Kristian Segerstrale, CEO of San Mateo, California-based Super Evil Megacorp, said in an interview with GamesBeat that players in any of the versions of Vainglory — Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS — will be able to play in the same multiplayer game together with “competitive parity” in five-versus-five matches. The cross-platform play started recently as an alpha test (with a free skin as a reward).
“We’ve been working really hard to build triple-A games on mobile with touchscreens,” he said. “This year, it became clear to us that gaming is evolving from a platform-specific focus to a universe in the future where gaming is gaming, and you don’t think about the platform first. Fortnite has [been] a good step in this direction where you can play together across platforms.”
Normally, games with PC and mobile versions keep players separated in order to ensure fairness, but Segerstrale said that the team has worked hard to ensure that players will all have a fair chance, and no platform will have an advantage over the other. In Fortnite, mobile gamers are usually outgunned by PC gamers in particular.
“Fundamentally, we have a cross-platform game engine, and so, it is the same game,” Segerstrale said. “We expect to be one of the only games out there with true competitive parity. You can play with your friends, be they on a PC, Chromebook, iOS device, etc., knowing they are all just as competitive.”
Super Evil is also kicking off a strategic partnership with Chinese Internet giant NetEase, which will support Vainglory’s 4.0 cross-platform launch in China. One of the reasons Vainglory can move to the PC is because the developers upgraded the game from three players versus three players to five versus five.
“We’ve been working on this for the better part of this year,” Segerstrale said. “We’ve always believed in a multi-platform future, but we always thought it was far away.”
While going cross platform is a cool feature, it’s also an admission of failure for Vainglory’s initial approach of trying to gather a massive audience on mobile devices.
I asked Segerstrale if this move was a pivot away from mobile.
“No, not really,” he said. “This year has been in some ways a transition year for us, as we have moved from a three-v-three player game to a full-fledged five-v-five game. What struck us with the success of these large-scale games like [PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds] and Fortnite, for the West in particular, has clearly been a preference for mobile in core games that are cross platform. We believe cross-platform play will be very important for competitive games in the future. We think that is where gaming is heading in the next five to 10 years. It will be very rare to have a multiplayer game that is platform specific in the future.”
Since its launch in 2015, Super Evil Megacorp has tried to make Vainglory into an esport by shooting for triple-A status in terms of both graphics quality and speed. The game has endured for a while, and Super Evil Megacorp has been able to raise a lot of money to sustain it, but it has not gained mass audiences like Tencent’s Arena of Valor.
The company has been able to make big changes — like accommodating spectating, going five versus five, and going cross platform — because the company owns its proprietary cross-platform E.V.I.L. game engine. By tweaking the engine, Super Evil Megacorp can make big changes in the game and upgrade its graphics, controls, and other features.
The game can run at up to 120 frames per second, and the game was originally designed for tablets. In the touch-based title, players continuously mash a finger on the screen to keep attacking other players. It’s a very simple control system. That’s why Segerstrale thinks it will fare well on the PC.
It will be a big test to see if mobile gamers can hold their own against mouse-and-keyboard players in Vainglory.
Is mobile a weakening platform?
Vainglory started on iOS and Android as a three-versus-three game. Now, it is five-versus-five cross platform. Segerstrale said console players will be able to join the game by the end of 2019.
In other news, ESP Gaming will be hosting Vainglory’s 2018 World Invitational on December 16 in Los Angeles featuring the very first PC-versus-mobile show match to set the stage for cross-platform competitive play in 2019.
“We are broadening our early alpha, and from Monday onwards, we are in a more mature alpha to invite more players to make it better,” Segerstrale said. “[We’ll] release it more broadly by 2019, and we’ll release it on console by the end of 2019, again with competitive parity.”
Super Evil’s strategic partnership with NetEase will support the cross-platform launch in China.
“Vainglory will be a defining title for cross-platform competitive gaming, and we are committed to work closely with Super Evil Megacorp for the launch of Vainglory 4.0 in China,” said William Ding, CEO of NetEase, in a statement.
Vainglory 4.0 will be available for free on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android in early 2019. Vainglory 4.0 will feature cross-platform play, a re-worked cross-platform UI, improved communications, new event-based game modes, and much more.
And when it comes to esports, Segerstrale said that players will be able to play the game on the platform they prefer.
Super Evil Megacorp has about 60 employees, which is down from higher numbers in earlier years.