After being leaked by Russian YouTubers, Riot Games finally revealed Valorant’s latest agent, Astra with a release date of March 2, 2021. Valorant’s fact sheet describes her as a Ghanaian agent that “harnesses the energies of the cosmos to reshape battlefields to her while” that possesses a host of skills to back this up. In the lead up to Astra’s launch, Riot Games revealed how this new agent came to be.
“With Astra we wanted to make a controller that was thinking about the whole map,” says Jordan Anton, Designer at Riot Games of how Astra fits into Valorant’s existing class paradigm. Controllers in the game slow down the opposition with their abilities and provide tactical advantages by slicing up the game’s map.
“Her global presence was there right from the beginning,” he says. “From there the fine tuning was in finding the right abilities to balance predicting enemies’ actions and reacting to changing game circumstances. We love that Astra has a literally different perspective on the map and from that top down view starts naturally thinking about all the different ways a round could go and how to account for them.”
That said, you can expect Astra to play a bit differently from other agents in the game.
“However, you can’t always be in the driver’s seat dictating the flow of a round, so giving her some ability to react and change her plan was critical, though dangerous, as you leave your physical body vulnerable,” says Anton. “We wanted her skill expression to be about gathering information and turning that into a plan, where the execution phase is less about precisely targeting a grenade throw and more about seeing if your read on the enemy came together how you hoped.”
In addition to this, the company cites Afrofuturism as a massive source of inspiration in bringing Astra to life.
“African Futurism was a huge inspiration for us when it came to designing Astra’s thematics, once that element was brought into her development all the pieces naturally fell in place,” says John Goscicki, Producer at Riot Games. “Ascending above the map to place her ‘Stars’ is such a huge part of her kit, and there are amazing cohesive representations of African Futurism X Space that we were able to pull from. From there it was also about making sure there was enough of a real world grounded element to her personality and character design. To make sure those grounded elements were represented properly we worked with a consultant from Ghana on the details.”
This theme tied into Astra’s design as well. Particularly with her abilities such as gravity well that pulls players in an area before exploding.
“The space theme was a big inspiration for her game design, especially the gravity well,” says Anton. “We thought it would just be the perfect fit for a character who places and acts on stars. It was a fun chance to add something that felt like it wouldn’t make sense on anyone but Astra. The gameplay came together as a unique and versatile ability that gives her a different approach to situations than our other agents.”
Finally, the team at Riot shed light on the production process of bringing Astra into Valorant with Goscicki citing some challenges being “interesting”.
“Astra had some interesting ones at the end,” Goscicki says. “For a long time we were getting feedback in our DPT (Design Playtest) that she was not popping against the map good enough.”
What this meant was, players were unable to notice Astra on the map as intended, resulting those picking her having an unintended advantage. This forced Riot to revisit how the character was designed.
“This really confused us as we were applying all of the same read hierarchy tools that we used on the rest of the roster,” says Goscicki. “It turns out there was a material from something we scrapped on her, that was overriding her actual base materials, causing her to appear 2X darker at distances than intended.”
Astra will be playable in Valorant from this week and it will be interesting to see how the new agent impacts the game’s meta. Valorant itself has caught on in a large way in India what with Riot Games previously stating that it was “thrilled” with the way the game has been received in the nation.
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Valorant’s Game Changers tournaments will highlight women and marginalized people
Riot Games announced the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Game Changers program today. It’s an esports tournament initiative to supplement the competitive season by highlighting women and people of marginalized genders.
The year-long effort will help build a tour that is more representative of the diversity of the Valorant community, Riot Games said.
“Game Changers will provide tournaments and development programs for women who want to take their game beyond competitive ladder play,” the company said.
Whalen Rozelle, the senior director of esports at Riot Games, said in a statement that the tournaments and development programs will also help foster an inclusive environment for competition and create safe opportunities for women to compete without fear of identity- or gender-based harassment.
Game Changers will consist of two core competitive initiatives: the VCT Game Changers Series, and the VCT Game Changers Academy. The VCT Game Changers Series is a set of top-tier competitions that will take place around the world over 2021. These events and their prize pools will be similar in scale to last year’s Ignition Series tournaments, with the first event scheduled in late March for North American competitors and hosted by Nerd Street Gamers.
The VCT Game Changers Academy program will host monthly tournaments, giving players even more opportunities to compete at the semi-pro and grassroots level. Academy events will be organized in partnership with Galorants, one of the largest communities within Valorant.
Galorants previously helped organize the “For the Women Summer Showdown” tournament in September 2020. Both the VCT Game Changers Series and Academy will help build the next generation of leaders who aspire to succeed within the competitive Valorant community.
Valorant executive producer Anna Donlon said in a statement that competing in games can be daunting for women, resulting in a real competitive disadvantage. Riot Games is seeking to address such issues in chat, voice communication, and griefing.
At its debut in April, the free-to-play game reported 34 million hours watched in a single day. It also surpassed 1.7 million peak concurrent viewers, a record second only to Riot Games’ 2019 League of Legends World Championship Finals. Over the course of Valorant’s two-month beta testing period, an average of nearly 3 million players logged on each day to play.
Fans also watched more than 470 million hours of the 5-versus-5 tactical shooter’s closed beta streams on Twitch, the world’s leading service and community for multiplayer entertainment, and Korean video-streaming service AfreecaTV.GamesBeat GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. How will you do that? Membership includes access to:Newsletters, such as DeanBeatThe wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our eventsNetworking opportunitiesSpecial members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staffChatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our DiscordAnd maybe even a fun prize or twoIntroductions to like-minded partiesBecome a member.
Riot Games and Valorant reveal cosmic abilities of new agent Astra
Riot Games’ hero shooter is getting another new member on the roster. If you are looking at total domination of the map, then you are certainly in for a trip. Astra, the cosmic caster from Ghana, is ready to unleash her useful abilities and astral form in Valorant. From what we can tell, the abilities will give her significant control over the space around her. The characters continue to get more interesting, and I am sure the meta will be shaken up once more as well.
At this point in time, it’s still a little hard to guess how she will fit into the gameplay. However, her skill set definitely demands some attention from the veterans of Valorant.
When it comes to Astra and her abilities, the important thing to note is that she needs to place stars while in her astral form. These stars can then be activated to execute the rest of her abilities. The astral form allows Astra to float around the map without restriction and place her stars freely. The tradeoff is that her physical body will be a target for anyone.
When the right opportunity presents itself during a match of Valorant, Astra can then activate her abilities either in or outside of astral form.
As for what her stars can do, they are quite multi-functional. Her Gravity Well ability changes a star into, well, a gravity well. Players in the area will be pulled towards the center before an explosion occurs. All players trapped inside will be fragile and prime targets.
The Nova Pulse can disorient players by stunning them. The ability charges briefly before activating and concussing all players within the surrounding area. Lastly, if you are in need of some cover or just want to obscure the opponent, the Nebula ability provides good cover.
Lastly, Astra has the Cosmic Divide ultimate ability in Valorant, which allows her to connect two dots anywhere on the map. This will then form a barrier that can block bullets, vision, and even audio. It is going to be interesting to see how players utilize this powerful ability.
Astra will arrive in Valorant when Act 2 Episode 2 drops next week on March 2. Just remember not to queue dodge.