With Vainglory reaching a bigger audience base and offering bigger tournament cash pools, top Vainglory teams are now taking competitive play to the next level: with competitive analytics. Competitive analytics is now almost second nature in the world of sport (there are entire conferences on this topic alone), and are known to be widely utilized in top eSports games like League of Legends. But for Vainglory to reach the point where top teams feel the necessity to dedicate resources for competitive analytics really shows how much depth the game has, especially for a mobile title.
A recent article from Red Bull eSports goes in depth explaining the need for competitive analytics in Vainglory:
Since its inception in 2014,the mobile MOBA Vainglory has been on an extremely rigorous development cycle. On a monthly basis, there are new heroes, changes to existing heroes and items, and even changes to the map and game mechanics. A team that attempts to enter a tournament with last month’s meta, heroes, and strategies will fail. Inversely, teams who keep up with the changes will stay afloat, and the teams who thrive are the ones that assimilate the changes and innovate, enabling them to catch their opponents off guard.
Vainglory’s hero pool of 22 may seem small in comparison to some of the tenured MOBAs, such as DotA or LoL, but many of these heroes can be played in multiple roles with multiple potential builds incorporating weapon power, crystal power, and support items (Think attack damage, ability power, and active ability items), creating a wide diversity of play styles. As an example, one of the biggest swings in the current meta is the hero, Fortress, who has traditionally been played as a roamer with support items to aid his jungler and laner. As an unforeseen shift in meta, he is now the terror of the jungle as a crystal power build.
The article features 2 different perspectives on competitive analytics from top team Gankstars Sirius and Alliance respectively. While both teams value analytics, their philosophy and approach to working with analytics are complete contrasts to one another. IraqiZorro, Captain of Gankstars Sirius believes in separating the role of players and analysts, as this allows the players to focus on practicing hero mechanics while the analysts focus on maintaining a deeper understanding of the numbers behind the game. According to IraqiZorro:
“As in any other eSport, the idea behind having an analyst or an analyst team is to create the space for the players to be able to focus on the mechanical aspect of the game mostly, and help them answer questions that they wouldn’t be able to answer on their own or questions that would take too much of their focus to find the answer to. It’s always healthy for a player to explore new aspects of the game, but it’s better to have someone that can feed you ideas and help you do it. That’s mostly the advantage our analyst team provides to us in GankStars.”
Meanwhile, Alliance team captain FlashX double duties as the team’s primary analyst and researcher. He goes on to explain why he disagrees with the idea of having a dedicated off-team analyst:
“Players will always have a deeper understanding if they do research themselves rather than having someone else do it for them. There have been plenty of studies done in how humans learn. If a student takes their own notes, they will have higher performance than if they just study from someone else’s notes. If I personally see that an opposing player routinely places a scout trap to the left of the inner heal minion, that information has a much higher chance of being recited during a game rather than if someone else just tells me that he does that.”
Given the success both teams have had in the game, it is difficult to say who’s approach to competitive analytics is correct. However, looking at traditional sports may give us a perspective on this: In a sport like baseball or basketball, we see that the best players are often those who understand the game best, and not just those who are the most athletically gifted or mastered a certain skill. These players benefit from expert analysts who are dedicated to looking into things that the player might otherwise not be able to see, or have the time to observe themselves. If this is also the case for an eSport game like Vainglory, then it is likely that the best solution for competitive analytics falls somewhere in between the two extremes.