Valorant's (troubled) history of balancing moving accuracy

By Carver FisherFebruary 12, 2021
Valorant's (troubled) history of balancing moving accuracy
Since Valorant’s closed beta, players have noticed how accurate you can be while moving. At the beginning of Valorant’s history, this was just a normal part of the game. Was being the word of note there, as the ability to jump around a corner and 1-shot someone with a shotgun has been drastically nerfed since Valorant’s first public build. This sort of aggressive play can be frustrating to play against in a tactical shooter like Valorant, so Riot’s balance team have spent the better part of a year trying to eliminate moving accuracy in order to reward players that have control of their movement. The most recent patch as of this article’s writing, patch 2.02, contains a nerf to every rifle’s accuracy while running and walking.
However, there’s a deeper problem beneath all of Riot’s balance changes that lies within a core part of Valorant’s design. Jumping and shooting has been nerfed out of viability, even on shotguns. Shots can still land, but the accuracy is iffy at best. Running and shooting is a different story entirely. The origin of this problem dates all the way back to an accuracy change within Valorant patch 0.50, a patch from May 2020. The changes read as follows:
  • You will no longer enter the “walking accuracy” state when transitioning from run to stop
  • We noticed many players were entering a walking accuracy state during their run-to-stop transition that made it appear as if shots they fired/landed were done at full speed
  • Deadzone accuracy speed threshold increased: 25% >> 30%
  • Now that you can’t gain walk accuracy while transitioning from a run to a stop, we’ve also slightly increased the size of the deadzone (full accuracy state) to make it a bit easier to get an accurate shot out quickly
Before this patch early in Valorant’s history, the very best players were taking advantage of a mechanic called counter-strafing. Counter-strafing is achieved by moving opposite the direction you’re currently running. So, if you’re strafing left by holding A, then you’d quickly tap D to walk right and immediately cancel your movement. This is how it works in Counter Strike, which made the mechanic very familiar for CS players migrating over to learn Valorant. That is, until patch 0.50 removed counter-strafing.
This patch’s relevancy lies in what happens after you stop moving. The transition from run to stop doesn’t give full accuracy, but walking after you’ve stopped does. The 30% deadzone means that, as long as you’re moving at under 30% of the maximum velocity, you’ll be able to land accurate shots. This is where the problem lies: When players decide to change direction during a full sprint, there’s a brief window where their shot has the same accuracy it would if they were to stand still. Walking also maintains the first shot accuracy most rifles have, whereas running doesn’t. Valorant’s high walking accuracy combined with exploiting the deadzone is why it’s possible to get one-tapped by an enemy that’s moving. In fact, taking advantage of the deadzone by swapping directions can be more accurate than walking in a straight line.
Vandal tested at 10 meters.
Vandal tested at 10 meters.
The first three make sense, right? Running is wildly inaccurate, walking isn’t terrible, and standing still gives the most accuracy. However, alternating A and D to move within the deadzone allows you to move and maintain the kind of accuracy you’d get from standing still. That accuracy gets replicated when you run one direction, stop, and then start moving again. It’s a small window, but it’s there. For those thinking that the recent rifle nerfs might affect these spreads, these are taken from patch 2.02 with the Vandal after all the Rifles got their moving accuracy nerfed. Riot’s most recent patch definitely didn’t fix the problem.
The most difficult thing here is that there’s no easy fix. There is a clear path to raising the skill ceiling by reverting the game all the way back to how it was in early days of closed beta, but that would make Valorant much more difficult to learn. Maybe reducing the size of the dead one would work? Or reducing first shot accuracy while walking? Any change that could immediately rectify this issue comes with the caveat that it would entirely change how Valorant’s gunplay feels. Riot has a tough path ahead if they want to reduce how easily exploitable Valorant’s deadzone is while keeping the game accessible to new/casual players.
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