As later maps came along, the developers introduced elements that upturned tradition. Split retained a mid lane, but angled the map such that attackers were always engaged in a literal uphill battle, with defenders perched in higher ground. Bind scrapped the idea of mid entirely. Now, instead, there were two big sites, connected by a market area through which attackers — or wily flanking defenders — could rotate, and teleporters that bound (get it?) the sites together. Haven upped the ante by adding a third site.
So on Oct. 13, when “Valorant” becomes a game with five maps, what exactly will Icebox, the fifth entry, bring to the table?
“Something that we’re really trying to do is for each map to push the game in a different, unique direction,” said Salvatore “Volcano” Garozzo, level design lead at Riot and a former professional “Counter-Strike” player. “Generally speaking, it’s that premise that comes first: Okay, let’s find this thing about the map that we want to ask players and teams to strategize around.”
The obvious, standout addition is the horizontal zip line that cuts across one of the bomb sites. But the real change, the thing players will feel even if they don’t exactly notice it, is the change in scale. There are longer sight lines. There are tighter corners, and more of them, with little pieces of cover strewn across the map. And, crucially, there are more elevated positions — shipping containers, unnameable hollow metal obelisks, overlooks and rafters — perfect for vertically-inclined agents like Jett, Omen or Raze. And as a result, the new map will test a different skill set than any of those already in rotation.
“When we set out to create Icebox, one of the things we really wanted to try to do is to create this feeling of like, I was thinking almost paintball arena,” said Garozzo. “It does end up being a bit more about adaptive play or quick aim because there’s more verticality to the spots [where] enemies can be, there’s more ways they can sneak around and have creative timings and pathing to catch you off guard.”
“Valorant,” which has been out for roughly five months now, already has a compelling esports scene, and is among the most popular games on Twitch. Its players seem to be quick learners, with conventional wisdom around strategies, gun buys and lineups for ability use already solidifying. And Riot has responded, aware of the fact that the fans want more.
“It’s a priority right now to get more maps out quickly. Icebox coming out a few months early is evidence of that,” said Garozzo. “That being said, maps are a lot of hard work and they take a lot of time. So we’re doing our best. But ideally, what we feel right now from talking to a lot of players and pro players and, you know, designers internally and the rest of the team internally, we feel like seven is a pretty sweet spot for the