Hardcore MOBA, Vain Glory, From Former Rockstar and Riot Devs has a Catch -- it's on Tablet

Super Evil Megacorp, a new developer which features former staff from Riot, Rockstar, and Playfish, is making a MOBA for the iPad. But is there an audience for that?

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What game are you playing on your tablet right now? Maybe it's Monument Valley, Threes!, or the guilty pleasure that is Candy Crush Saga? One new startup is hoping that, over the next few months, you'll be looking to play a hardcore MOBA on your iPad.

Super Evil Megacorp is currently working on Vain Glory, a MOBA for tablets that's gunning to recreate the success of League of Legends. My first reaction was, well, immensely sceptical. And then I remembered that, earlier this week, I spent an evening at a game night where scores of people were sitting around in the same room playing Hearthstone against each other, all with their own laptops and tablets. And then last night I watched as the GameSpot office exploded in noise after a game of Towerfall Ascension.

That's Super Evil Megacorp's gamble, then: pretty much everyone has a tablet, and there's a growing market for technical, dense games that a group of people can play together in one room.

The company's freshly minted executive director Kristian Segerstrale, who previously co-founded Playfish, says that the iPad and iPhone "are capable of these incredible core gaming experiences, but the software just hasn't been made yet."

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Still, the first thought most of us have when it comes to the App Store are Flappy Bird and Candy Crush clones. There's a reason so many people are skeptical about playing long, intricate titles on their tablets, right? "There's been a bunch of games that sort of market themselves as 'core', where they look core in their marketing messaging, they look core in their first five minutes of gameplay, and then it turns out they are very shallow. We feel like it just hasn't been done yet, except with the possible exception of Hearthstone... which I think is the first piece of software that's been crafted for tablets that actually shows what the hardware is capable of."

CEO Bob Daly has put together a team, currently of around 16 developers, that includes former staff from Riot Games, Rockstar, and Playfish to work on Vain Glory. It's a 3 vs. 3 brawler, so slightly smaller than the main modes of League of Legends and Dota 2, and the game is being created with its own proprietary engine. Right now Vain Glory is being beta tested in Southeast Asia, and Daly says the team is specifically targeting players of LoL and Dota 2. A wider, global rollout of beta invites is scheduled to begin in the next few months. The studio has just secured another $11.6 million in financing, which brings its funding total to $15 million. That sounds like a lot, but this is team gunning for League of Legends, which is estimated to have grossed $624 million in 2013.

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But does the game work? Is it fun? How on Earth do you play a MOBA, a genre which requires hundreds of mouse clicks and button presses, on a tablet? Super Evil Megacorp isn't talking about any of that stuff right now--it says it's just looking to unveil the studio and communicate their design philosphy.

The real question, then, is whether this developer can walk the walk after so many others have tried and failed. Segerstrale, however, points to the team's work on creating its own bespoke engine as a sign of its intentions. "If you think about Apple's announcement of Metal," said Segerstrale, "it shows how very serious game engines are." And what about the games? "I think the pointers are there, but nobody has made the defining software for these devices. Somebody is going to do that. In the next 12, to 18, to 24 months, somebody is going to come out with a defining core product for tablets. We're working very hard to be that company, but it could be somebody else. It will happen."

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