Chloe McAree (McAteer)
Published on

AWS X Riot Games Valorant Experience


Last week, I had the honour of being a guest of AWS for a Riot Games Valorant Championships experience in Los Angeles. I find the game tech sector extremely interesting, as a lot of advances in technology and innovation have originated from game development. For example, the game industry has pioneered many advancements in graphics and visualisation technologies. It has also spurred the development of robust networking infrastructure and has contributed to the demand for and development of more high-performance hardware, such as powerful CPUs and GPUs.

I feel like this sector truly pushes the boundaries when it comes to technology, and that's why I wanted to attend this event: to meet some of the industry leaders, get the opportunity to ask questions, and learn more from their experiences.

So, let's dive into the event and my learnings from it.

Event check in

After an 11 hour flight I arrived in sunny LA! When I got to the hotel and checked in for the event I was greeted with an amazing Swag bag, with my pass, itinerary for the weekend, the names and details of all other attendees and lots of cool other things.

Tech panels

To kick off the event, we had a welcome reception and tech panels. This was really fun and allowed me to properly get to meet all of the other attendees. The attendees were a mix of AWS community builders, heroes and also employees from AWS and Riot Games.

The first speaker of the night was Valorant Caster Alex "Goldenboy" Mendez, who provided us with a crash course on the game. He covered various topics, including the different agents and their roles, the various types of weapons, and the overall structure of the Valorant Champions Tour tournaments. If you want to delve deeper into Valorant, you can check out my pre-event blog here.

Following the introduction to Valorant, we enjoyed an amazing panel discussion featuring Jun David, Randy James, and Shiva Natarajan from Amazon Web Services (AWS), along with John Knauss, Brian Miller, and Gabriel Isenberg from Riot Games.

The tech panel began with a discussion of Valorant's launch and the challenges it faced. Riot had already successfully launched League of Legends, but Valorant presented its own unique challenges, especially being a first-person shooter game where latency was even more critical!

When deciding where to place game servers, they analysed their current user base from League of Legends to make informed decisions about the initial server locations. They then started with a small Beta to monitor usage and latency.

Originally, when Riot Games began using AWS, they were leveraging AWS regions. However, after analysing ping, packet loss, and latency, it became clear that players who were not near these regions were not having optimal gaming experiences. As a result, Riot needed to bring game servers closer to players. In a previous blog of mine, I delved into more detail about the importance of latency and Riot's use of AWS Outposts. You can find it here for more context. Thus, Riot began utilising AWS Outposts to help reduce latency. However, during this panel, I discovered that they have now migrated from Outposts to AWS managed Local Zones, which I found extremely fascinating. The Outposts infrastructure was managed by Riot themselves, so they needed a better solution. Shivam, Senior Program manager for AWS Local Zones, was on the panel, and he explained that they already had one fully managed (by AWS) Local Zone up and running and used this feedback to build out more local zones in new locations according to the needs of Riots and some other customers. They now have a total of 33 Local Zones globally.

Regarding the need for more local zones or physical data centres, the panel was asked how they determine the next location. They stated that they typically monitor and analyse data on packet loss and latency. They also identified players using VPNs in different locations to access the game, providing insights into regions they hadn't initially considered for game servers. When I inquired how they identified players using a VPN, they explained that it was based on user latency compared to players actually located in that region.

Gabriel from Riot Games also explained that to find the sweet spot with latency, they use 128 tick servers. 128-tick servers process 128 ticks of information per second from the player, which results in a smoother gameplay experience compared to 64 ticks of information per second on 64-tick servers

In terms of matchmaking (connecting players to a game), Riot has services dedicated to matching players based on skill level and, more importantly, latency. Since Valorant is a first-person shooter game, low latency is crucial. Riot aims for around 35 milliseconds round-trip latency. When players try to enter a game, they check their ping to the game servers and then also consider how that correlates with the people in their party. For example, if they are in different states or countries, they would need to connect to a game server that works well for both of them to ensure a fair gaming experience.

Another fascinating insight from the panel was the role of ML (Machine Learning), particularly its use for win expectancy. Riot partnered with AWS Machine Learning Labs to develop a core concept, technology, and approach. The goal was to predict the likelihood of a team winning a game at a specific point in time. For example, after a significant play, could they detect a momentum shift and assess its impact on a team's odds of winning? This concept was tested in League of Legends, and due to the fantastic response, they have begun working on implementing it for Valorant. The aim is to create an API that takes the game ID of a professional match and provides live updates on win expectancy for the teams, which will also be available for live broadcasters.

After the panel, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the panellists. One particularly interesting topic was their use of machine learning (ML), specifically for their anti-cheat system. ML helps ensure that there is no tampering with the game, no use of bots, and an overall fair gaming environment. They are also using ML for anti-smurfing purposes, which refers to players creating new accounts and deliberately lowering their skill levels to face less experienced players and gain an unfair advantage.

Lower bracket finals & behind the scenes tour

After an amazing night hearing all about the game and the technology behind it, I was so excited to board the bus and head to the Kia Forum to watch my first ever live eSport event.

The arena was massive and the atmosphere was amazing! The game was the lower bracket final between the North American team Evil Geniuses and the Brazilian team Loud!

After watching the first two maps of the game, we got to go on an exclusive backstage tour of the arena.

As part of the tour we got to see the server room (guarded by a 24 hour security guard). While cloud based solutions may be used for general online rank games, when it comes to a live competition like the Valorant Champions Tour Championships, there are a number of reasons why a physical server would be used e.g. it can offer more predictable and consistent performance compared to cloud solutions that would be shared among various users and subject to fluctuations in availability. In fast-paced esports games like Valorant, every millisecond matters and so physical servers can provide lower latency connection and overall increase competitive integrity. Lastly, some organisers and teams may prefer physical servers because they have more control over the hardware and software configurations, reducing the risk of unexpected issues or vulnerabilities during the competition.

As part of the tour we also got to see the broadcasting trucks, press rooms and we even got to see the players backstage, which was incredible!

We returned to watch the rest of the game which ended in 3-2 to Evil Geniuses, meaning they would be playing Paper Rex tomorrow in the championship finals.

Dinner in LA

After the all the excitement from the game, we all got on the bus again to go to a special dinner hosted by AWS for us all.

This was such a lovely evening, watching the LA sunset from the rooftop restaurant and getting to share stories with the other attendees about our experiences both personal and technical. I really learnt a lot from the projects other builders have worked on and events they have attended.

Championship finals

The finals started with a trip around Fan Fest, which was set up outside the Kia Forum, it had food trucks, games, merch stands, sponsors stands, teams signing autographs and loads of cosplayers to take photos with. This was so much fun and was the perfect way to get hyped for the games to begin.

The finals opened with some really cool performances and they really pulled out all the stops with fire and smoke pyrotechnics to get the audience hyped up for an incredible show!

The finals was between yesterdays winner Evil Geniuses and the Southeast Asian team Paper Rex. The atmosphere was something I have never experienced before, we were all on the edge of our seats, for each map.

It really cool getting to experience the championships finals and seeing Evil Geniuses take the win and received the trophy and the million pound prize!


I really loved this event and seeing the technology behind a global game that has 20+ million users was amazing. A lot of the learnings from this event around handling scale, latency and product launches can really be applied to any tech project outside of the gaming industry as well.

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