Bo Daly was trained as an engineer, with early experience in databases and technology consulting, and an internship at Microsoft’s Redmond campus. But he always wanted to make games. As he puts it, he “desperately needed to make games.”
He succeeded in that quest, working at companies including Rockstar Games in San Diego, on the “Red Dead Revolver” and “Red Dead Redemption” games. The experience at Rockstar showed him the power of a company that has a clear vision and strong sense of identity — and a built-in audience of gamers that faithfully follows and plays everything the company releases.
Today, Daly is the CEO of Super Evil Megacorp, based in San Mateo, Calif., maker of the touch-screen multiplayer online battle arena game “Vainglory” for iOS and Android. The game has an avid following of its own, as evidenced by the huge crowd that showed up this past weekend in Seattle for the Vainglory North American Live Summer Championships 2016, an eSports competition pitting teams of gamers against each other in front of a cheering crowd.
Meet our new Geek of the Week and continue reading for his answers to our questions, edited for length and clarity.
How’d you come up with the name, Super Evil Megacorp?
Daly: It was those lightning in the bottle things, you couldn’t really create it. Someone threw that out as part of a joke. We’re like, “Oh, that’s amazing. If we ever start a company, that’s the name, right?” The thing that we really loved about it was, not only is it funny, and channels these feelings of Dr. Evil and various other things. It’s also this really interesting beacon. When we founded the company, we knew early on that we wanted to build a team that was much more a commando squad than a big infantry unit. We wanted to get a small number of craftsmen who really care about what they do, really work well together, and build games in a real craftsman-like style, in a way that is hard to do in the games industry nowadays.
There’s so much consolidation, big shooter franchises. The same game, year after year after year. These are the biggest games in the industry, and we hire a lot of people out of console. They’re incredible craftsmen who just get stuck feeling like cogs in a machine. What we really loved about the name, early on especially, is it’s a beacon to those types of folks — you don’t have to be caught deep inside the cogs of some huge Mega Corp where you don’t have creative control, and a voice in what you’re creating. That helped us build a great base of talent that is the cornerstone, the foundation of Super Evil.
How do you explain the phenomenon of eSports?
Daly: I personally play ice hockey, that’s actually one of my hobbies. I always wondered why a game like that — that is so visual and so exciting, and the players are so highly skilled — why that’s not the biggest sport in the world, as physical sports goes. It comes down to access. Soccer is a very similar game structurally, but not that many people grew up with access to ice. Everyone can tape together a bunch of stuff into a ball shape and go kick it around in the yard. It doesn’t matter where in the world you grew up, that’s a thing. Ultimately, at the end of the day, people compete. They cooperate and they compete, it goes all the way back to our primordial days as a species.
The great thing about eSports was that it’s accessible to everyone who has a PC, which is getting to be a very big portion of the world. Now with Vainglory, it’s anyone who has access to a touchscreen device.
What have you learned about leading a community from getting into eSports? What are the key ingredients?
Daly: The real key is to be part of that community yourself. I think eSports is an outgrowth of being community-minded and community-first. Now that eSports is becoming a thing, I think a lot of gaming companies say, “Oh, we’re going to make a game that’s going to be an eSport and we’re going to do this.” I think the truth is that you can’t really set out to make an eSport and just have it come true. You can’t just pour marketing dollars on it or put a cash prize at the top of the tournament and make that be an eSport, because at the end of the day, eSports in my mind isn’t really a marketing vehicle. Although it has a lot of marketing value, it’s actually a platform for your community. You’re giving back to your community by giving them a forum to show off how great they’ve gotten at the thing they really care about doing.
Being part of your community, understanding their wants and needs. Building for them in a selfish ways, in some ways, because we are the original Vainglory players ourselves. They’re a lot better than we are now but we’re building for ourselves in a lot of ways. As we invest in making the game great for them, they’re able to show and develop deeper and better skills. At that point it’s really much more about giving them a stage to play on, rather than trying to create a phenomenon.
What happens if you play the best Vainglory gamers?
Daly: We did a press tour back when we had our global rollout last July. We were traveling all over Europe, we were in 5 cities and 5 counties in 5 days. Every location we had show matches. It was me and 2 other devs, against the local players. The local players just embarrassed us every single time. It’s a really humbling thing. We spend 8 hours a day making the game and a lot of kids spend 8 hours-plus playing the game, studying the game, practicing the mechanical ability and building the intuition and the instincts for what’s going to happen next in an actual fight.
Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac
Kirk, Picard or Janeway? I’m a Captain Kirk fan. He’s got a certain battlefield presence and combat readiness.
Transporter, time machine, or cloak of invisibility? I think the time machine opens up some very interesting possibilities for mischief. Invisibility, too, but the invisibility ones are often a little creepier than the time machines. I’m going to go with time machines.
I once waited in line for … the PlayStation 2 release.
First computer? Tandy Color Computer 3.
Greatest game in history? Ico. They managed to make an incredibly beautiful game on the PlayStation 2, which was advanced for its time, but looking back at it, it was a very hard thing that they did, to create the lighting effects. The amount of work that needed to go into making that at the time was incredible but also the fact that a team that was that technically focused was actually building a game that was deeply about relationships and love in a sense, that had emotional resonance. I’ve played that game with parents, friends, girlfriends. I’ve sat down and experienced that game with so many people, and brought people into gaming through that game. Its still stands as one of the best experiences ever.
Your role model? Henry Rollins, because of his conviction for doing the right thing and developing yourself. Constantly challenging the boundaries. Confronting right and wrong, and holding yourself accountable to being a good person.
Site: Super Evil Megacorp