SEMC Co-founder Bo Daly on the importance of community to eSports, and the latest on Vainglory 5v5

Many of the leading professionals in the eSports community gathered yesterday at the Cypnosis World Esports Summit in New York yesterday, and among them was Bo Daly, co-founder and Chief Business Officer of Super Evil MegaCorp.  MoEsport had the opportunity to chat with Bo to learn more about the state of Vainglory, and the latest on their plans with 5v5(!)

MoEsport: You mentioned in your panel today about the importance of community in eSports.  What are some of the initiatives SEMC is working on in building the Vainglory community?

Bo: We’re big believers that you can’t just have a million dollar prize pool and turn it into a eSport.  People’s competitive spirit comes from a place of passion, especially in team sport: it comes from community and the relationship players have with each other.  Our eSport initiative really only began with VGL broadcasting 2v2 tournaments, before we even had a spectator mode!  The development of the spectator mode was in a sense a community service, and that continues to evolve as we continue to work with the community in improving other aspects of the game experience.

Going forward, one of the things I’m most excited about is our combined North America/Europe finals, which will be held in London. We are working really closely with Fnatic on this event; Fnatic is a great organization with a strong community around them, and we are hoping to bring this greater eSports community into Vainglory.  It is important for us to build partnerships that will allow everyone to create good experiences and share in the growth.  I traveled to 3 countries in Asia in the past weeks, and we held fan events in each location.  This is not just for us to share our latest news with the community, but also to collect feedback and understand what their needs are.

MoEsport: Speaking of the Finals in London, this will be the first event that Vainglory will be hosting with a local partner team, with Fnatic designated as the “home team”.  At this point, is this tournament model still an experimentation, or can we expect to see more of this with upcoming championships and events where teams will play host?

Bo: In a lot ways this is an experiment since it is the first time we are doing it, be we have always sort to host our event in places where there is a strong community.  Los Angeles was a good location for us to hose events as there are a lot of players there, and there is so much to do in LA that people can justify making a trip there.  There is a high likelihood that as we do our events in other locations, we will continue to leverage on the expertise of the local teams and build bridges to the local communities.

MoEsport: How does this relate to the Franchise Program that was announced earlier this year?  Is this something that is already in place, or will this be slowly rolled out over time?

Bo: We don’t want to be a position at this point to be dictating every team to adopt a hometown because that can feel forced.  But in certain markets (such as Invincible Armada in Korea), it definitely make sense to work with the teams locally.

MoEsport: We talked a little about the importance of community in expanding the reach of the game; what are some of the other things SEMC is doing to help Vainglory reach out to the bigger audience base?

Bo: Working with teams is very important to us; we want to enable teams to build their communities wherever they are.  Almost all the top players are already streaming, and they’re able to draw eyeballs not just because of their skill, but because they are core pieces the community (Xenotek is a good example of this).  Beyond that, we will continue to work with partners around the world to grow mobile eSports, whether they are handset manufacturers or other brands that will help educate the audience.

The biggest challenge for us (and eSports in general) is that when you play an eSports game, you understand eSport and the significance of it.  But if you are outside of that circle, you might not even know that eSports exist.  Companies like Turner and ESPN are starting to educate the mass market; leveraging brands and working with partners will allow us to tell these interesting eSports stories to a larger audience.

MoEsport: Finally, there has been a lot of talk about Vainglory exploring a 5v5 mode.  What are some of the challenges the game team has faced during this exploration? 

Bo: There are quite a few challenges.  First and foremost, we have to make sure that the tech holds up, that players are able to play 5v5 with 10 heroes on the screen all firing their ults without melting their iPad 2!  We have to make sure that it is a good gameplay experience: high fidelity input, low latency, and overall great to play from a moment-to-moment touch and feel perspective.

Beyond that, our heroes are currently designed for 3v3.  We didn’t seek to copy the 5v5 MOBA from PC and stick it on a new platform; we built the game from ground up to make it suitable for touch screen.  I’m still a big believer in the 3v3 mode and will make sure it will remain a great experience competitively for players.  There were also specific decisions to make our heroes more broadly capable.  Early on in our hero designs, we didn’t seek to create heroes that were “just tanks” or “just damage dealers”; everyone had to be able to do a few different things through different item builds.  To make sure that our heroes can function in a 5v5 map is also a challenge.

In terms of timeline, we are currently doing some tests on a checkerboard map, so it’s still very early.  We’re not even sure if the traditional 5v5 map on PC would be suitable for touchscreen.  We want to approach this very thoughtfully, and it will take time to get this right.



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