Peeker’s advantage is clearly something Riot took into consideration when developing VALORANT. But eliminating it for good is one tall task.
Riot released a competitive ruling earlier this week that fined 100 Thieves $5,000 for delaying their VCT NA Masters match against Immortals. The team disagreed with the server that tournament officials selected, believing it would give their opponents lower ping and an unfair edge.
Though they eventually played the match out and won, the dispute sparked a community conversation regarding the relationship between ping and peeker's advantage.
So how much does ping affect peeker's advantage in VALORANT?
What is peeker's advantage?
From the game's 128-tick servers and the Riot Direct internet backbone to an optimized 60 FPS client for "most machines," a lot of investment went into supporting competitive integrity in VALORANT. But it's impossible to completely nullify peeker's advantage.
In its simplest form, peeker's advantage gives the player peeking around a corner an edge over the player holding the angle in networked gameplay. Riot takes it a step further in a lengthy article from July 2020, explaining that it's the "relationship between the peeker’s reaction time and the maximum time for the holder to react before they’re killed."
Due to several variables (movement input, game server, framerate, ping, etc.), the player peeking will see their opponent holding the angle first. This gives the holder less time to react and fire a shot than the peeker. And as soon as the server processes the peeker's "lethal shot" on the holder, the victim's future shots are rejected and they're deemed dead.
How is Riot combating peeker's advantage?
To address peeker's advantage, Riot invested in lower latency for players and optimized servers. The goal is to "deliver 35ms ping to 70% of [the] player base," according to Riot.
Devs also nerfed running headshots in Patch 0.50, removing the "walking accuracy" state when transitioning from run to stop. This was a necessary change that provided some counterplay to peeker's advantage, especially for players with higher ping. And Patch 2.02 further nerfed moving accuracy, increasing walking and running errors while wielding a rifle. While this wasn't in response to peeker's advantage, it should indirectly affect it.
Map design also favors the holder. Since attackers typically have to "peek from a single entry point to a site," a holder can "watch from multiple angles," Riot said. This makes it harder for the peeker to spot the holder and line up their crosshair. A peeker's shoulders will also appear before their head, giving the holder more time to react before they're spotted.
It's even more important in pro play
Even with everything Riot's done to limit peeker's advantage, it's still present in all online FPS games. And the better the players are, the more impact ping discrepancy has.
"At the highest tier of competitive play, the differences between player reaction times become razor thin," Riot said. "The difference between winning and losing a gunfight in our experiments often came down to 20-50ms... In other words - at the competitive level of play, very small advantages in reaction time can meaningfully change the outcome of combat."
The article also said that 10 milliseconds "made the difference" between a 90-percent win rate for the player holding an angle with an Operator and a 90-percent win rate for their opponent peeking with a rifle. Since pros can react faster than the average fan, peeker's advantage is even more devastating. A top-tier player can peek a corner and land a headshot rapidly, benefiting even more from better ping.
100 Thieves' dispute with tournament officials was a bit nuanced, with the organization claiming the ruling was a "direct contradiction" to a ruling made against them in a previous match with TSM. But head coach Hector “FrosT” Rosario argued that an Immortals player having eight ping would have a "crazy peeker's advantage" over 100 Thieves' 40-millisecond range.
Immortals' Noah "jcStani" Smith chimed in, tweeting that 100 Thieves had 40 to 50 ping on a Chicago server. They "wanted to force" Texas, according to the player, which would give teammate Rhett "Kehmicals" Lynch 70 ping.
But whether you're looking at eight milliseconds vs. 40 milliseconds or 40 milliseconds vs. 70 milliseconds, it's still a large discrepancy that gives the edge to the player with lower ping. And this advantage is compounded by the fact that pros have faster reaction times.
The only clear solution to peeker's advantage is bringing professional competitions to LAN. And while the coronavirus pandemic forced VALORANT esports to be held online, VCT Masters Stage Two is slated to be held in Iceland in May.