Checking Out the Buzz as It Takes the Korean Market by Storm
In November of 2014, a mobile MOBA was launched in the Apple iOS store with little fan fair. Built specifically for touch screens from the get go, Super Evil Megacorp (love that name) made decisions about the map, how strategy and tactics would be employed to control the game and how they wanted to bring games back to playing with friends.
As Marketing and Communications Director Heini Vesander conveyed to me, Super Evil Megacorp wanted to bring back the way friends used to get together to play games and have LAN parties. Where coordination and chat was in person while the collaborated together to play a game. To that end, there are only 3 in the party, only 3 abilities and as the party is small, there is only one lane on the map. The basic attack is an auto-attack once you’ve tapped your target and these attacks do not miss although your target can move out of range.
To make it more strategic, there is a jungle below that lane, and in it are control points like a minion mine and a gold mine that can be controlled and held, as well as a Kraken which takes the place of the miner when he digs deeply enough. Control of the gold miner and the Kraken will belong to the team that strikes the last blow. So it would behoove the team to know exactly where their opponents are when they are attempting control. The miner will support the team that controls it, and the Kraken will push towards the enemy base.
The rest of the game is what you may recognize as traditional MOBA – you have minions and turrets, you start off at level 1 and some gold in your pocket, you level up as you play and you gain gold with every kill to buy items and improved abilities from the shop.
The game may be designed for touch screen controls and the developers may want to bring back the camaraderie of physically playing together, but in-game communication is not lacking either. Given that text chat is difficult, there are other means to convey your intentions to the party. Icons known as “Tactical Pings” may be placed on the map to inform your party of your intentions, calling them to rally around you, or asking if they want to say… attack the Kraken. There are also “Social Pings” to convey emotions like a beer stein to toast a victory or a sad face for a “whoops, I died again.” When you begin the game, you can also indicate whether your character will take on a Lane, Jungle or Roam (support) role.
A feature that Heini was pleased to point out was the amount of player created content there was in the game. The company supports and promotes the Youtube movies and tutorials that players create, and the news page is full of links to player created content.
The basic tutorial movies run you through the game and recommended items help new players learn the game quickly. There are also short movies for other aspects of the game like all parts of the map, tactics to use in the jungle, what the various items do, as well as short movies about each of the heroes. Useful when you are pondering which hero to unlock next with the currency you’ve earned from playing the game.
Speaking of play styles, I enjoy support characters in MOBAs and asked how Vainglory mitigated the problem of support characters not making kills in MOBAs. There are items/abilities in the character’s career path that lets them ameliorate having to have the kill, like Adagio’s Ironguard Contract which nets you 60% of the gold of a nearby ally kill as bonus gold (you don’t take gold from your team mates).
Vainglory was also designed to be a competitive Esport. To this end, there are quarterly seasons with trophies and rewards, and ELO is used for match making. The skill tiers also reset at the end of each season. New heroes are released every 4 or 5 weeks and as popular as this game is in Korea, Super Evil Megacorp released Skye at PAX as recognition of their Korean fans. Skye is a Ranger Assassin and as described, was created for the Korean play style – over the top!