The MOBA effect

Recently, I’ve only been playing MOBAs. I haven’t had the desire to branch out very much, especially into a time intensive genre like MMOs.

I honestly think it’s because of the game progression… or the lack thereof. By ‘progression’ I mean that you aren’t leveling up a character like in an MMO, which would take a lot of time to get that character to the maximum level. That kind of progression definitely has its merits and satisfactions but in my current state of life it hasn’t been as enjoyable with the limited playing time I do have.

I’ve had discussions about this with a good friend from high school (I’m 31 now) and he tends to feel the same. Granted we are both in a similar position – we are both married and have little one(s) that we happily give up time for – but it just doesn’t feel like we have the time or the drive to devote to an MMO. Oh how we’ve tried! From going back to the nostalgic (Everquest) to trying a few of the new kids on the block such as Rift, Neverwinter Online, Guild Wars 2 (debatable). None of them are able to keep me coming back.

MOBAs, however, operate on a different kind of progression. One that, contrary to MMOs, does compel me to log in night after night.

Dota 2 has been my MOBA of choice for a while, a decent run with Smite, a little stint with League of Legends, and a few smatterings of Infinite Crisis but, Dota 2 is my choice. steamworkshop_webupload_previewfile_181979094_preview

Smite has kept me playing the second longest out of the bunch. Whether this was because my friend played it pretty much non-stop and my desire to play with a friend kept me going or the change in pace it provided with its different game modes (which could end in a 15 minute match), Smite had me for a while.

League of Legends was along the lines of a standard MOBA but, it felt slower than Dota, the champions didn’t seem to move as fast to me. The movement speed may have been a factor but, the time it took to unlock a champion that seemed interesting was demoralizing. Don’t get me wrong though, my brother and I saved up for characters who were also brothers, which cost a ton to get, and we wrecked face! It was glorious… still, it wasn’t enough.

Infinite Crisis was an interesting occurrence for me. I was able to get into the beta for this game with a friend. Needless to say the game is totally different from what it was back then (for the better). One thing I’m thankful for was that it helped me determine that I don’t want to play games while they are in beta. In this instance the UI was horrid, the game felt buggy, and it was not enjoyable until you were actually in the game and even then it wasn’t the smoothest. HOWEVER, playing as the Flash or Green Lantern was definitely worth it. They recently had a huge patch/improvements and I have been meaning to check it out one more time.

Some of the things that drew me in to MOBAs were the semi-short game length which can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more in rare cases, no need to grind anything if you don’t want to, and you can still get the sense of accomplishment from getting items or even more so from improving your play.

Dota 2 had all that I needed. My friends were playing it, the fun was there, the amount of hero choices was staggering (and continues to grow), it looked great (see League of Legends or Infinite Crisis), and it was Valves baby (I dumped a lot of time into Team Fortress 2 so, I enjoyed the Steam network/Valve’s quality of work).

With a MOBA I feel like I am working on me, on my skill as a player, on my ability to fulfill a role on a team, and it was rewarding. I always thought that I would need progression that didn’t go away for a character in order to enjoy a game (i.e. leveling an MMO character) but, that isn’t the case. I’m don’t feel like I’m falling behind anyone if I can’t devote time to the game like I felt when I played MMOs and my friends would spend more time in-game than me. In essence the effect of a MOBA engages the player more as an individual than the MMO genre which mostly requires your time.

Dota 2 is definitely something that will force you to honestly look at yourself and your capabilities. I have the perfect example!

Let me share a story with you… ready?

I was in a match playing Visage this is a hero which requires the player to control up to three other summoned units in addition to himself, other active skills, as well as any items with active abilities. The additional units Visage controls also have active abilities in order for them to do damage or stun. This juggling act required that I had to be on my A-game, and I knew it. Controlling your hero’s position, timing your attacks with your teammates, using items at the appropriate time, while watching the mini map to make sure you’re not about to get ganked, etc is hard enough. But playing Visage under these circumstances can be a hectic experience. I even thought my history of playing RTS games would help with that some but, not so much.

It was a non-stop match for me, if I wasn’t busy trying to control my units I was trying not to die/kill the other team. There were a few times that I was mixed up and thought, “Why isn’t my guy moving?” or “Oh crap, they are attacking my hero and I’m controlling my units not my hero!” but, overall I was successful and my team was victorious.

After that match I knew I could handle the hero but I wouldn’t want to do it again. Having the ability to do something doesn’t necessarily make it fun. I’m more inclined to play a hero that doesn’t rely on other units to be effective or make a contribution to the team. This made clear that as a player I don’t really appreciate having more units to control/the game is complex enough that I don’t need to ramp up the difficulty for not much in return. After realizing that about myself I steered clear of Visage and stayed with the heroes that were more my style.

My main hero is Sven – he’s a beast that can do a LOT of damage and is a pretty straight forward hero. “Get in there and smash people’s faces”, is the name of his game.Sven!! I’ve also got to the point where I want to experiment with different builds (skill order and item use). Sven is a strength hero that is normally played one way – MOAR DAMAGE!! Looking at some really old Reddit posts has lead to me to the realization that Sven used to be played as a support hero and not a tank. I’ve attempted to try a support Sven once and it didn’t work out to well. I have to admit that my decision was on the fly and I didn’t give the proper preparation or forethought before the match began. I’d like to try it out again but, I’ll probably try it against some bots instead of impairing my team.

Even though the hero is played one way by everyone doesn’t mean he can’t be played a different way and still be viable and effective. It is fun to try and tinker a hero (PUNNY!) to see what they can do and what items can change the way they play. Matching these variables up with a five man team doing the same thing yields a very, very complex interaction.
This complexity can get someone so obsessed with all of the different options, builds, timings, etc. that it can take over their “free thought” time. I felt like this a little bit during the height of my playing. I was playing every night with friends, multiple games in a row, and I would think about it throughout the day while looking towards that night’s game.

Then again, there are people who love to play the game to play the game – they just don’t worry about any of the details and enjoy a fun time with their friends. Personally, I don’t take loses to heart at all – I say, “Oh well” and try to determine where things went wrong or what I did/didn’t do to help my team and learn from it for next time.

The two best ways I improved my play in Dota 2 are – replays and spectating. Replays of your matches allow you to relive what just happened in your game and pause it at any point or even repeat a battle over and over again. This really allows you to pick apart an engagement or determine why a Laguna blade from Lina at Faceless Void just might not be the best idea.

Spectating was key for developing a foundation for any hero I wanted to play. I was able to watch a player who had experience play that hero and watch how they used their abilities, the timing of their attacks, or even, “So, that’s how I missed that gank”. The signs and little queues are what can make the difference in a game where one mistake or taking the advantage of one can turn the tide of a battle.

Coming back to the game has also changed my perspective. Instead of working on the basic mechanics of the game I am giving more thought to parts of the game at the higher level. I would tell you more but, that will have to wait for another post – this one has already become a little long in the tooth.

Hit me up if you’re interested in playing!

(My Dotabuff profile for anyone who may be interested: Semaji Thunder)