Instalocking agents is a common occurrence in VALORANT’s ranked queue, coercing players to fill or lock themselves. And if Riot plans on addressing it, the company can learn a thing or two from its first title, League of Legends.
When players hop into a VALORANT ranked match and quickly select an agent, it can often force their teammates' hands. Flexible teammates might wait and select an agent to complement the squad. Others may lock in, too, without any word or discussion about what the team needs. And nobody in this scenario is necessarily wrong because that's the way VALORANT's agent select is designed.
But should Riot take a nod from another game it's created and continuously developed over the last decade?
Of course, comparing character select in VALORANT to League is a bit nuanced. League has over 150 champions and a ranked mode with a ban phase, a pick phase, and role queue. VALORANT, on the other hand, has only 15 agents and a fluctuating meta that can go from three duelists to one at the drop of a hat. While taking all the MOBA's champ select features isn't quite possible, there are still potential ways that VALORANT can follow suit to discourage instalocking.
It would be nice to queue for specific roles in VALORANT, for example, but it doesn't seem like that will happen anytime soon. League's meta is set. You have a top laner, a jungler, a mid laner, and two bot laners. With VALORANT being less than a year old, it might take a while for any structured meta to stick around long-term. And since different maps favor different team comps, a positional queue may never be a feasible option.
But Team Liquid content creator Lucas "Mendo" Håkansson tweeted about the topic yesterday, suggesting a short period of time where players can hover the agent they want to play without locking, similar to League's champ select system.
The former Overwatch pro told Dot Esports that "instalocking is important" for players that specialize in one specific character. But adding a hover-agent phase can potentially pave the way for a more meaningful discussion around team comps.
"Adding a few seconds where you can’t instalock adds opportunity for the teams that might want to build a more team oriented composition to do that," Mendo said. "You can show which characters you prefer to play by hovering them but at the same time you can just lock it in as soon as those seconds are up."
Team Envy's Jake "kaboose" McDonald sees a similar value to instalocking, telling Dot Esports that he's "part of the issue." The pro locks duelists because that's what he enjoys playing but feels like an "intended champ pick" would be helpful and allow you to "get a gist of what your team needs."
In theory, giving a team a small amount of time to discuss picks would limit instalocking. As players discuss what roles they're comfortable playing, it may encourage others to fill or compromise. And it's presumably a lot harder for a player to greedily lock in an agent after their entire squad voices their preferences, especially since it can adversely impact team morale.
But VALORANT is, after all, an online game where you interact with strangers that you might never run into again. And it's totally possible that a hover-agent phase won't change anything.
Luminosity's Alex "aproto" Protopapas told Dot Esports that the feature "could help" but thinks "people who intend to instalock are still gonna do it majority of the time."
There are several core instalocker motives that a hover-agent phase won't solve. A large part of the VALORANT player base either mains a specific agent or prefers a specific role. And seeing another player hover the agent you one trick may simply push players to instalock quicker.
Ideally, the teammates you encounter can play multiple agents or roles. Immortals' Andrew "ShoT_UP" Orlowski told Dot Esports that "people should be able to play more than their instalock." And while the pro says he's "an instalocker," he fills if other players on his team do it.
But that's not always the case. A similar situation often happens in League solo queue when a player's one trick is banned or picked by someone else, pressuring the player to either dodge or make things work on a champ they're not comfortable with. It's not as devastating in VALORANT since gunplay is the same no matter what agent you pick. Not knowing how to properly use your agent's abilities can set your team back, however.
There may be nothing intrinsically wrong with a first-come-first-serve approach to agent select. If you're late to the party, you should be the one filling. If you snooze, you lose. The early bird gets the worm, or whatever idiom you want to attribute to this situation. And that's OK.
But introducing a hover phase will ultimately do no harm. Will it completely solve instalocking? Of course not. Is instalocking a problem that should be solved? Who knows. Regardless, it'd be a step in the right direction.
Update March 26 7:29pm CT: This article was updated with a comment from Mendo.
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