Thursday, April 19, 2012

MOBA? Sounds Like a Whole Lotta Hoopla to Me!

Surpriselove tackles the big questions of our gaming generation: What is a MOBA game? Why would we ever play such a thing? How does incorporating the use of bro in team chat make me a good or bad player? How many boots are too many boots? Sit back and relax as KGB's prodigal son Surpriselove gently guides you through the world of MOBAs.

It wasn’t long ago that I was presented with a seemingly impossible task; I had to explain what a MOBA game was to my friends, and how one actually went about playing it. Once explained I was met with the real challenge of trying to convey why I enjoyed playing a game that, at times, is less enjoyable then what I had imagined it would feel to see Nickelback in concert. It seems impossible to explain why I find a game fun that provoked an hour of frothing at the mouth. Why I play a game that gets anyone within ear shot sincerely concerned because I scream “fuck this shit!” at a computer screen. All of which is because of a team mate, who clearly needs a lobotomy, swearing he’s the best player in the game while continually dying to the enemy team.

But, I digress. Let’s start with the universal response I get when I talk about MOBA games.

Brace yourself. The acronyms are coming.

“What the fuck is a MOBA game?”

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) is a new genre of gaming to emerge in recent years. The term MOBA was coined by a company by the name of Riot Games. MOBA’s roots stem back to mods for the original Star Craft, but most people would probably be familiar with a mod called Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) for Warcraft III. Since the original map was created, there have been several, if not dozens, of variants, and the most popular was called DOTA Allstars. Allstars took in the collective ideas of all previous DOTA mods, including the best character designs, and went on to add balance changes and frequent updates. The fledgling flame of the MOBA world was passed down to new minds a few times since its birth. Two of the greatest pioneering minds of the MOBA revolution, Steve Freak aka Guinsoo/Phreak and Icefrog, moved forth after working on DOTA Allstars to build whole new games. Steve Freak signed up with Riot Games when it started in 2006 to work on League of Legends known simply as LoL. Icefrog, last of the DOTA curators, made a deal for a sequel, aptly named DOTA2, with Valve. Icefrog has since been giving direct input on the sequel, which is still in beta, while continuing to update the original mod for Warcraft III.

Don't let the bright colors fool you, LoL is a man's game.

“I see a tower, I see enemies, why can’t I just kill them?”

It’s complicated. There is no easy way around it. Playing a MOBA game is a whole new world of strategy gaming. By adding in elements you don’t see anywhere else in gaming, let alone think of, a player is rewarded for patience. You will get pissed off. You might try to conjure forth Cthulu, or some other harbinger of death, to relieve you of this mortal coil, but relax and breathe into a paper bag while I explain. First off, and for the most part, the game is a player versus player environment. The general idea to the game is that you battle other players on a map with lanes that connect your base and the enemy’s. No surprise, you want to destroy the opposing base. NPCs spawn in waves from both sides to clash in combat for what would appear to be eternity. Towers keep the lanes in check at key points for both sides. You control a champion who, as he/she kills other champions, NPCs, and towers will gain gold and experience allowing you to level up and buy items. Both teams of five players alter the course of the battle by “pushing” the lanes, and killing other champions.

Dominion's simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can.

Still got that paper bag? Here’s where we get into the heart of why this genre is brutal to new players. MOBAs have an all or nothing philosophy. It’s similar and best described by comparing it to the children’s game Red Hands. The key is to make every attempt count, and every attack land. If you try to attack and they deny you there is no reward. Even worse is the idea that you are playing a version of Red Hands where if you miss, your partner has a great opportunity to slap you for your failure. Then, because he has a couple friends nearby that you didn’t notice, they all slap you. That’s MOBA strategy in a nutshell. Once you begin understanding last hits, over extending, map awareness, and ganking the game begins to be slightly less abusive to your general well-being. As always, and what appears to be the universal cardinal rule of MOBA games, don’t die.

I know you won't break the rules, because there aren't any.

“My inventory is full of boots. Why don’t I run faster?”

All joking aside, MOBA as a fledgling genre has gone above and beyond all expectations. With its foundations built upon free to play roots, games like LoL have been wildly successful with no need to ever charge players money to play the game. It really does deserve pointing out that LoL has raised enough money with a micro transaction store to support an ever expanding company in a gaming culture like the west where such things are used only in Facebook advertisement games we would cringe at the thought of playing. And that really highlights the heart of the MOBA genre: The community. It’s the reason why thousands still participate in DOTA tournaments. It’s the reason why developers and designers browse the forums and mingle with the players. The community is the lifeblood. MOBA games live or die solely on that alone.

Remember where you are - this is Runeterra, and death is listening, and will take the first man that screams.

Surpriselove is a mystery.


  1. Well, it's a pretty good text actually.

    MOBA really is outstanding difficult for newcomers, but place like the forums can really help out. LoL's one is

    And there you can discuss pretty much everything. The first matches will be difficult, and it's recommended you find someone who already plays to be your coach :)

    Summoner : LucasMapurunga

  2. Well written, and to the point.
    I look forward to seeing more from you. : )

    Summoner Name: Somniloquous

  3. I play League of Legends exclusively and I have to say that I'm rather impressed with the community. Not so much in each individual game - tempers often run hot and blame is seemingly always tossed about when things go wrong. However, the amount of help that higher ranked players are willing to give lower ranked players is astounding - as long as they're willing to learn and accept criticism, that is. I have begun watching some streaming casts of pro LoL players and to then go see them posting in discussions on reddit is impressive. On top of that, you can find a pro player streaming their solo-queue games almost 24/7.

    There is a decently large learning curve, but with recommended item lists and easy to find guides on builds to use for each champion, it can be overcome if you look around a little bit. I keep trying to get my friends to give them a try, but a lot of people just won't make that initial leap, even though I am willing to give them a hand in trying to learn the game, lol.