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Valorant Devs Explain Why New Skins Take So Long

Creating in-game cosmetics is a lot more complicated than slapping on some new colors

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An image of Jett from Valorant.
Image: Riot Games

On March 23, Matthew Hagg, a professional Call of Duty player known as Nadeshot, expressed disappointment in a viral tweet that a new skin bundle for a weapon in the first-person shooter Valorant didn’t have a ton of alternate colors and special effects. He noted that the new cosmetics had “so much potential” but were ultimately “chalked,” meaning that something is “over.” Valorant developers responded explaining why releasing skins is a lot more complicated than it looks from the outside.

The Endeavor, the weapons skin bundle in question, was recently datamined by Valorleaks. It is part of the “Select Tier,” which means that it’s the least expensive type of skin that you can buy. Individual skins cost around $10, and the entire bundle costs around $34. It might sound like a lot of money until you realize that some of the most expensive Valorant skins run upwards of $30 for an individual skin. Ouch.

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Sean Marino, an associate art director on Valorant, wrote on Twitter, “Anything and everything can always be more. We have to make tradeoffs.”

“If we poured 150 percent into everything,” he added, “the team would burn out, the skins would take a lot longer to release, and everything would be insanely expensive.”

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Marino cited the forest-themed cosmetic bundle Gaia’s Vengeance as one example of a skin pack that was delayed due to extensive customization options. It had special effects, audio, and colored variants. Valorant released the Protocol bundle, which is a weapons skin pack that costs $119 for the entire collection, this January, but it was originally supposed to go live in 2021. Marino emphasized that the team prioritizes the quality of the cosmetics and that do-overs can sometimes occur during the middle of production.

“Sure we can hire more people,” Marino said, “but that doesn’t always solve the problem. There is no formula for how we make skins. It’s not just slap a camo on a gun and call it a day, or select a simple color from a wheel.”

Valorant skins producer Preeti Khanolkar also clarified that the skins team for Valorant is “small compared to other games.” But even within a “small” team, the contributors are very diverse. Marino said that the skin team consists of designers, artists, QA, producers, engineers, marketing, strategy, and audio experts, all working in tandem to produce a product. It’s little wonder that skin development can take months, if not years.

Marino told Kotaku that he wanted to “reinforce a conversation around constructive criticism, rather than emotional or gut-reaction criticism.” He welcomed specific feedback about the colors or the design theme, but felt that “the delivery makes a bit of difference.”

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Hagg doesn’t seem to be upset at the developers for the “chalked” skin bundle. He tweeted, “The world that your team has created through the skins [and] in-game customization has been nothing short of incredible, which is why people are so passionate about each bundle. I’m a fan more than anything, so I hope nothing I say is taken to heart.”