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.


MOBAs typically feature two teams of heroes battling across a laned map, with the objective of destroying each other’s base.

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.


League of Legends’ Worlds 2018 final saw a world-wide viewership of 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.


Some have tried marrying the game type to another popular one, like the battle royale.

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.

I’m aiming for this to be a weekly series, which you can access directly through this link. Alternatively, following me on Twitter is usually a good way to keep track of the things I’m up to.

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!

Update: Since publishing this, Blizzard has announced its HGC plans. The news isn’t great.


If nothing else, the most recent edition of BlizzCon made clear that Blizzard Entertainment intends to go hard on classic Warcraft in 2019. Personally I’m less interested in the World-Of variant in this context. I don’t think that MMOs and their hodgepodge of systems and time-sinks hold much appeal for new generations of gamers, leaving the games to all fish from the same pool of existing players. Returning to their younger days will charm these for a while, but eventually there’s only one outcome for things that do not change.

Warcraft III: Reforged, on the other hand, could be something great. After a rocky start to the sequel, both versions of StarCraft are doing pretty well and there’s little other competition in the RTS space. Contrary to the fan-service that was StarCraft: Remastered, however, Reforged could be different enough to both benefit from the nostalgia fueling the WoW Classic movement, as well as draw in new people who never played the original.

That said, in the end its success will all come down to which Blizzard we’re getting. Don’t get me wrong, the team seems genuinely enthusiastic about what they’re doing and everything we’ve seen of the game thus far appears lovingly crafted. But there’s some cause for worry.

One could write off the original game disappearing from the Blizzard store for a month after Reforged’s announcement, a time during which there was a predictable increase in interest in it, as poor planning. The slew of patches and server upgrades required to deal with the influx of new players after it did reappear? I guess those could be seen as an unfortunate side effect of reinvigorating a 16-year-old game. Its current state of balance? Well you know what balance is like.

But throughout all of this the developer has stayed very quiet, any news having to be wrangled from them by prominent community members, which is not encouraging. It’s not just Warcraft III either, the Heroes of the Storm scene still doesn’t know whether they’ll even have a competition next year.

I understand that Reforged is probably not the largest team at Activision Blizzard and that the working environment there has been.. volatile. Then there’s always that sense of entitlement that seeps through anytime a player asks a developer for anything, which I’d like to avoid.

But the lack of communication creates a, undoubtedly unintentional, feeling of indifference, one of Blizzard not caring. This is the same feeling that almost killed StarCraft II around Heart of the Swarm, a situation which I’m sure we’d all like to avoid this time around. For Warcraft III to have its resurgence, more than throwing money at it, Blizzard needs to learn from the lessons of the past and talk to us much sooner. They have to re-imagine themselves, if you will. The Murlocs can wait.

Depending on where you start counting, World of Warcraft turns 14 this month. In that time, the game has seen a lot of changes, from Cataclysms to Azerite armors. Amongst those, the one which I personally dislike most is how exceptionally negative the community has become. This is of course not a Blizzard-specific problem and, in a way, reflects the state our society, but it’s BlizzCon this weekend so we’re in the spotlight.

There was a time when Blizzard only held its annual convention, which it operated at a loss, when it had big announcements. It has chosen to organize the event this year anyway, but sent its community managers ahead to temper expectations. After day 1, I think it’s safe to say that this strategy has failed.

It’s not that the announcements have been bad, with the exception of Diablo Immortal perhaps, they’re just smaller. And what people don’t realize about that game is that its not aimed at the west, but that realization would probably only serve to fan the flames.

While various subs melt down, however, I’d like to focus on the positives coming out of Anaheim. As more news becomes available over the next few days, I’ll update this post accordingly.

 

Diablo

Hearthstone

Heroes of the Storm

Overwatch

StarCraft II

Warcraft

  • New cinematics: Lost Honor and Terror of Darkshore
  • Classic will be released Summer 2019 as part of the regular subscription
  • New details for WoW patches 8.1, 8.1.5 and 8.2 were revealed as well, including a Darkmoon Faire rollercoaster
  • Patch 8.1 will hit December 11th
  • Whomper is a new charity pet and plushie supporting Code.org
  • And last but certainly not least, Warcraft III: Reforged has been announced

Other

  • Activision property Destiny 2 will be free for a limited time

Since the days of Molten Core the top raiding guilds have been racing each other for world-first kills on new content. Some have streamed parts of their progress, but even then new encounters were more often than not excluded from this as to not give the competition a leg up.

So when EU-based guild Method announced they’d be streaming all of their trip through Mythic Uldir, that was pretty cool even for a casual follower like me. That they then went on and got the first clear, adding the 10th such trophy to their cabinet, well that’s just bad-ass.

 

 

I have raided in the past, but world-firsts were never a serious concern of mine. You raided because that’s what guilds do and you killed bosses for loot and to determine your guild’s place on the realm’s totem pole.

Because of this secrecy and its status as just being part of guild life, raiding was never a spectator sport. Yet that may be exactly what Method’s created. There was humor, there was drama. Strategies were about more than dps-ing really quicklike or boss mechanics alone (it was their decision not to re-clear, forgoing new gear for more time on the final boss, that cost US guild Limit the crown). It was almost two weeks of diverse entertainment that you could tune in to at any time, not unlike any other big tournament in esports.

I’ve missed the birth of the Mythic Dungeon Invitational due to my WoW break, but I wonder what this’ll do for the All-Stars viewership at BlizzCon. Even with the different format I know I’ll be tuning in. And Method? Props, I’ll be seeing you in Zuldazar.

Isn’t this always how it is? First you wait weeks for the PvP season to start and then, when it hits, you get swamped by work. It probably doesn’t help I picked this week to start another thing either. Anyway, the result is that I’ve been unable to get much time in in either Arena or Battle Ground and, while I have obtained a Warfront quest, that’s about as far as that goes.

Fortunately for people like me, Blizzard has thought of these things while designing the Conquest system. Apparently, if you don’t reach the week’s cap before the reset, you won’t lose accumulated Conquest points and remain eligible for the week’s reward for another 2 weeks.

While it does make me feel a little casual, this week it’s welcome news indeed. Blizzard’s also explained that the item level of the loot you receive will be based on the highest rating you achieved in the previous week. This means you could reach Duelist rank, then drop down to Rival and still receive Duelist quality loot for that week. If you were Duelist before, but achieve Gladiator after receiving your reward, you can use a Battleborn Sigil to boost the item’s level to the rating associated with your new rank.

If that all sounds a tad complicated, it’s because it probably is, as even Blizzard’s design team acknowledges. We’re likely to see more updates on the system in the future, but for now rest assured that there’s no need for grinding deeply into the night just yet.

Unless that’s what you enjoy of course, in which case carry on.