Mobile MOBA game Vainglory celebrated its first year anniversary earlier this year, and what a year it has been. A game which hoped to break the mould when it comes to mobile games has not only done that, but it’s smashed it to smithereens with the insane success this core multiplayer game has brought to mobile.
Speaking with n3rdabl3 at Gamescom Vainglory developer, Super Evil Megacorp caught up with us to share their thoughts on the game’s success, its rapid growth in the eSports community, and what’s in store for the future of the game.
A little over a year ago, Super Evil Megacorp launched Vainglory on the App Store followed by its release on Google Play. The idea behind the game was to bring a core MOBA experience, like you’d find with League of Legends or DOTA, to mobile without sacrificing gameplay.
With long drawn-out gameplay, they hoped to capture an untapped market of players who maybe didn’t realise such an experience was possible on mobile, and to say that it became a success is an understatement.
Speaking about the game’s success and its overall inception, Super Evil Megacorp said:
“It felt like with the mobile-first generation, the folks who see these devices as their primary gaming device, were being deprived of that core experience entirely. You have really good gaming experiences with match three games and sort of three-minute experiences, and not to take anything away from it, but it’s a totally different thing. It’s like a secondary form of gaming, gaming when you’re bored, gaming when you’re at the proverbial bus stop, as opposed to gaming for the sake of gaming.
“So what we wanted to build with Vainglory was that. Build an experience that you can sit there and play with friends all night. And the amazing thing with that experience is the connection with the other players, that team work, that sense of accomplishing something together, fighting together in a LAN party around a table.”
Since launch, the game has rapidly developed a bustling eSports community with the latest championship season having an impressive prize pool of $350,000. This, according to Super Evil Megacorp, was one of the biggest surprises out of the game.
“So we’ve gone from having no broadcast tournaments to a place where we now have a multi-tiered eSports sector in North America, Europe, China, Japan, Korea, where you have these kind of top teams, like professional multi-sports teams like G2Esports, SK Gaming, Mousesports, TeamSecret, TSM, and others, that compete at the very top level, but then we have around 300,000 VainGlory teams at different levels, engaged in the qualifying structures around the world that can qualify up to these tournaments.
“And that’s really taken us by surprise, we never really expected it to happen that way because we just expected to work the game much longer for that to happen. So that’s been really fun and it’s been really great to watch them.”
One of the other big surprises was how Super Evil Megacorp seemed to achieve their overall goal with Vainglory: A game which offers an absolutely core MOBA experience without sacrificing features to cater to quick “proverbial bus stop” gameplay. The developer explained to n3rdabl3 that while they first focused on creating a great gameplay experience they realised that Vainglory lacked some of the tutorial and learning aspects found in other games.
“how can you obstruct the controls from the screen to something as clunky as a mouse and keyboard?”
“So what we’ve done is offer shorter game modes, adding bots and AI to the game so you can practice, we’ve added a whole set of new tutorials and videos, as well as a quest system and a progression system, that helps bridge the gap from the current mid-core games. And the thing that we’ve had an amazing response to and the thing we’re really excited about right now is just how many people come into the community and say ‘holy shit I didn’t realise this kind of gaming was possible on any platform’. And what’s great about that is that even though we grew up as PC gamers ourselves, and many of us worked for companies like Riot and Blizzard, the thing that’s been really fun has been using PC gaming as a bit of a yard stick. ‘Is this still as good?’ ‘Is this better?’ ‘Is this fun?
“The great thing is, this generation growing up right now, like the top-rank players, can be quite young as you would expect, and what’s really fun is overhearing comments like, genuinely one thirteen year old gamer to another, ‘I saw some people playing games like this on a PC and I don’t understand it, like how can you obstruct the controls from the screen to something as clunky as a mouse and keyboard?’
“And for us that’s an amazing comment because that’s in lots of ways blasphemy on one level, but on the other hand it goes to show that the generation growing up with touch screens as their primary gaming platform are really embracing gameplay on touch that in a way were dreaming and hoping would be possible, but actually turns out is now real.”
Vainglory has come such a long way in the past year and considering the fact, I’ve found it a little odd that the game is set on one map. But there’s a very good reason for that, and it’s to ensure that, at least in the main game mode, that there’s a level playing field, and that players can get accustomed to their own tactics on the map, rather than being thrown into something unfamiliar.
“We think that for the core game mode, for the competitive mode, having a single map is very important, because its a bit like playing football, having the same standard size goal and pitch every time. It’s really important so you can learn all of your tactics and strategy within that environment.
“We always tweak and balance things within reason, like if some aspect of the map isn’t working. But we actually think that for the main game mode we want to create a map that creates the most entertaining core experience.
“That said, just like when we launched Battle Royale, we wanted to create a shorter game experience on a different map to help you have fun in a different way, like a shorter snack form of Vainglory. In a similar way we aren’t ruling out building out other maps and other experience which makes games even shorter, or different in some other way, and they may have different maps associated with them.
“I think that’s what you’ll likely see moving forward. But the main map is something we always look at as our elder game gold standard. How do we make sure that map itself or that style of play is as good as it possibly can be, and if it could be made better we will make it better.”
We have a lot of work to do and we’re so excited from the support of the community
Looking at the past year overall, Super Evil Megacorp have remained pretty humble despite the sheer success the game has brought to the developer, from multi-million dollar deals from the likes of Twitch, Amazon, Samsung, and others, to hosting completely packed eSports tournaments, Super Evil Megacorp say this is just the first step.
“At the end of the day we’ve gone from hundreds of thousands of players to millions of players, which is great, but we ultimately dream of hundreds of millions of players. Look at some of the biggest PC games, they have a community of a hundred million or so players, but someone’s going to build for touch screens that’s 3 to 5 times as large just because there’s more of these devices, and that’s the sort of community we dream of, and we’re just at the start of that.
“We have a lot of work to do and we’re so excited from the support of the community and the support from everybody here, and the partnerships with Twitch for running the eSports tournaments in North America and Europe, and the big partnerships with Amazon, Samsung, and others, and the fact that we have these other big companies that have really put their weight behind an experience like Vainglory, we think it’s just an amazing pointer.
“Still, we feel the same as we did about a year ago, that it’s a crying shame that the touch-screen first players are still stuck with experiences that are predominantly three-minutes, pay to win.”