A Discussion on ‘Vainglory’ with the COO of Super Evil Megacorp

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The folks at Super Evil Megacorp have been busy lately. First, they announced a partnership with eSports giant ESL as well as the first official tournament for their mobile MOBA, Vainglory (Free). Second, they also announced an update that launches a hero skin system that’s been long desired. With such big changes in store for the game, we were fortunate enough to chat with Kristian Segerstrale, the COO of Super Evil Megacorp and the Executive Director of Vainglory to get some added details on these two significant announcements.

On Announcing the First Official Vainglory Tournament

If you’ve been following the Vainglory scene, you’d notice that there’s been a lot of makeshift tournaments taking place across various unofficial leagues. This is in large part due to the introduction of Spectator mode in a content update that occurred earlier in the year. Now that Super Evil Megacorp is partnering with ESL and launching its first tournament it looks like the developers are getting pretty serious about competitive gaming.

I asked Kristian what he thought about this new partnership with ESL and where it fit with the developer’s overall vision of Vainglory. After discussing some general excitement with working with the company, Kristian told a pretty cool tale about how the two companies first met up. ESL contacted Super Evil Megacorp last summer while Vainglory was still in beta and even back then, both companies saw the potential for the mobile MOBA to enjoy success in the competitive scene. ESL even went so far as to provide feedback on the game in the hopes of improving its success and a partnership was formed. However, Kristian reiterated to me that even though the seeds of a partnership was formed, the developers committed to building up the game, adding more content and fostering a community  before even thinking of getting truly serious about the competitive scene. The goal was to “get to that point where Vainglory could be extremely competitive and fun to watch at the same time.”

It was obvious that an official competitive scene in Vainglory was going to come sooner or later, but I wanted to know if there were any significant events or factors that contributed to launching the first official tournament now. Kristian remarked that the Vainglory community’s love of competitive gaming coupled with a significant rise in Twitch streaming kind of forced them to reevaluate their time table. Prior to the introduction of spectator mode, players were participating in tournaments on a 1v1 and 2v2 fashion with the remaining players acting as spectators. “On one hand it was cool but it was also sad that it was being played in a way that it was never designed for. It made us cry a little bit.” That drove the eventual launch of spectator mode and once that launched, Vainglory twitch streams started to gain in speed. “Between February and March we doubled the amount of Twitch streams that featured Vainglory. We went from 500k twitch streams to more than 900k twitch streams.” It was this rise in popularity of streaming and watching the game that kept Super Evil Megacorp intently interested in competitive gaming. Once the momentum seemed to hit a tipping point, they knew it was time to get involved.

We briefly discussed what it means to have a company like ESL on board. Kristian again pointed to the fact that ESL found them and the advice provided back in the development stages of Vainglory. He also spoke about the extensive experience that ESL has in the competitive gaming scene. “For us eSports is not something that we ever want to look like it’s fake. We never want to put on a big event just for the sake of having a big event.” With ESL, the hope is that they’ll never get trapped in such a predicament. Kristian also pointed out the fact that despite its current infancy, ESL believes that mobile competitive gaming can become huge, even so much as to proclaiming the possibility of mobile competitive gaming eclipsing that of PC gaming within as little as 3-5 years.

We then turned to the topic of tournament location. While this inaugural tournament is taking place in Europe, it’s not restricted in to European players. In fact, anyone that plays on a European server can participate, as long as they understanding they may be at a disadvantage from a ping standpoint. The first tournament is also debuting in Europe because that’s ESL’s homeport. The goal is to learn as much as as possible about hosting competitive gaming in the most controlled environment and doing so at ESL’s headquarters accomplishes that objective. I pushed for an answer regarding whether or not we can expect an official NA tournament at some point in the future. While I couldn’t get an affirmative response in this regard, I got a strong vibe that we should be seeing something down the pipeline. “It would break our hearts if we weren’t able to offer tournaments in other community locales.”

That last point lead to an important facet that Kristian wanted to hammer home: Super Evil Megacorp’s goal isn’t to supplant existing leagues and tournaments, but rather to augment them. “We are very supportive of all community efforts and our intent is not to overshadow.” The decision to partner up with the community-created Vainglory League website emphasizes this intent. It also ties back to the game’s future improvements to assist the community in continuing to make their own leagues and tournaments. The future additions of casual/ranked play as well as team affiliations will make it easier for players to train, improve, find likeminded teammates and eventually participate in community events. “We want to start building that bridge from the casual living room play style  to the player becoming something bigger than themselves and finally to competitive gaming.”

It was a fascinating discussion and it lead me to conclude that the folks behind Vainglory are not only very serious about the potential of their game in terms of competitive gaming but that they also understand the importance of community. While it is a big deal that they are partnering with ESL and launching their own tournament, I never got the impression that this official offering was any better or different than the plethora of other community-driven events. Regardless it’s refreshing to hear about high of a priority the community is a game.

On the New Skin System

Our next topic turned to the new skin system, which we reported on earlier when it launched. As a player that has been waiting for this system for quite awhile, I asked what made the developers decide to release it now. Kristian stated that, in terms of actual development, it was tough to wait this long to implement, but the goal was always to add core content and community-driven features (i.e. spectator mode and the like) prior to taking the wraps of this system. I was also told that the skin system really only is the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of future customizability.

“Rather than just launching a skin system on its own, we wanted to make sure that it was incorporated into a system that had significant breadth and depth.” That lead to the creation of not only the skin system, but also the tier system, card system, and theme system all at once. As for why it was released now, Kristian explained that Super Evil Megacorp wanted to wait until the whole system was ready but not too long enough that they couldn’t make changes if needed.

That last point is important because Kristian stressed to me the importance of community feedback for this system. While the system is complete, the intent is to monitor and tune the system with sufficient feedback as is typically the case with the rest of the game’s elements. One example that was mentioned is the current drop rates for cards, currently all the cards have the same drop rate, but that may change in the future depending on feedback.

Continuing on the theme of rarity I asked about the current decision to make Tier 2 and Tier 3 skins unlocked primarily through card collection without the ability to instantly access the tiers via ICE purchase (as opposed to Tier 1). While Kristian explained that there will most likely be some method of speeding up the unlocking of Tier 2 and Tier 3 customization (such as through the as yet released Card Shop). The primary intent is to keep those tiers locked away for players that are truly invested in the game. “We want to make sure that those tiers ultimately feel like an achievement whereas the first tier is easier to purchase/unlock if you like it.”

Relatedly, I asked about the general rarity of card drops. The general idea is for cards to drop fairly frequently but not after every match. However, the same won’t necessarily be true for the Epic and Legendary cards when they are eventually released, particularly since those will most likely be required for the Tier 2 and Tier 3 skins. “We want rare skins (Tier III) to be truly rare and badass in the game and reflect playing the game an awful lot. It’s one of the most important things to us is that we can show our dedication to hardcore players and not necessarily to people that easily bought it. Therefore, getting a hold of a Tier 2 skin is going to be significantly more difficult than a Tier 1 and a Tier 3 is an order of magnitude rarer than a Tier 2.

As for a favorite skin? “Glaive, by a large margin. They are all fun in their own way but I’m actually playing Glaive right now because of that skin because there’s something visceral and badass about it.”

Vainglory’s latest update with its comprehensive skin system (along with the usual bevy of balance changes) is now live. Players interested in the upcoming Vainglory tournament can check out their ESL site.

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