Kyle West is the Product Marketing Manager of Modern Combat Versus. It is a position that demands he knows pretty much everything about the game. So, during the recent HONOR MCVS International Series Final at the Paris ESL Studio, I took a moment to sit down with him to discuss the game's competitive tournament ambitions and what the future holds… including the HUGE fifth update.
Were you to stand in one spot backstage at the ESL Studio Paris, there was one person that you would see running past you more than anyone else, Kyle. A constant presence, his role demanded that he was everywhere from start to finish of the event. He was buzzing with a mix of nerves, energy, and pride throughout the event, as he ensured teams were ready, streams worked, and interviews ran on time.
The first milestone
Given this was the first MCVS live streamed competitive event, his energy was understandable. But, in a quiet-ish moment, he was able to spare me some time for a quick sit down. Given the mood, there really was only one first question, which was how Kyle was feeling about everything. ‘It’s been a long journey since launch, but it was always our goal to build a big esports event.’
‘It’s a proud moment. The team has worked hard for months adding features to make competitive tournaments more engaging, adding private games and spectator matches. Getting to showcase our original vision for MCVS with one big event is great.’
If you have been paying attention to the game, you will know that Modern Combat Versus has been evolving since launch. ‘I'd call it a continuous learning process,’ Kyle explained. ‘We have iterated, not pushing everything live at once, seeing the response to each update and what needed to be changed.’
‘Community and team feedback, other games, and application of our own knowledge, have all allowed us to constantly improve. We have looked at all successful FPS esports games, seeing what works well’, it’s this gradual process that has enabled the team to react to community feedback.
This continual learning has led to some interesting changes. One thing the team noticed was how frequently teams with new players would behave quite individualistically. ‘To prevent duplication and build stronger, more balanced teams we are now adding a tool-tip that will recommend an Agent to players based on the make-up of their squad.’
Changes were not all community or observation led, with the MCVS team also eliciting feedback from esports players and commentators. ‘Real-time stats, a mini-map, and a Spectator Mode that includes a 3rd person view’, are all features that are being rolled into the next update and that players can see for the first time in the HONOR MCVS International Series.
The beauty of this is of course that it has been an awesome display of the technology. ‘We have got to enjoy the best of the best play, all of these teams earned their spot in the [HONOR MCVS International Series] and watching it all through the new Spectator Mode that’s coming in update 5 has been wonderful.’
Biggest update yet
Update 5 is going to be huge, and Kyle was happy to discuss it! ‘We have so much more coming up. A large focus of this is to improve the experience for all players and help them sharpen their skills’, a rising tide lifts all boats! ‘The tool-tips for team composition is a perfect example of this thinking. By recommending a class, teams can be more balanced and players can practice with a wider range of roles and Agents.’
Similarly, the Spectator Mode isn’t just for tournament purposes. ‘You are going to be able to host four spectators in a match and that will help everyone’. Kyle elaborated, ‘small tournaments can be easily set up and streamed, teams can watch training, new players will be able to see high level games, and the whole experience can be more social. Plus, of course, top players are going to get more opportunities to boast.’
There are also big changes coming to MCVS’s Meta in update five, as the development team have completely rethought upgrades and abilities. ‘There is a new skill tree system that allows players more flexibility in how they spec their Agents. The end point is the same, but on the way players can decide if they want to focus on improving Health, Damage, or Abilities to suit their play-style.’
New ways to play
Changes have also been made to Special Abilities, with a new Ultimate Ability being added for fully upgraded Agents. This adds a passive effect to current abilities. Kyle elaborated with examples, ‘Juke’s Touchdown ability adds a slow burn effect to damage opponents, on top of the existing stun. And then there is Kan’s dome, which will be able to speed up healing for Agents inside it’ - the first healing boost in the game. ‘This is going to change how players think about their role on the field to better help the team.’
Modern Combat Versus fifth update also delivers the title's first new map, Central, taking the total number of locations up to six. ‘It's set at night in the Downtown Slums, which look a bit like the favelas with a hint of Tokyo’s neon. It looks great, but it also adds something quite unique, an obstacle. Sometimes a train comes charging through, and players are going to have to take this lethal hazard into account!’ It could change a lot of player's tactics, and even impact which characters players use. ‘Chapka could be great on this map. Her Zap Trap is able to draw Agents towards it - which could easily wipe a team if they get caught in this when the train rolls through.’
Other big additions in MCVS include four new skins for some fan favorite Agents (keep an eye out for teasers on those), a new Time-Limited Event system (expect multiple events at once going forward), Daily Contracts will add rolling tasks that you can take on for rewards, and finally Android players can look forward to improved performance.
Kyle was also happy to talk about MCVS’s plans beyond update 5. ‘We are all about change and variety, and this can be seen in all of our plans - right down to the next Agent, Hashtag. He is the 17th Agent to come to the game, bringing with him an entirely different way to play. [This Specialist is able to cancel other player’s Abilities]. Tower has his Shield out? This will cancel it! Hashtag can even hack some Agents gadgets to cause them to target the other team if he upgrades to his Ultimate Ability.’
The team has a lot more planned beyond Hashtag. ‘We are looking at all the community feedback, and we are listening. It won’t all come at once, but it will come. There are plans to allow for more customization of HUD and controls, fresh game modes, and a lot of clan improvements to offer more ways to compete. We want all of this and we want to deliver it quickly. However, we also want to get it right, so don’t necessarily expect it in update 6’. Oh, he also promised plenty more characters and skins.
The best of the best
I knew Kyle had a lot still to do, but sat in the ESL Paris Studio I had to bring it back to the spectacle around us. ‘It’s been a pleasure to talk, play, and interact with the teams in person', Kyle grinned. 'We knew many of them through the game’s community channel, but meeting them face-to-face has been great.’
‘Of course they were always going to be good - but this is something else. Sitting down and really watching their process and communication… seeing these top players at work… it has been a learning experience. I remember one match early on went 99-0, then the other team brought it back. Moments like that are only achieved by top teams in their element.’
While their tactics were mostly anticipated, there were some surprises even for Kyle. 'Teams were obviously willing to switch Agents when needed, but I wasn’t expecting them to completely switch up their whole game plan at a moment's notice to react to the battlefield.’
At this point I couldn't resist, I needed to know if Kyle, Karen (MCVS’s Community Manager), and the developers could take on these teams. ‘When we do live streams we always have a dev on the couch… and he’s probably the best guy in Gameloft. He's there to showcase things’, he explained that this is why new Agents sometimes seem overpowered when first shown. ‘Because of this, we may have a chance… on Zone Control… on a good day… but even then it would be a struggle.’