Tuesday, 5 November 2013

MOBA's may not be for me.

The genre of games known as MOBA (Massively Online Battle Arena) is something that I am quite new to. The first few times I tried League of Legends I found it confusing, difficult and unsatisfying. In fact the first few times I didn't even finish the match before getting annoyed and exiting in protest.

Then my Blog buddy Mr fish became somewhat entranced by the LoL E-Sport scene then as these kinds of things tend to go he began playing the game.As you can imagine it was only a short time until I was sucked into playing his new obsession with him. Once I had gotten over the initial learning curve and went from terrible to not as terrible I actually began to enjoy the experience in a purely curiosity driven way.

Since my initial LoL Boot Camp I have found that it’s DOTA2 that is the game that I like best out of the selection. It’s brutal and unforgiving nature forces the player to give the game 100% attention while the vastly different and 100% unlocked champion selection gives you real options and differing play experiences.

In LoL I have to work hard or pay well (win) to unlock Champions, this means that as a new player I am lacking the verity of experiences that is open to me in DOTA2.

Then I tried HoN (Heroes of Newearth, or something) it felt like a Mod. Like a home made MOBA. Lacking the shine that I have come to expect from a MOBA.

All three of these games are different, yes, they all have the same basic map layout and the same game-play concepts but so does Quake Live and Counter Strike, no one complains that those are too similar. The idea that all MOBA’s are the same is something that I think only people who haven’t played them would say so I’m not going to debate this point.

The thing I find fascinating about the genre is the strategy involved in group play. The closest thing I can think of that resembles MOBA elements is Chess. I know that;s a very Hipster thing to say but I really think that the level of concentration needed as well as the strategic foresight that good players have is very similar even if the actual process of playing isn’t.

My main criticism of the genre is the barriers to entry fore new players. The ‘big two’ (as described to me, referring to DOTA2 an LoL) both have a ‘vs bots’ mode that allow new players to practice to a point that they feel confident to play with ‘real’ people. My issue with this process is that once on-line with real players the tools for communicating are very thin on the ground. There is no ‘planning’ UI or simple ’map drawing’ so once a new player (like me) does brave the on-line community the play style that were learned with Bots do not necessarily translate.

A simple tutorial video and some better bot code, even some scenario driven tutorials would go a long way to equipping players with the skills needed to be effective players much quicker.

The MOBA scene is strong and although massive in scope and player count is still very much at the beginning of its life, the one thing I can see stunting the growth of the player base is the player base its self. I know on-line communities are often difficult but my experience (mostly with LoL) are that the community is something of a vile hive for scum and villainy.

The game usually progresses with at least one player ignoring any set or advised 'plan' for each players lanes to siege and then go off going their own thing in the jungle area. This gives the player time to complain about everyone on their team being 'noobs' and how its everyone else's fault that the game is going to be lost. Sometimes there are even the players who select 'Surrender' regardless of their teams standing in the battle. I even encountered one player who was very active for the first few seconds of the game before going AFK for the whole match. Upon return he/she proclaimed that it was the other 'noobs' fault the game was lost. 

The MOBA play model does not allow for friendly conversation while gamers churn through content but instead puts everyone taking part into a life or death frenzy of emotion that for me at least is far removed from the 'chilled out' play style that I enjoy in FPS and MMO games. 

I like DOTA2 enough to have a casual interest and play a few times a week but bit enough to hit the game every night of the week, LoL however, I think the community will keep me away for quite some time. 

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