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Vainglory, The Rise and Fall of the Mobile MOBA Ahead of Its Time

When talking about MOBAs, most people immediately think of League of Legends, DOTA, Mobile Legends, but how many have heard of Vainglory? Chances are, not many. 

Vainglory is a mobile MOBA developed by Super Evil Megacorp and released in 2014. It was definitely ahead of its time as it was presented as beautiful as it can be as far as graphics goes for mobile MOBAs at its time, complete with innovative controls. Most MOBAs on the market use joysticks and unnecessarily large buttons – possibly hindering sights of the actual game. Vainglory however, was a kind of its own and utilizes touch controls – which encourages players to play on a flat surface. As complex as it sounds, it’s really simple – touch anywhere on the map and your hero will move to the tapped location, tap an enemy hero or creature and you hero will begin attacking it. 

Aside from innovative controls, Vainglory’s map and gameplay sets it apart from other MOBAs. Instead of 5v5, Vainglory opted for a more compact, quick gameplay of 3v3 in of course, a smaller map consisting of only 1 lane and a small jungle. Games would last 15 minutes or even quicker if a team is dominating the game and 20 minutes or so if it’s an even game. Roles are pretty straightforward – there are 3 roles, Laner which is your Carry, Jungler which is self-explanatory and Roamer which is basically your support and/or tank. 

Courtessy of Super Evil Megacorp

However besides innovative, Super Evil Megacorp as a company, is very generous. They hold a philosophy of not wanting the game to be a pay-to-win one unlike most games on the mobile market. And they stayed true to it. Everything, and I mean everything in the game was obtainable for free – including skins, which in other titles are only obtainable by paying real life money. Aside from this, Vainglory didn’t place ads anywhere unlike other mobile games and this is the root of its downfall. 

Aside from the above-mentioned issues, Vainglory hosted and funded its own e-sports events which means they pay for the hotels, venues and everything needed for the event. In 2016, their esports entered a new era when SEMC hosted their first world championship which sees the likes of well-known teams such as TSM, Team Secret and more with a prize pool of a whopping $175.000. All of the expenses without return is no small problem and due to this, they things began to change. 

The first noticeable change is the skin system. Instead of being effortlessly obtainable via grinding and a hint of luck, they changed it so that skins are harder to obtain and introduced a new system called Talents which are only usable in brawl like game modes and Talents chest which is only obtainable via in app purchases. Aside from this, in 2018 they released the classic 5v5 game-mode and shortly after the new game mode’s release, began expanding its market to PC and Mac and making Vainglory cross platform however to no avail. 

Things began getting worse when Rogue Games enters the picture.in 2020. Rogue gaming became the games publisher and ultimately had complete control over everything, hero publishing, balancing, servers outside of China and last but not least philosophy. As a veteran player myself, the difference due to the sudden change of publishers was really noticeable starting from different art styles and different feel to the new heroes that were published. 

In the end, everything reached a breaking point during the COVID-19 pandemic as Rogue shut down Vainglory’s servers, resulting in the game being down for a few days. Rogue issued an official statement and used COVID-19 as a justification for their actions. The higher up members of SEMC quickly began a plan to salvage Vainglory and began releasing weekly developer updates and revealed their future plan – handing Vainglory’s fate to its very players, turning Vainglory into Vainglory – Community Edition.

Courtessy of Super Evil Megacorp and Rogue Games

Vainglory Community Edition as its name suggests, now belongs to the community and is still available to this day however without an elo and ranking system and profile but on the flip side, everything is unlockable, heroes, skins and talents. It wasn’t as huge as it used to be, but there are still active communities and a very-very optimistic and dedicated fanbase which someday hope to see Vainglory rise from its ruins. 

Vainglory was an amazing game. To this day, this was probably the most memorable mobile MOBA game that I and possibly other 2003 and even older youngsters have ever played, Witnessing the rise and the fall of this game was definitely something unforgettable and it’s ironic how the downfall of this game was due to the developer’s noble philosophy. 

Joseph Kevin
ig: @josephkevin30

email: jklie120101@gmail.com

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