The hardcore devotees of PC and casual fanatics on mobile share much in common. Many invest hours a day, learning the patterns of their chosen craft in pursuit of the next rung on the leaderboard ladder.
It’s a connection that Super Evil Megacorp takes full advantage of in Vainglory, a title that combines the competitive grip of PC MOBAs with the accessible touch controls of smart devices. The studio is similarly divided, serving as the home to PC and console alumni from Riot, Blizzard and Rockstar, as well as mobile specialists out of Supercell, Glu and Zynga.
“We spent a lot of time on controls,” reveals COO and executive director Kristian Segerstrale. “For a title to be viable competitively, the control input must be instantaneous, precise and provide a gaming environment where you don’t even think about the control input at all – you’re just battling.”
Members of the self-appointed ‘PC Master Race’ may turn their noses at the suggestion that a 10-inch touchscreen could recreate the accuracy and speed of a keyboard-and-mouse setup. Segerstrale insists that the gulf isn’t as wide as it seems.
It is incredibly sad that this generation is growing up with three-minute gaming sessions.
“We developed our own engine from scratch precisely for competitive play, with very fast hyper-accurate controls in mind,” he recalls. “It turns out many of the best players in the world right now play on very small screens.
“It’s really the same as the settings on your PC mouse – you can either choose to be very accurate but slow, which is basically a larger screen, or very fast and a little bit less accurate, which is like a fast mouse.”
As for players’ obsession with actions per minute (‘APM’), Segerstrale says the simplified nature of touch lends itself to streamlining in-game moves.
“Things like kiting, where you run in one direction and shoot in the other, are mechanically tricky on a mouse and not precise either, because you need to move-click, move-click,” he explains. “Tapping with two fingers on a touch screen is more accurate than a mouse in that particular circumstance.
“There are no swipes or gyroscope controls or anything inaccurate. It’s all literally just a single tap.”
MAKING IT ON MOBILE
Vainglory isn’t the first to attempt to seed interest in mobile eSports, but is one of the first major attempts to translate the mechanical complexity of core PC titles.
In fact, Vainglory is in many ways the antithesis of mobile design: it’s not designed to be absorbed in bite-size chunks, but in hours-long marathons.
“It is incredibly sad that this generation is growing up with three-minute gaming sessions,” Segerstrale laments. “When we grew up, you’d carry your PC to your friend’s house and play all night. We’re trying to bring that style of gaming.”
Vainglory faces a hard challenge in convincing players that mobile competitive gaming is viable. Segerstrale remains confident.
“Every time a style of play moves from one platform to another, there’s skepticism,” he observes. “If you spend enough time figuring this out, respect the players, focus on delivering a great experience and really hold yourself responsible for getting there, the opportunity is absolutely wide open.”
Article originally published in Develop: March 2016 issue.