If it seems like you're not seeing map repeats as much as you used to in Valorant these days, you can take comfort in the knowledge that it's not your imagination. In a new deep dive on the challenges of "map diversity," developer Riot Games explains how it's gone about improving Valorant's map randomization, which was a bigger challenge than you might think.
"A common sentiment that we’ve seen in the past is frustration when you encounter the same map multiple games in a row," Riot's Brian Chang explained. "In a recent survey, over a third of Valorant players responded that it is 'Extremely Frustrating' to encounter the same map multiple times in a row.
"This isn’t too surprising. Playing the same map gets stale quickly, and limits the type of challenges that you face in the game. As a result, we wanted to make sure that we could improve the diversity of maps played without compromising the health of matchmaking (by influencing things like queue times or match balance)."
When Valorant originally launched, map selection was purely random: There were only four maps, and each one had a 25% chance of being chosen for a round, regardless of how often players in the match had seen it previously. That wasn't ideal, obviously—a quarter of players saw the same map three or more times during five-game stretches—and so a few months after release, Riot implemented a "pseudo-random" system that was intended to put players on maps they hadn't recently encountered.
Bolstered by the addition of more maps, the weighted system was better but still not ideal. A March survey of North American players found that 67% believe that they're "always" or "often" seeing the same map multiple times in a row.
This was "pretty alarming," according to Chang, and so developers took another run at it: Randomization is out, and Riot "opted to create a deterministic choice that always selects the map that minimizes streaks" instead. That change was rolled out in the 4.04 patch that rolled out in March, and is "the most significant improvement thus far," Chang wrote.
"The percentage of players experiencing the same map 3 times in a row has now dropped to 0.06% (1 in every 1700 or so players). What’s more is that in this week period that we looked at in competitive queue, exactly 8 of the several million players saw the same map 4 times in a row. Fun fact, 2 out of those 8 are serial queue dodgers that avoided specific maps (for the other 6, sorry about the insanely bad luck). No player saw the same map 5 or more times in a row. This was done with zero negative impact to queue times or match balance."
Riot will continue to monitor the situation but, barring some major change or unforeseen catastrophe, it sounds like this is where things will remain. "At this point, we feel relatively confident that deterministic map picks alleviate much of the pain regarding diversity in map selection," Chang wrote. "Our most recent surveys also show that sentiment improved after the changes."
Riot is rumored to be working on a new map for Valorant that should improve selection diversity even further, but as of now there's no indication about when it might go live.
There’s lots to discover under the water–it can almost feel like an entirely different world. Até logo. pic.twitter.com/U5saea5XBkMay 28, 2022
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Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.