If you’ve been playing as much of Riot’s tactical FPS game as we have, you’ll be familiar with the range of Valorant weapon skins on offer to customise your loadout to your personal tastes. Following some criticism on the upcoming Endeavour skin from former Call of Duty pro Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag, though, Valorant’s associate art director Sean Marino has taken to Twitter to speak about their development process and the work that goes into making custom skins.
Nadeshot had expressed disappointment that the new skin bundle, which is part of the game’s lowest-priced “Select tier” of skins, doesn’t come with any alternate colours or special effects. For comparison, while Select skins normally cost 875 VP (~ $10 USD) per skin or 2930/3500 VP (~ $34/$41 USD) per bundle, the flashiest Ultra and Exclusive tiers can run upwards of a whopping 2475 VP (~ $30 USD) per skin or 9900 VP (~ $119 USD) per bundle.
Marino is careful to speak about both the desires of the team and the actual effort required to make some of the flashier ideas come to life in-game. Citing the magical woods-themed Gaia’s Vengeance and sleek military Protocol bundles, which do feature unique special effects, audio changes, and colour variants, Marino noted that both skin bundles were pushed back from their original release dates to ensure they hit the high standards that the team had in mind. He states that sometimes “We get a decent way into production and realise we just weren’t hitting the mark, and have to start over.”
Marino also recognises that every skin has the potential to be developed further, but that this isn’t always practical, and that tradeoffs have to be made. The team at Valorant is relatively small, Marino says, and hiring more people isn’t a simple solution to the problem. He comments that “If we poured 150% into everything, the team would burn out, the skins would take a lot longer to release, and everything would be insanely expensive. Nobody wins in that world. We sometimes do push on the things that we think will be the most meaningful for players.”
No disrespect to Riot and the design team, but I think I speak for everyone that if a bundle doesn’t come with alternate color ways and special effects, the bundle is already chalked. So much potential with this one, too. https://t.co/tadDe8gRmf
— 100T Nadeshot (@Nadeshot) March 23, 2022
Marino also discusses the number of different departments on the team who were involved in the production of a new skin, such as artists, QA, producers, engineers, marketing, strategy, audio, and others, explaining why making new skins can be a complex process and often take a lot of time to get right. He spoke to some of the ideas they had come up with in the past, such as “an alien abduction finisher for G.U.N, some cool fiery effects for Tigris, be able to pet your dragon Frenzy and have it nip at your finger” but that ultimately not every idea can make it into the final product for a multitude of reasons.
Speaking to the market for players who might want to invest in some nice-looking skins but not spend on the level of the higher-tier bundles, Riot producer Preeti Khanolkar has also stepped in to reply to Nadeshot, saying that “Hopefully this gorgeous-but-modest skin is a win for players who want an SE.” Haag responds to clarify that he was not upset at the developers, noting that “The world that your team has created through the skins & in-game customisation has been nothing short of incredible.”
Marino says that he understood why players might feel disappointed if a skin design they really like is one positioned at a lower tier with fewer features, but hoped the conversation for such topics could “turn from ‘this bundle sucks’ into ‘this skin has so much potential, but would be excellent if.’” Speaking to Kotaku, Marino adds that he welcomes the feedback, but notes that he hopes to “reinforce a conversation around constructive criticism, rather than emotional or gut-reaction criticism” and that “the delivery makes a bit of difference.”