The MOBA (or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) is a subgroup of the strategy game genre, which pits two teams of players against each other across a typically symmetrical, laned map. The goal of these games is destroying the opposition’s base, situated at the other end of said lanes.
The means to achieve this differ per game, but generally involve strengthening one’s team through the securing of various map objectives. Eventually this will then allow them to change the equilibrium of the NPC minion waves rolling across the lanes in their favor.
You kill stuff, you level up, you help your minions (or “creeps”) beat theirs and you win, basically.
It’s a simple formula, but it’s survived for nigh twenty years now. Even with the rise of the Fortnite phenomenon, three MOBA titles were in 2018’s top ten of largest prize pool esports and Valve’s Dota 2 comfortably lead that list with available winnings that almost doubled those of the runner-up. That game also saw its equivalent of a world championship draw in 15 million peak viewers, while competitor League of Legends’ World Championship final alone had an audience of almost a 100 million.
Them’s fighting numbers. And still, there’s only a few successful MOBAs out there. This is not for lack of trying by developers. Before everyone built a battle royale, a lot of people were trying to make a MOBA. Some still are, be it by leveraging new technology or by marrying the game type to another popular one. Yet few succeed.
In this series I will take a look at what makes a successful game in this genre and explore its different evolutions, both proven and new. I intend to do this not just through text, but also through code. Which is to say that we’ll be writing our own, fully functional, MOBA title.
For accessibility reasons we’ll be doing so in HTML5, so if you’ve not done a lot of programming you will likely be able to keep up. If you have, however, I still hope to provide you with enough of a framework to continue on with the toolset of your choice, as well as give you plenty of interesting ideas to make it something special.
We’ll start next week by looking at the history of the genre and into the reasons why those which did survived. I hope to see you then!