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The design behind Split explained

by maksst 2020-06-20

Riot Games often give players insight on how they make certain things in their video games - we learned already how they’ve created weapons and designed skins. With this fashion, in their recent dev blog post, Level Design Lead Chris “Danger Boy” Carney and Senior Game Designer Salvatore “Volcano” Garrozzo discuss how they are designing maps with Split as an example of that process, how it changed during the development and why it took few years to polish this map.

The rules behind creating a map are relatively simple - VALORANT is a game where Agents, besides their abilities, are also using an arsenal of weapons, but Riot Games didn’t want to make a map that gives those conditions perfect opportunities at all times. Instead, they wanted a map to have its main original purpose. For example, while making Bind VALORANT’s team wondered “what if we remove the middle area of the map (i.e. “Mid”), which typically provides flanking opportunities on a traditional two objective map? Can we even build a map that works well with this constraint?” Answering these questions was the main goal that let them design it, that’s how the teleporters were born. With a goal like this, they try out many different things and when ideas make gameplay unpleasant, they try to answer a question - is it because of a shortcoming or will an idea like this just not work in VALORANT? On the other hand, when ideas are working well, they try their best to make them even better. Sometimes when a map enters greybox (as Chris Carney explains: “greybox is our earliest playable version of a map”), no matter how much time they spend on tweaking, it ends up just not working and is beyond salvation. Other maps, after even a few years sometimes of changing, start to work really well, and one of these maps is Split.

Riot Games
Riot Games

As we can see on the early map, Split wasn’t even taking a place in Japan - it was an Antarctica-like place, with a huge cargo ship or submarine on the side, a lot of bridges and some kind of big tower in the middle next to the river’s shore. The question of design for Split that Riot had was: “Could we create an off-site position that was essential to defending or capturing each site. To put it even more simply, could a tactical map play like King of the Hill?”. On first try, VALORANT’s team put in the middle of the map a tower that had bulletproof glass which could allow Defenders to see where Attackers are coming from. While playtesting this idea, they quickly noticed that this tower was in such a powerful place, that instead of fighting for the site, players were fighting over it instead. This is why they decided to split it into two smaller towers that would control both bomb sites. On top of that, they got rid of bulletproof glass, so Attackers could have more space to work with. They noticed that now players were taking many routes and are getting more creative, and when Attackers took control of towers it also made it easier for them to defend themselves.

While being happy with the results, the design team decided to give towers a ladder (that are now known as “ziplines”) and integrate them with bomb sites, which allowed players to jump off them directly to the point. This created a huge problem on the middle part of the map - it became way too big and had tons of very messy connections, but they were already on the right track. To get rid of that tangle of routes, they decided to split the middle area to two corridors that we know today - vents and sewers. The main purpose of the map was finished - offsite objectives that were essential for both sites were working nicely. It was time to let the Art Team finish the job.

During the development of the Split, the game itself was also consistently evolving and at the end, Riot Games decided that they want in-game locations to be inspired by real world places. It was decided that Split would take place in Japan, and since the game is taking place in the future, they wanted to show how traditional regions evolved with technology, while still just being a place where everyday citizen life takes place. Now the map had more alleys that fit with the theme of the big city and was showing off its splendor. They decided to make two different areas in this region, where B site is still a part of traditional Japanese infrastructure and A site was a more modern part of the city with the futuristic Kingdom’s R&D zone.

Riot Games
Riot Games

Big cities in video games are often visually too profuse, so it was essential to make it as easy as possible for players to navigate in. As Chris Carney explains it: “We want players executing strategies and fighting enemies rather than fighting the layout of the map.” By splitting a city into two different districts, it creates more unique points of interest, so it makes it easier for players to make a mental map of it. My bet is that this city design was also the origin of the map's name. In the end, Split was still optimized on the launch patch and Riot, like always, is happy to hear players’ feedback.

What is your favorite map? Do you like the Japanese aesthetics of Split? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Comments

Great piece! Niceee
m1nac 2020-06-20 14:24
wtf old concept looked so cool

ray 2020-06-20 20:23

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