It’s not often that games, much less MOBAs, introduce a “point-oh” patch; to do so usually means the developers are gearing up for something big. The fanfare is no different for Vainglory, whose devs, Super Evil Megacorp (SEMC), presented its Update 2.0 patch before the finals of their Worlds championship. Currently, the game is on 1.24 after introducing its latest hero, Flicker, in early November, but that’s clearly not enough for SEMC.
The Update 2.0 keynote lasted over seven minutes, and the changes seem to affect just about everything except name. This patch expands the Guild system, and they add more features into their reward chests, as well as new winter skins. But these features are butter on the proverbial bread, as 2.0 overhauls much of the game itself in considerable ways.
For one, it adds an entirely new minion mechanic—or rather, alters a familiar one drastically. The Minion Mine monster, which used to inhabit a static camp, will now spawn from each team’s bases at the four-minute mark, then slowly move towards its usual position in each side of the jungle. It will also attack enemy heroes on sight and continue to defend the jungle, removing some of the leashing mechanics.
A breadth of new item opportunities have also been introduced. The most prominent for all players is the massive increase of starting gold: from 350 to 625, nearly doubling how each player starts with. A mid-jungle item shop, which is currently available at game start, will spawn at the four-minute mark. There are also new items being introduced, including one that “silences” a hero’s items (that is, prevents them from using item abilities) and another that applies Mortal Wounds, reducing healing and protection.
Just as important as the in-game mechanics, though, is how Vainglory will talk about them in the future. They’ve changed the roles from “lane, jungle, and roam” to “captain, carry, and jungler.” While the carry and jungler roles continue to reflect their roles in other MOBAs as respective damage-dealers and gankers, the “captain” role, according to SEMC, isn’t just a name.
“We have a long-term vision for how the captain will play a unique in-game role on a team, with a markedly different mindset, options and incentives,” they say on their website. It’s definitely a decision that will affect how pub matches are played. In this non-verbal MOBA, it’s easy to be confused about who initiates strategies and ganks, despite a comfortable array of tools that allow for such communication. Plus, the role is meant to be the tank-defender equivalent, which makes sense as designating a tanky or protective player to call the shots is usually a safe strategy.
Like any established MOBA, the ability for players to analyze their games, learn from data, and watch trends is crucial to how the game is understood
The absolute designation of roles by the game, which includes a role-deficit indicator (much like Overwatch—“Too Many Snipers,” anyone?), may also work to help players unfamiliar with MOBA strategies intuitively learn team synergy essential to the genre.
Perhaps the most community-changing feature coming soon, though not necessarily with the patch, will be the introduction of a developers’ application program interface, or API, which allows third-party developers to access certain data about the game and its matches. Right now, the ability to analyze games is limited to replays and recorded matches. Like any established MOBA, the ability for players to analyze their games, learn from data, and watch trends is crucial to how the game is understood. Get ready for the data science junkies, waiting to rise as the prominent game analysis base.
Vainglory prides itself as “The MOBA Perfected For Touch,” and acts as a segue into (or out of) established PC MOBAs. SEMC chooses not to compromise its vision as the ideal mobile MOBA for increased complexity, and Update 2.0 is the embodiment of this marriage. Whether or not this patch and the tournament that preceded it will bring in new players is yet to be seen. Still, 2.0 shows that Vainglory is truly trying to learn how to become its own proper MOBA and, maybe one day, a more appreciated esport.