17 Aug 2021 1:30 PM +00:00

Lore Enthusiast Zakky From VALORANT Hub Reveals What To Expect From The Next Act

VALORANT has become one of the most popular video games in just over a year, and it is safe to assume that it will only grow bigger. A diverse array of characters adds background to the tactical FPS gunplay that we all love, while it's satisfying head-clicking action feels like a natural extension of genre greats.

The entire storyline of VALORANT revolves around these Agents and the maps are based on real geographic locations. This makes the game much more immersive and relatable for fans and players, anchoring the fantastical in the familiar.

Most of the content drops in VALORANT feature bits and pieces of the whole narrative. Make no mistake, Riot is creating a universe that clearly takes inspiration from the likes of Overwatch, Apex Legends, and more.

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Thus, the community depends on content creators and lore enthusiasts for more insight into their favourite Agents, upcoming maps, and the latest developments.

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk to Zakky, lore enthusiast and creator of VALORANT Hub, about the current state of the game, its storyline, and its expansion into mobile and entertainment.

Q. First and foremost, thank you for making time for this exclusive. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and the journey that led to the creation of Valorant HUB?

Thank you very much! Definitely quite a long story but to keep it somewhat shorter: I have been obsessed with YouTube/online content creation since I was in my early teens. I built a number of projects throughout my teen years whilst studying at school.

Towards the end of school, I found myself at a crossroads between STEM education and taking a leap for my real passion which was YouTube content creation. I decided to leave school and pursue my passions (doesn’t sound smart, I know) and ended up applying for work to support myself whilst trying to make YouTube work.

My first job ended up being in the field I knew a thing or two about, Digital Marketing at BBC Wales when I was 18 years old. After a year at BBC, I learnt that what I really wanted to do was build my own projects and so I finished my contract and started running my own projects on social media, each with varying levels of success. Fast forward a few years and I’m in a position where I identify hot topics online and build communities around them.

I had zero intention of building VALORANT Hub until April when the Closed Beta was streamed on Twitch. That was the day I knew I was going to run VALORANT Hub. That’s how my job works - there will be topics that I plan for months/years in advance to report on and build communities around. Other times I will see an opportunity and simply make a spontaneous move on it!

Q. What are the lore changes players should expect with the upcoming VALORANT Episodes 3 Act 2?

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Episode 3 Act 2 will start (relatively) soon and yes, with it, we expect new content that will feed into the lore / storyline of the game. As we’re in early August now, I expect we’ll learn more about what’s upcoming over the next month.

The general timeline for VALORANT content is quite repetitive at this point, but that could be just for me, reporting on the game for over a year now! I see the patterns for what we should expect and when we should expect it a lot now.

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Whilst we have little to go off so far, here’s what I do know: when Episode 3 launched, dataminers found codenames for new agents. I expect we’ll see new agents and with that, learn more about the lore of the game. We are also seeing new map teasers earlier than ever before it seems, likely hinting at a Skye-based Australia map.

David Nottingham, Creative Director on VALORANT has promised (quite literally promised on Twitter) that we should see more lore next Act. What will it be? Right now, it’s too early to tell.

Q. The devs have already hinted at two new Agents coming to Valorant. Do you think players will get to see two Agents at once in Episode 3 Act 2? Which class do you think they will belong to?

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Deadeye has potentially already have been shown through the VALORANT Year One Anthem, although that could be Thurston Wolf, owner of Wolf’s Mansion on Breeze.

There’s currently no way to tell. The definition of a Deadeye is an expert marksman. Regarding Sprinter, some players have suggested a Jett-like character. Currently though, without dataminers revealing what abilities look like, it’s pretty impossible to even suggest what we could expect so far.

Q. Since every map in Valorant is related to a geographic location, what do you think about the worldwide representation in Valorant?

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The geographic diversity of agent locations and map locations makes for an incredibly globally relatable IP. Every day, I’m asked when VALORANT will add an agent from specific countries depending on who is asking that day.

An Indian agent is by far the most common suggestion. After being fortunate enough to speak with David Nottingham and Joe Killeen, Creative Director and Narrative Writer on VALORANT, I learnt more about how the Creative team designs the agent backstories.

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It’s clear to me that whilst there’s a lot of demand for agents from certain backgrounds, the team is focusing on a cohesive story primarily, which means whilst players want to see an agent from specific countries soon, the team isn’t necessarily prioritising player demand over story cohesion.

Due to the VALORANT Protocol inherently being a truly global initiative, we will no doubt see many agents from many different, diverse backgrounds as we have already seen and will continue to see.

Q. Let’s shift our focus to esports for a bit and emphasize how Riot Games have taken the world by a storm. Do you think Valorant will become a self-sustaining FPS esports title in the upcoming years?

Considering Riot’s vast investments in esports, there is no doubt VALORANT has the potential to be the largest FPS esports title on PC in years to come. It will be interesting to see how it pans out on console and mobile which are due to arrive in the somewhat near future.

Esports is undoubtedly the biggest investment in marketing that Riot has spent on VALORANT. If Riot continues on this track, VALORANT esports will undoubtedly continue to thrive and only see more investment.

Riot doesn’t play around with esports, we have seen that with League of Legends. No doubt they want to see similar success from VALORANT esports.

Q. From a community expert's perspective, do you think VALORANT has surpassed CS:GO in terms of viewership?

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Haha! Whilst I don’t mean to stoke any fire between gaming communities, looking at viewership is quite simple thankfully. On Twitch specifically, VALORANT is a relatively new game and doing incredibly well.

Statistically speaking, over the past year, VALORANT has outpaced CSGO viewership by roughly 25 million watch hours. This makes VALORANT the 7th Most Watched game and CSGO, 8th Most Watched game.

More recently, the disparity has widened: over the past 90 days, VALORANT has seen roughly 60 million more watch hours than CSGO. Making VALORANT the 4th most-watched title and CSGO the 8th most-watched title on the platform.

Realistically speaking, VALORANT has managed to engage the majority of CSGO players globally, with CSGO retaining Russian and Ukrainian audiences the most. I can see this trend continuing as Riot invests more into player adoption than Valve.

In my opinion, esports viewership, the storyline and the gameplay in VALORANT is inherently more welcoming, especially to younger players than CSGO.

Q. As far as Agents go, everyone has a unique story that appeals to the audience. How do you think Riot has mastered the art of geographic representation with the influence of popular culture in Valorant?

I think the geographic representation is one of the many reasons why VALORANT has been picked up by such a large global audience, especially considering the learning curve of the game.

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There are so many players in VALORANT that are not esports-focused, which again considering the difficulty of this game, speaks volumes to the marketing of the game itself.

The VALORANT Creative team are constantly working on ways to inspire players from every region and when we see events such as social takeovers take place, it’s really special.

I really loved the Raze: Color of the Town cinematic, where we were able to take a peek inside Raze’s hometown and culture.

Q. Riot Games have always leaned into video game lore. Do you feel that players might get to see League Of Legends lore in Valorant on a larger scale? We already have two skin collections; what else can fans expect?

I do believe that both Riot and the Creative team on VALORANT would love to build a universe as lore-rich as League of Legends. However, the Creative team is incredibly small, like, smaller than even I expected when I spoke with them recently.

If the VALORANT lore is to build to anywhere near the size of League of Legends, Riot will need to invest a lot more into the Creative team than we have seen already in my opinion. Currently, lore is very speculative and mainly an add-on to what’s prioritised as a competitive shooter experience.

Many players want to see more lore and I understand the demand. The Creative team has built such a compelling universe, people are inspired to learn more.

Realistically, we’re too early in the game’s lifetime still to see a lot more than we have seen already, considering the resources that Riot is investing in lore compared to that of titles such as Blizzard’s Overwatch.

The community has been incredibly proactive in trying to learn and understand more of the Future Earth universe and the Creative team has been great in engaging mainly through Twitter, Reddit & Discord.

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Unfortunately, there isn’t much happening on YouTube anymore from a lore discussion point of view. VALORANT Hub has covered a lot of it but we have stopped for the foreseeable future until it’s sustainable to dig more into it. I do believe

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Riot needs to focus more on nurturing channels that invest in original lore theory-crafting and explanation through marketing and promotion as other aspects of the game sees.

As someone who has built a niche following for lore, storyline and upcoming content discussion, I’ve had to step back and focus on non-VALORANT projects until the relevant team at Riot helps us and other lore focused creators such as my good friend, Cynprel, find a sustainable path to lore discussion/education.

Regarding skinlines, I expect we’ll see more lore-based skin lines in the future, however, the Premium Content team has a lot to focus on that isn’t necessarily lore-based so I guess it’ll likely be a small percentage of future skin lines.

Q. In your recent video, you pointed out how Haven is located in Bhutan and theorized that a Bhutanese Agent might come to the game soon. Does this mean an Italian Agent will also join for Ascent?

The Bhutanese agent theory came to mind when David Nottingham spoke on the agent’s prerogatives for joining the VALORANT Protocol.

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As Haven has clearly been attacked by some (currently unknown) force, it’s my belief that we could see an agent born from this disaster as others have been. On that note, an Italian agent is not out of reach at all.

Regarding abilities, that would be very hard to tell but considering Ascent is based on Venice, Italy, I wouldn’t say a water-controlling agent is out of the question!

Q. How do you think VALORANT Mobile will impact the mobile gaming world? Also, how do you see VALORANT incorporating Battle Royale mechanics to make the game cater to a larger audience?

This image contains an in-game screenshot from VALORANT's Breeze map.
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VALORANT Breeze Map (Image via Riot Games)

Yes! VALORANT confirmed mobile development on the anniversary of the game’s full launch, June 2. There’s a lot of scepticism regarding a mobile launch, most of which I believe is born from a lack of understanding in general.

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I think VALORANT mobile, done right, will be huge, but it won’t be huge in the West, compared to Asia and South America in my opinion. Mobile gaming is an incredible way for regions in the world that don’t primarily play games on PC to access gaming.

If we’re talking Battle Royale, it won’t come as a surprise to many that Mobile BRs do incredibly well in Asia, PUBGM being a huge example of this. The question for VALORANT is, how would a Battle Royale work with the agent dynamics we see in the game already?

Would most agent abilities as we know them now work in a larger, open-world setting? Honestly, most definitely not. But that doesn’t concern me. If we go to the drawing board, we can think about the VALORANT agent playercards that teach us more about each agent’s backstories.

Let’s take Jett as an example. Jett’s playercard shows a tornado hitting a city, likely her hometown in South Korea. I think it’s possible that we can see the agents using their Radiant abilities (and Radianite tech) in a different form to what we have seen already.

Potentially we’d see never-before-seen abilities from the agents based on their powers and skills that would better suit a Battle Royale environment. Having said that, I don’t believe we’re close to that at all, but with Riot, who knows!

Q. Most of the Radiant Agents in Valorant represent elemental forces. For instance, we have fire(Phoenix), air (Jett), dimensions (Yoru), nature (Skye), soul (Reyna), cosmos (Astra), life (Sage)and death (Omen) - do you think that the developers are already hinting at a war for supremacy between Radiants and Kingdom?

For sure, each agent has their own skill sets and abilities, some are powered by Radiant abilities and others are powered by Radianite tech. All agents mentioned above are Radiants who, through the First Light event, essentially have Radiant powers.

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Other agents such as Brimstone and Killjoy use Radianite tech but don’t (as far as we know) have Radiant powers themselves. Whether or not we will see a war for supremacy between the VALORANT Protocol and KINGDOM Corporation at any point in the future, I’m not sure how the Creative team will want to tell that story.

I think we’re currently so early in lore discussion that it’s hard to know what we should expect for the next few years. What I do know is that the conflict between VALORANT Protocol and KINGDOM Corporation is not the only conflict within the Future Earth universe, but I believe it’ll be a long time before we learn more about that.

Q. I would like to conclude with the scope of content for an FPS game like Valorant. Do you think there will be a saturation point regardless of new content? Is there anything you'd like to tell your followers who aspire to make content around Valorant?

This image depicts a concept Agent named Lola designed by VALORANT fans.
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VALORANT Agent concept Lola (Image via Artstation)

Sure. VALORANT launched in beta access over a year ago now and since then, content creators have been testing the waters and some have found success in developing audiences and communities around their content.

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There’s definitely already a level of ‘saturation’ in VALORANT, but that’s the case with any AAA live-service multiplayer title and generally, it means that there’s an audience ready to consume online content which is only a good thing.

Fans around the world are definitely starting to find the corners of the community that aligns best with their interests. Whether that be esports, which involves esports VODs, tips and tricks and esports interviews or storyline/lore where players learn more about the backstory for the Future Earth universe.

Regarding content creation for aspiring content creators, there is still a lot of room to grow and develop communities. Generally, the main path to discovery and building something is to inform, educate and/or entertain. If aspiring content creators are able to tick those boxes, that’s a great start.

After this is learnt, consistency is key. Content creators who post 3 times a week will always have a better chance of discovery than content creators who post 3 times a month. This all differs and depends on the content offering but in general, social media followings develop from consistent content that brings value to many people.

Having said that, each type of content is different. Most players posting VALORANT highlights, even at a high level, will likely see slower growth than those who post breaking news and leaks. This is because of supply and demand.

There aren’t currently a lot of news channels posting consistent VALORANT news content compared to content creators posting their favourite VALORANT highlights. I’d guess this is because reporting news is less interesting to most players than playing the game and recording their best moments.

Of course, I’ve built VALORANT Hub on esports, news discussion and storyline content. Posting esports VODs is incredibly saturated now because gaming entrepreneurs have seen how profitable it is to repost tournament VODs.

This image is a screenshot from the VALORANT Duality Lore Cinematic released by Riot Games.
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VALORANT Duality Lore cinematic (Image via Riot Games)

From brief experience, I believe VALORANT guides will continue to be relevant in perpetuity but will also become more saturated as time passes which means those taking that path will need to make unique guides and learn how to market that content.

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Riot is also very hands-on with some creators and communities and have in the past, worked with multiple creators of all different sizes to bring more value to their communities. Unfortunately, creators who don’t work with Riot are often left far behind, whilst creators who are chosen to work with Riot are given a large boost in community size.

For news/lore channels, most are probably unsustainable now as there has been a lot of inequality in how news creators are given opportunities. As an example, when VALORANT releases new skin lines, generally a small group of the same creators are given these exclusives every time, leaving other news channels including VALORANT Hub in a difficult position.

As an example, VALORANT Hub is approaching 100,000 subscribers on YouTube and is yet to receive any of the opportunities other channels of similar sizes have received multiple times.

I do believe that Riot needs to work on their influencer strategy here as most news/lore creators have been put in an unsustainable position and will eventually move their resources elsewhere leaving the VALORANT news scene in a more unhealthy state than it already is - this means listening to us, as creators have communicated changes we need to see that in reality, are not resource-heavy.

On this note, Riot Games have been publicly vocal about content creator mental health importance this year - I know a number of content creators who have suffered from anxiety (including myself) in part, because of the time and effort invested into content that doesn’t feel valued by Riot.

I believe that actions speak louder than words and that all those who invest vast resources into providing value to the community should be uplifted by the publisher as currently, only a small few have been receiving preferential treatment and this not only hurts creator mental health but also leads to an unhealthy and toxic content creation environment where only a few creators are sustained and therefore the community misses crucial information on an on-going basis.

Hopefully, Riot will eventually take action on this as creators make their voices heard more.

If you’re reading this and you want to make content on YouTube, the best thing you can do is to try your best and feel what works for you. Most of the concerns highlighted above shouldn’t affect aspiring content creators who simply want to test the waters and find their own way in content. On a personal passion/hobby/interest note, I’m sure that posting VALORANT content is fun and fulfilling for most!