MOBAs: Learning Curves, The Community and the Future

It’s no secret that MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) gaming really found its niche in the world of online gaming. The original MOBA, which was a mod for Warcraft III referred to simply as DotA (Defense of the Ancients) was one of the most popular gaming mods in history, attracting thousands and thousands of gamers all over the world to battle it out, 5v5 arena style.

With a host of characters to choose from, level progression, item purchases and relatively short game times (45 minutes to an hour) the gaming model was quite attractive.


The Groundwork

Let’s set the basics for those of you who might not quite know the ground rules of what makes a MOBA a MOBA. While variants exist, all of the top MOBA’s in the industry use some variant of the following formula.

  • Two teams of five unique “champions” face off against each other.
  • There are three “lanes” within each map. Each lane has a series of towers that protect a more powerful hub in the center of each team’s base.
Awesomenauts Screenshot
  • As the player, you take control of a champion of choice and head down your respective lane to face off against the enemy champion along with waves of “minions” that travel from the opposing team’s base and on towards yours in an effort to bring down your towers.
  • Players accumulate gold throughout the game by either killing the enemy team’s minions, opposing champions or slaying one of the many monster camps that are found throughout the forests and waterways that make up the remainder of the map. That gold is then spent on purchasing new items that add increased stats or special abilities to your champion.
  • The game is won when the opposing team’s base is destroyed.

Those First Steps

But for the nascent MOBA’er who has heard the news, seen the flashy champions and wants to wet their hands via mid lane AP carry, those first few steps into the game can be a bit daunting. There is a strict vocabulary that comes with each game, a huge pool of champions, each with unique abilities and perhaps most importantly a rather volatile community that can in one game be wholly supporting and the next be throwing a number of profanities in your direction for a bad play or a poor item choice.

But developers don’t leave you at the mercy of the community.

Many of the popular MOBA’s, Dota 2, League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth to name a few, do a fairly good job at introducing you to the game. You have training tutorials for the first time player with a new account and a progression of levels that pits you up against equal leveled players for what is (usually) a pretty balanced gameplay experience.

League of Legends

Are there areas for abuse? Of course. Does this matchmaking system always work out perfectly? Of course not. Duo-queuing with a higher level player always presents a problem, as does players of higher skill “smurfing” (a term that refers to seasoned player playing on a low level account where they will be matched up with lesser skilled players).

These problems present a unique set of challenges for game developers. Through increased software sophistication, developers for League of Legends are working on new technologies that can more properly identify these situations and match these players with other players of the same nature.

Into the Future

As the MOBA market continues to become inundated with new games, game developers are having to push the boundaries further and further in order to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. In the last year we have seen attempts at creating a MOBA exclusively designed for the iOS (Heroes of Order and Chaos) which was met with conflicted reviews due to somewhat awkward controls and a questionable pricing method.

We have also seen developers playing into the consumers pre-existing affinity towards a franchise with games like “Heroes of Middle Earth”, the DC Comics inspired “Infinite Crisis” and Blizzard’s “Blizzard All Stars”. Perhaps the most avant-garde entry is the MOBA “Smite” which puts players in first-person mode as they travel across the familiar MOBA map in their efforts to destroy the enemy’s base.

Will there be a brand new entry into the playing field that will dethrone the monolith known as League of Legends? Can game developers create a game that is recognizable enough as a MOBA but unique enough to separate itself from the rest of the crowd? Can that same game then proliferate to multi-million dollar tournaments around the world and frequently be updated with new content? What new and innovative things await us on the battle fields of the future?

Only time will tell.


One Comment

  1. Avatar AdamIzayaKharakov says:

    Smite is third person btw 🙂 
    Another small correction would be that MOBA don’t have to follow the standard 3-lane layout. Infinite Crisis doesn’t even have that map implemented yet lol, just a bad version of dominion.
    Prime World
    Two really cool upcoming MOBAs currently in beta. Prime World is very different with it’s talent system, castle building mobile app ( can be manager in game). It also has many PVE modes, and some very cool new PVP ones also.
    Dawnstar has an adaptive laning system with minions increasing in power with each tower destroyed. Towers regenerate. 
    All in all good article, just a couple things you may want to add/change 🙂

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