VALORANT competitive map

The removal of Split from the VALORANT competitive map pool earlier this year brought about mixed, but predominantly negative reactions from the community. In the game’s official update post, which was released a week prior to Split’s exit, the Maps team design lead Joe Lansford addressed the reasoning behind choosing Split:

“We looked at a bunch of different factors when making this decision. Player sentiment, time since release, past and future planned updates, what the map brings in terms of strategic variance, as well as where Pearl fits into all of it (to name a few). When we plugged all those numbers into the magic algorithm machine, we landed on Split.”

Since then, Split has been out of all competitive environments from the game’s open access public competitive queue as well as the largest events from the professional scene as well. Notably, Split was removed to make room for the arrival of VALORANT’s newest map Pearl.

Rather than increasing the map pool to eight, the developers of the game rallied behind what they felt was the best system for the competitive ecosystem: the seven map pool system.

The Seven Map Pool System

The seven map pool system is, in effect, exactly what its name entails. While there are currently eight total maps available to play in VALORANT’s various game modes, the competitive environment only hosts seven. The decision to establish a seven map limit stems from concerns vocalized in the Split-removal update post.

Landsford explains that, while the vast majority of the VALORANT competitive maps consists of frequent and dedicated players, the continued expansion to the map pool severely inhibits new and “casual” (infrequent) players:

“Too many maps to learn can feel overwhelming and doesn’t give some of you the opportunity to really go deep [learn in depth] on any one of them.”

Lansford goes on to explain the minutiae of “going deep,” as well as the consideration of high-level, frequent players in the establishment of a seven map pool system.

“The team thinks seven is a nice sweet spot that offers both variety and mastery. You don’t have to spend all your time learning new angles, lineups, and strategies. New players will have an easier onboarding experience. And pro teams get to have deeper, more exciting playbooks. Win, win, win.”

Put simply, the seven map pool system is designed to lessen the learning curve required to pick up and continue playing the game, as well as to increase the strategic variety of professional play by limiting the number of maps each player must learn to play on and master.

Update: Split is Back

In the conclusion of Lansford’s post, he hinted at Split’s eventual return in light of some changes:

We’re pretty sure [Split] will be back sometime in the future though. Maybe even with some tweaks?

Since then, the Maps team has been hard at work devising a new version of Split that will best fit the competitive environment in 2023. In the latest map update post, published on December 2nd, Lansford discussed the exciting map pool changes coming in 2023.

First and foremost, Lansford announced that the map pool will officially change its rotation in early January when Patch 6.0 releases. Although exact dates were not given, he did explain which maps would be exiting and entering the pool. After five long months, Lansford confirmed that Split would be making its return to the map rotation.

However, in the spirit of preserving the seven map pool equilibrium, he also confirmed that both Bind and Breeze would be leaving the map pool for similar reasons as Split.

Obviously, the removal of two maps in the place of one does not maintain the seven map pool system. While the post does not detail why there will be only six maps, it is not the first time the pool will contain less than seven maps.

Excluding the times where the game did not have at least seven maps, there was a small window in which the map pool contained six maps as Pearl had not yet arrived and Split had already been removed.

While these changes had no effect on professional play, as the scene was in a quiet period preceding VALORANT Champions, there will be a noticeable impact once the new VCT Leagues kick off in early 2023.

While these logistical concerns are not addressed in the post, Lansford ends the post with a reassuring message for unhappy readers:

“We know some of you will be disappointed with these rotations but just like Split, these maps won’t be gone forever.”

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