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Valorant Roundtable: Inspiration Behind Harbor & How Culturally Accurate He Is

Recently I got to attend a roundtable with some key figures at Riot regarding the release of the newest Valorant agent Harbor.

The roundtable featured:

  • Ashish Gupta – Head of Marketing for Riot India and South Asia
  • Alasdair Gray – Head of Marketing for Riot Asia-Pacific
  • Joe Killeen – Narrative Writer on Valorant at Riot Games
  • Alexander Mistakidis – Game Designer on Valorant at Riot Games

What’s the inspiration behind Harbor?

Killeen: We looked at a huge breadth of Indian media and were inspired by the countless tales of mythic heroes whose heart and conviction and strength allows them to become an unstoppable force for good and become legends themselves. Finding the right way to do that in VALORANT, where every Agent shares that heroism, became the trick. To that end, we were inspired again by the many objects of power and mystery that are scattered throughout Indian legends and stories. It was from there that the idea of an ancient radianite artifact wielder was born. Our relic-seeking adventurer being someone whose mission is to protect and preserve these items of antiquity took form around that.

Gupta: The developers dedicated a lot of time and attention to refining little details about Harbor. For example, Harbor’s lapel features beautiful Indian floral designs. I’m also very proud that Indian Rioters were able to shape his Hindi lines in-game. We also took a lot of inspiration from Bollywood as it holds great significance in Indian culture and does accurately represent a lot of Indian music and films.

Why specifically an Indian agent?

Gray: India itself is a vital market for us. It’s one of our biggest player bases and since we launched Valorant, the community that has developed in India has been incredibly passionate. So in this particular instance where you’re looking across the world and say that “We try to represent each and every one of our player communities and try to have an authentic agent that speaks to them,” it was really just a matter of time until the Indian community would get its own agent.

How closely did Riot work with Interest Groups to ensure that representation was appropriate?

Gupta: We had Indians involved with the implementation of Harbor, including myself. One thing to note is that Riot takes ‘authentic representation’ very seriously so they ensured to include as many people from India as possible in the process.

How has the localisation affected how you engage with your players?

Gray: Everything we do is about putting players at the heart of every decision, it’s all about being the most player-focused company in the world. So having those local communities at the core of that is just absolutely critical and I hope that comes across in the experience. But to elaborate more on the question, hyper-localisation has been a very critical component in that mission and I think that a lot of it comes from the fact that we believe that we can connect so much better with our players and markets more broadly by being very respectful of the cultures that we are trying to represent in our games and initiatives that we are putting on both in and out of the games. We just feel that it’s the best way to attract players and thrill players.

How have you brought music and entertainment to Harbor?

Gray: We’ve been working closely with our connections in India so you can definitely look forward to seeing appearances and collaborations with a range of Indian influencers and players.

What exactly was the thought process for implementing Harbor as a counter for Viper?

Mistakidis: Harbor is an agent that creatively carves up the battlefield with water to allow his team to charge in confidently. Our goal was to create a wall controller to compete with Viper on maps that she’s picked and to have them use a cast paradigm that stays more in-world. Kevin Meier did the initial explorations of the kit, exploring how water bending could work in Valorant. This resulted in a character that had an exciting amount of creativity and mastery.

When creating his bending wave were there any maps, in particular, that would cause the bending wave to break?

Mistakidis: There were no maps that would cause the bending wave to break, but there are a lot of great bent walls that players have yet to discover.

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