just sign up, get a code, and then turn around and sell it on eBay. (This did stop people from trying to auction their combined Twitch and Riot accounts for beaucoup bucks, which Riot quickly squashed .

The online-shooter version of basic training

So what, you might ask? Maybe you think watching someone play an unreleased game for a certain amount of time isn’t worth the trouble. Or maybe you hate the idea of ​​giving two cross-linked accounts permission to track whether you’re paying attention. Fair enough.

For those who bothered with this song and dance, however, the results were something fascinating: a self-selecting pool of interested , studied players. They wanted to play. They watched someone else play for at least an hour or so. They saw the game through someone else’s eyes, complete with their commentary, their tactics, and their callouts of crucial in-game elements.

I’ve gone to game conventions where players wait in lines, watch an “orientation” video about in-game tactics, then play a demo match, and it’s always a mess. And I’ve landed in cold-turkey beta tests where the average player pool is a soup of clueless participants, picked clean by the exceptions — an issue exacerbated by unfinished games’ matchmaking systems, which can’t divide players into skill-level tiers .
This crucial, subtle distinction is more organically revealed by watching savvier (Valorant) (players.)
But I’ve never landed in something like Valorant s closed beta . As a member of the press, I was fast-forwarded into the queue after watching an hour of other streamers’ play, where I had only mildly picked up on the game’s characters and their respective intricacies. To review what I talked about in my prior article
: Valorant (is by and large a) Counter-Strike clone, even though its chatty, stylish characters look like something out of Blizzard’s

Overwatch . In
Overwatch , players must choose characters with very specific weapons and their own unique, constantly recharging superpowers.
Valorant ‘s characters all move the same and have access to the same weapons, while their special abilities are more subdued than (Overwatch and, with a few exceptions, don’t get “recharged” until a given two-minute round of combat ends.
Notice how clunky that description is? But it’s both subtle and crucial — not to mention
much more organically revealed by watching savvier Valorant players learn the ropes. An example: the character Phoenix has a special flashbang grenade, the kind I might have “bought” between rounds in Counter-Strike , but in (Valorant) , he’s the only one who can do that. Phoenix also has a “throw a grenade that explodes into an Area of ​​Effect (AoE) patch of damage” ability, which isn’t unique (though each AoE ability in the game is somewhat different).       



    – like vibes are strong with this character gallery, but trust us, the results are quite different from Blizzard’s game. You’ve already seen Brimstone’s smoke-screen ability in the gallery above this one.                                                                                                        Riot Games                                                      

                          Jett emphasizes mobility, and in a game whose default movement speed is quite slow, her movement-focused suite shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.                                                     

                          Phoenix mostly throws fire around, either to block sight lines or create AoE damage, but his “run it back” super is killer. You get a limited-time meter to rush into an enemy position and freely attack. If you die during this rush, you come back to life at your original position.                                                     

                          Raze is all about the boom, and that means her super is a noob tube. You know, a rocket launcher.                                                     

                          You’ll need a Sova on your squad, owing to his Recon Bolt’s power to expose your foes’ opening strategies.                                                     
                          Walls, slow-down orbs, and healing powers: Sage is the Overwatch – iest character in Valorant , but that does not mean she stinks.                                                     

                          Want to ensure no wall seems safe to your foes? Then add Breach to your team.                                                     

                          Cypher expands your eyeballs all over a given map and makes him an intriguing alternative to Sova’s powers.                                                     

                          You’ll need strong teamwork to set up Omen’s sneaky abilities.                                                     

                          Control the map with Viper’s range of poison-cloud powers.                                                     
    That leads to a big series of questions for a game with ten characters at launch: what’s unique about each character, and what’s shared? How should a prospective squad maximize its spread of unique abilities before a beefy, “best of 41 “match begins? That’s a crap-ton of meta to mind for a brand-new game. And yet my earliest squadmates came into the closed beta already wise to the unique characters, along with so much more: how recoil factors into combat; the myriad paths you can take to each “arm a bomb” map route; how only certain characters can reach tricky hiding spots, which makes up for their otherwise ho-hum abilities; and on and on and on.

    Plus, my earliest squadmates had watched enough Valorant gameplay streams to appreciate its emphasis on quick-reaction voice chat. Yet they were also so appreciative of the game’s early state that they all came into my matches with an understanding: we’re going to do our best . We’re all learning here. The ultra-competitive shout-and-teabag bravado I’m used to after years of these kinds of games was replaced with earnestness, collaboration, and lots of “nt” and “gt” in chat (meaning, nice try, good try) .

    This is the chatter I keep hearing, over and over, from people who’ve participated in the closed beta. “Everyone I played with was pumped.” “I actually had a good experience with randos in an online shooter.” The exclamations come with equal parts shock and relief. They’re losing their

    Edge Valorant , as a result, has established a solid reputation with only one week of formal closed-beta existence. The game’s combined viewership numbers on Twitch consistently hover at the 1 million mark, and whether that’s inflated by people desperate to get into a free test or not, it’s still above the , 0-ish combined viewers reached by other games during the same stretch. , a five-on-five team shooter where players must juggle a large, slow spaceship and an RTS-like system of additional troops, whose first closed beta connected earlier this year . While Disintegration
    and (Bleeding Edge) wildly differ in gameplay, their earliest tests both started the same way: with an overlong mechanical tutorial that in no way teaches the nuts and bolts of these games’ most interesting issues as a live product. Which character should you pick, and why? How should you and your teammates move through a map? What attack types should you expect from either your teammates or foes? What benefits do you get from teaming up with another player or by carefully spreading yourselves out on a map? Landing in both closed beta tests’ matchmaking pools ended the same way: getting my ass kicked with zero useful communication from squadmates and no sense of how to explore or study a map to get better. Valorant ‘s hours of live-streamed content do a much better job of teaching these particularly sticky points, and the excitement of “it’s limited, and I have to tune in to join” is a pretty valuable carrot-dangle to hang in front of interested players before they figure into the “how good is this game” equation. That carrot is valuable stuff, because a multiplayer game isn’t measured by how well its tutorial teaches button prompts and “how to jump and dash.” We’re reviewing the part where the other humans show up and compete. Millions of viewers did not leave — for a reason Disintegration has since gone back into the shadows of pre-release development, and it may very well have a shot at cleverly training players before it sees a retail launch (especially since its take on five-on-five combat is unique and full of giant spaceships that go boom). Bleeding Edge , meanwhile, limped into formal retail existence with great ideas and a scant number of players — or viewers — jumping into them, in spite of the game being wholly free as part of Xbox Game Pass. I don’t think we’ll see a major multiplayer-focused game make the same mistake again. Only so many series can guarantee a built-in audience for their online launches (like Call of Duty , which successfully launched

  • its (Warzone) variant as a surprise
  • last month). Riot, to its credit, enjoyed the built-in curiosity of onlookers wondering whether the League of Legends Creators could pivot to another “hardcore” gaming genre.

    But no matter how well Riot is known, nobody in any way assumed Riot had a slum-dunk on its hands. They couldn’t simply buy their way to this level of acclaim. People tuned in with hopes of keys, but if Valorant looked like trash, that million-plus viewer count could have logged out of Twitch within minutes and found roughly 4, 06 0 other games to play. (Its stickiness as a watchable game has to be useful to Riot, after all — the company will likely handle
    Valorant ‘s future esports push in-house, just like it has done for (LoL) ) So get ready for it: more game reveals that link tightly to streaming platforms; that require stricter confirmations (account age, number of hours of stream viewing) to enter betas; and that crowdsource the online-gaming tutorial process. And from what I can tell, get ready for all of this to be a good thing for future online video games.                                                    
    (Read More)
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