Updated on July 5, 3:36 p.m. (GMT+8): Added photo.

If you’ve been playing Valorant long enough, you’ve probably heard someone say the phrase: “You don’t kill with abilities,” sarcastically.

It is a statement that had stuck around even before Valorant was released in 2020. It always surfaces when Riot Games unveils a new agent with deadly abilities.

ONE Esports had the opportunity to revisit this topic with Riot Games’ Product Manager Coleman Palm and Valorant Game Designer Kyle Powell in an exclusive interview at Masters Tokyo. Here is what they had to say.

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You don’t kill with abilities statement explained

Screenshot of Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent's tweet about Valorant where he said "you don't kill with abilities"
Screenshot by Nigel Zalamea/ONE Esports

Diehard fans of the competitive FPS genre were thrilled when Riot Games released Valorant. At the time, the new tactical shooter provided a refreshing alternative to Counter-Strike with its diverse gameplay.

While both games had their fair share of differences, the main draw for Valorant was its unique agents and their abilities. As a competitive 5v5 shooter, players wondered if Valorant’s over-the-top agent abilities would take precedence over the shooter aspect of the game.

When the game was still in early development, Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent assured FPS fans that “shooting matters.”

Laurent’s tweet from 2019, “You don’t kill with abilities,” resonated within the Valorant community, especially among players and esports pros right after they try out the game’s new agents.

Valorant devs revisit Laurent’s statement at Masters Tokyo

Chiba, Japan on JUNE 25. A view of atmosphere at VALORANT Masters Tokyo Grand Finals at Makuhari Messe on June 25, 2023 in Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Liu YiCun/Riot Games)
Credit: Riot Games

While talking to Powell about the Team Deathmatch Mode that was released in Episode 7 Act 1, he explained how the philosophy behind Valorant’s centered mode – the unrated and competitive games – 

Powell explained Riot Games’ philosophy behind Valorant’s centered mode – the unrated, competitive, and pro games, while sharing insights on the Team Deathmatch mode.

“Abilities are there to add interest and strategy and to support the gunplay,” he said.

According to Powell, when the game was still new, there were far too few abilities. As they continued to develop the game, it got to the point where there were far too many abilities. It has always been a juggling act for them to balance the effectiveness of abilities that fit well with Valorant’s gunplay.

“Not every fight is going to be a flash,” he said. “There’s not always going to be a smoke out on the map. And making sure that there weren’t enough abilities, or that there were abilities were constricted enough that it still ask the player to make meaningful choices.”

He also touched on how they look to reshape the meta.

“As far as making sure all of the abilities are balanced, I would say that the larger system is easier to balance because you have more points of comparison.”

Riot Games Product Manager Coleman Palm and Valorant Game Designer Kyle Powell at Masters Tokyo media day
Valorant Game Designer Kyle Powell on the left, Riot Games Product Manager Coleman Palm on the right.
Credit: Amanda “Tania Mae” Tan/ONE Esports

“So we actually created a generic version and definition of a lot of these abilities, and then you can make comparisons to other agents based on that definition,” he continued. “Astra, Brimstone, and Omen and all their smokes do different things, and we say to ourselves, here was the tuning value for our generic definition and how in what ways are they more or less powerful than that definition.

Breaking down each specific agent ability helps Valorant devs understand how they’re properly utilized. “There are a lot of moving parts and moving pieces and many spreadsheets that help us figure out what that looks like,” said Powell.

This wasn’t the first time Riot Games cleared up Laurent’s statement.

In 2020, Ryan “Morello” Scott, who was working as Riot Games’ Lead Character Designer at the time, retracted Laurent’s statement in a Q&A blog post.

Scott made it clear that Laurent’s statement “isn’t completely accurate — especially in a game that already had Raze and Killjoy’s gameplay locked in” before Riot Games’ CEO said abilities don’t kill.

“If this promise was the thing that made you come to try Valorant, we’re sorry if we misled you, even unintentionally,” said Morello. “But our position is, and has been, that abilities that deal damage are a core part of tactical games — whether it be Valorant or other tactical shooters.”

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