In a lengthy post earlier, Riot described in great detail the design and development of their Split map in Valorant.
The post starts by asking what the team’s design goal is for each map. Naturally, this results in constant iteration and testing in order to the find the correct design elements, both from a gameplay standpoint, but also an aesthetic one.
For example in the case of Split, the team asked themselves if it was possible to have some off-site position which became essential to defenders or attackers – basically some form of king of the hill. To that end, several initial designs had a central tower at the middle, but this quickly proved imbalanced,
“During playtesting, we found that the tower did indeed provide an off-site position that was critical to hold, but it was too powerful and pulled too much combat away from the objective sites themselves. So we decided to break the tower into two smaller towers that focused on each site.”
They realized that mid was still too important in the overall flow of the match, and wanted to continue tweaking the design. The result ended being to break apart mid into two separate halves which were connected via hallways. This is the sewer section and the vent section which exists in the map today.
Aesthetically, the design was important as well. The lore is that Split was a Japanese location, but one which was undergoing change. Courtyards then became a design element,
“This new direction provided city courtyards and alleys that would match up well with the layout of the map, while also adding a few futuristic moments of spectacular goodness. The Map Art team then went about creating an incredible old world city that lives under the shadow of a massive Kingdom R&D facility.”