Catalyst Black Interview – What Super Evil Megacorp has Been Up to After Vainglory

Catalyst Black has been itching the competitive scratch I’ve had for a while when it comes to mobile games. It’s shaping up to be one of the biggest mobile games to keep an eye on over the next few months.

If you’ve been wanting to know what the team at Super Evil Megacorp has been up to, we spoke with the Catalyst Black’s Live Design Director, Kevin Michael Johnson, about their plans with their upcoming shooter.


Brock Jensen: With what’s currently offered in the beta, your team seems to have set the foundation for additional modes. Do you have any plans that you can share with us?

Kevin Michael Johnson: The beta version of Catalyst Black consists of three game modes spread across three different battlegrounds:

“Core Rush” is a mix of PVE and PVP as teams race to take down bosses and capture their cores. This mode can be played on all of our battlegrounds (Temples of the Three, Mistral Fragments, and Azure Plateau).

“Flag Hunter” is another PVE/PVP mix as teams take out bosses to acquire flags (or steal them from the opposing team). First team to hold ten flags for 75 seconds wins. This can be played on the Temples of the Three, and Azure Plateau battlegrounds.

And lastly “Capture the Flag,” a more traditional game mode, is available. This can be played on both Azure Plateau and Mistral Fragments.

For the future, we’re working on a large-scale play experience that we’re calling “War Mode.” This will include vying for lots of different objectives over a longer period of time. We think this mode will be a nice fit for our Drop-in Drop-out (DIDO) system.

BJ: With this being an online game, do you have an idea of what the “premiere” mode is that players will gravitate to, and do you see that changing when the game is officially launched?

KMJ: Initially, some of these well-trod competitive game modes (like Capture the Flag) hold a lot of gravity for players. It’s easy to jump into something you’re familiar with and feel good getting to work. In the future, we hope some of our more distinct offerings (like War Mode) will prove a more custom fit with some of the game’s social make-up. These would allow you to drop in, accomplish some quests, and benefit your side, but also allow you to drop out without feeling like you’ve abandoned your team. We still have a lot to learn on this side of things, though; it’s definitely hard to argue with time-hardened play experiences.

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BJ: Many mobile gamers have an attachment to competitive ranked gameplay. Which modes do you feel are best suited for ranked play, and will you support this at launch?

KMJ: Competitive games are certainly in our DNA (given our history with Vainglory) and we can see ourselves providing this kind of experience in the future. Right now, we’re focused on ensuring the base gameplay experience is compelling and fun to a wide variety of player types. If players really want to see a competitive version of this game after getting their hands on it at launch, I’m certain we’ll work hard to provide what they’re looking for.

BJ: While Catalyst Black is heavily gameplay focused, your team is dropping hints of lore over social media. Can we expect some story elements sprinkled in the game as well? 

KMJ: As gamers and fantasy nerds ourselves, we want the world of Catalyst Black to feel compelling, whole, and full of possibility. We know not every gamer is looking for this kind of thing in their multiplayer experiences, but we feel a creative responsibility to ensure the foundation of this world makes sense and has the potential to draw people in. We think a weapon is meaningful not only in the way that it looks, fires, and deals damage, but also its relevance to the world around it. We want these items to have names and even history when possible. At a minimum, we want players to know that we care enough about this game to think that hard about every part of it’s make-up. We try not to hammer people over the head with this stuff, but ensure it’s there if people go looking for it. If we ever do get a chance to tell more specific stories inside the world of Kyria, we’ll be ready to dive in head-first!

BJ: The online shop offers new guns and equipment, but I wondered if there are any plans for cosmetics as well? I’d love to see some Vainglory inspired skins make their way to Catalyst Black and other crossovers.

KMJ: What you see in the shop at present is certainly just the beginning for us. We too feel that cosmetics would be a rich place for us to invest time and creativity. It is such a fun place to play as developers while also providing a variety of avenues for engagement.

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BJ: The gameplay of Catalyst Black revolves around the guns as opposed to unique characters and heroes. What inspired this design choice, and how have players adapted to these systems?

KMJ: Vainglory was an interesting springboard for the team here, as developing a MOBA hero is such a specific offering with a custom kit and a focused gameplay purpose. Sure, a MOBA character can be built to play a little bit outside the lines, but for the most part you know what you’re getting into when you queue up to play a certain hero. In Catalyst Black, the design team asked themselves the question, “What if we let people design their own MOBA-like hero? Can we simply provide all the parts and allow people to mix and match?” It’s a pretty rich question. So far, our efforts to accomplish this seem to be working, but we’re really just getting started and there’s a lot to learn.

I’m sure we’re going to run into moments where the community completely trumps our design intent by breaking the entire game with their builds. That’s also part of the fun of making live games. We want to ensure we’ve provided enough depth and opportunity that players actually care enough to try to break the game with their builds. That’s the kind of game that keeps you thinking about it long after you’ve logged off. Of course, we’ll be here to ensure things don’t go too far off the rails in terms of balance and intent.

BJ: Although Catalyst Black is designed to be a mobile game, do you have plans to ever bring it to PC or console?

KMJ: We definitely have big hopes here. You’ve probably heard Kristian (our CEO) talk in the past about “cloud-first” gaming and how we feel it’s a big part of the convergence we’re seeing across platforms. We want to build games that take that prophetic future seriously. It’s partly the reason we’ve focused so much on our current control scheme. Cross-platform, “cloud-first” games need to have viable controls that work across touch, mouse and keyboard, and controllers with an equal level of efficacy. It’s been a massive focus for us. As a relevant side note, we are already playtesting internally with a concurrent mix of all three inputs.

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BJ: Currently, it seems your main focus is finishing Catalyst Black, which leaves the Community Edition of Vainglory halted. Do you have plans to return to Vainglory in 2021?

KMJ: We love everything about Vainglory. It’s such a deep, rich part of who we are and where the team’s come from. If given the opportunity, we would definitely return to the game. There’s still a lot we want to accomplish there, even with Community Edition. We don’t have any timeline here as we are so completely focused on the success of Catalyst Black and this next step for Super Evil Megacorp.

BJ: Is there anything you’d like to say to those waiting for the full release of Catalyst Black?

KMJ: Thanks so much for your patience and support. We are working hard to get the game into your hands as soon as we possibly can. Definitely don’t hesitate to join us on the official Discord (discord.gg/catalystblack) and stay up to date on our progress. We do our best to keep the community entertained with inside looks at our development. Please do stop by, we’d love to say hello.

Never settle for the lesser evil!


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Brock Jensen

Saebyeolbe is the Tom Brady of Overwatch. MOBILE GAMERS ARE STILL GAMERS. Send me stuff brock@noisypixel.net.