By ShiftyMagician 8 Comments
Today I wish to discuss about a genre of games that are trying to reach out and become just as important as other genres that are well-established in games today. Ever since Defense of the Ancients, a Warcraft 3 mod that took the hardcore world by storm, these games arrived to attempt to score some serious cash in the gaming market. However there is an immediate problem, which may cause the downfall of the two main players today, League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth.
If you do not know about Defense of the Ancients yet, google it for all the details, however the short of it is that it is a game involving two teams of player-controlled heroes and AI minions called creeps, with the goal of pushing their minions into the opponent’s base, in an effort to destroy their main base and win the game. There is no unit control to speak of, and players can only control the hero they selected at the start of the game, with some exceptions. For a long time, this was the game most often played by hardcore gamers, and lived on until the announcement of three new franchises – Demigod, League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth.
Demigod has nothing to do with my main point of the discussion, and I will explain why. Demigod has already failed to become a successful commercial product, and overall the game is full of brilliant ideas with poor execution. If it had more time to work out the kinks and had a larger character roster, then I would dare say it would be potentially better than either of the other two games. The ideas involved were not broken, and in some ways actually innovative in allowing for deeper strategy and tactics. It is a shame that it is not to be however.
Since League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth came into existence, there has been a very ugly verbal war between fans of the two. Like with any internet war, it is full of complete stupidity. On the one side you have LoL fans, who’se argument is simply that HoN is a literal carbon copy of Dota, but with a graphics update (and my personal opinion on the art is that it looks bland). On the other side, HoN fans hate on LoL with a passion, just because it doesn’t play like Dota 1-to-1. They complain that you cannot kill your own creeps, or that the game is simplified to the point that they do not consider it as competitive. In my own unconclusive opinion, HoN fans have the weaker argument, as at least LoL really is doing different things, and provides a unique summoner system to affect the game. It is quite balanced, and does not allow players to completely overpower the other team by themselves. HoN has no unique gameplay features to speak of, and they have announced nothing that is innovative and does not change the pacing of the original mod.
But regardless of opinion about which is better, they both are in a position to die out slowly, and it is because of two elements, which make or break many games – game modes and a variety of locations.
First off, the lack of game modes are already a sign that the usual gamer will get bored of the games fast. There is only one game mode, and that has not changed yet. There is no derivative forms that change the gameplay at all, and this is a very concerning. This means that both companies are banking on products with only one game mode. That already spells mainstream failure, and will cause a dependency on the hardcore audience to stay afloat. This is a stupid business decision.
The second thing is the lack of maps. So far everyone can play and enjoy LoL, but HoN is nowhere to be seen except for the beta period. But there is enough footage and impression posts out there to safely determine that there is only one map for both games. LoL has a second map in the works, but due to odd management and staffing choices, the second map is still in Beta status, and not allowed to be used in matchmaking. If anything, LoL is less susceptible to this problem if at least they get more maps out there to add in some diversity for the game. Otherwise, both LoL and HoN will have problems trying to market themselves to wider audiences if they cannot even deliver on the basic features people expect in any game. No one will pay full-price or even half-price for a game with only 1 map to play on, regardless how many hero, stats and network features you throw into it.
Overall, the first true generation of MOBA titles are at a rough start, and it will take a lot of time to see if one or either of them will be successful in the wide gaming market. With critical features lacking, there is a good chance that either of these games will fail to reach their goals to be the MOBA game that the game community can accept as their flagship game for the genre. Only the niche MOBA audience can keep these games and their developers afloat, as there is not enough for the mainstream to care at this point.
If they fail, hopefully a new, more impressive game comes out to rise this genre to become just as relevant as those already established, as I have always liked this kind of game type. There is just something grand about playing these games, as it is like active chess. You assess the battlefield, and number-crunch in your head whether or not you will succeed in your attack. When the team works together, it becomes a really exciting experience, and in proper games it is also grand when losing, as a skilled team would keep the struggle going, making sure their victors would really have to fight for their victory. These games so far do not properly do this justice, as there is only one battlefield to fight for and only one way in which to fight, and that is not enough for any product.
If there is any information that I may have missed, or if there are holes in my logic, please by all means respond and clarify it to me. I am very open in changing views as long as they are correct.