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What mechanics are most vital to the MOBA genre?


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#1 zergylord   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 12:03 PM

So I've been trying to program a very simple MOBA; nothing commercial, just a programming exercise for myself really. In the course of the project (which I initially pitched to myself as 8bit League of Legends), I continually simplified the core mechanics to keep the code concise and the overall scope manageable.

By the end of this exercise, this is how my mechanics had changed from the typical MOBA:
  • Reduced the number of lanes from 3 to 1
  • Eliminated the 'jungle'
  • Eliminated the upgrade systems (gold and exp)
  • Reduced the multitude of champions to a single exemplar
  • Changed the control scheme from LoLs ('qwer' attacks + mouse for targeting and movement) to typical top-down shooter controls (arrows key to move + a few other keys for attacks in the direction of movement)
  • Forced the viewport to be centered on the player's champion (some MOBAs, like bloodline champions do this as well)
And that's when it hit me -- this game no longer felt like a MOBA at all. It felt like an odd multi-player version of an old shoot-em'-up. So, where would you draw the line? What aspects of the MOBA genre are the most essential to its unique play style?

For me list went something like this:
  • Two teams of players battle on a fixed map in real time.
  • Each player controls a single avatar from a top down or isometric perspective.
  • The combat consists primarily of dodging attacks and getting situational advantages through positioning.
  • ??? (something in most MOBAs but not mine)


P.S. This is my first time posting and I read the first-timers post, but please let me know of any faux pas that I managed to still make. :-)

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#2 aattss   Members   -  Reputation: 387

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 02:33 PM

I would recommend that you add more skills, and that the skills are akin to ones in MOBAs. Also, there is normally at least some sort of snowball mechanic. The other things can be added later if you decide to develop it seriously.

#3 zergylord   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 04:55 PM

I would recommend that you add more skills, and that the skills are akin to ones in MOBAs. Also, there is normally at least some sort of snowball mechanic. The other things can be added later if you decide to develop it seriously.


Sounds like a good plan! I've started playing around with adding MOBA-ish skills (currently have something akin to Rammus's kit from LoL) and noticed something interesting: It seems like limited ability usage adds the most to the MOBA feel. Whether through cooldowns or 'mana', forcing the player to decide when to use their skills now appears to be a big part of the MOBA experience.

I'm still on the fence about snowballing, since blood champions (http://www.bloodlinechampions.com/) seems to have a strong MOBA vibe without it. However, perhaps that lack of snowballing is what causes so many of my experiences with that game turn into giant clusterfights; without it I guess there isn't a reason to hang back and only attack strategically.

#4 aattss   Members   -  Reputation: 387

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 06:03 PM


I would recommend that you add more skills, and that the skills are akin to ones in MOBAs. Also, there is normally at least some sort of snowball mechanic. The other things can be added later if you decide to develop it seriously.


Sounds like a good plan! I've started playing around with adding MOBA-ish skills (currently have something akin to Rammus's kit from LoL) and noticed something interesting: It seems like limited ability usage adds the most to the MOBA feel. Whether through cooldowns or 'mana', forcing the player to decide when to use their skills now appears to be a big part of the MOBA experience.

I'm still on the fence about snowballing, since blood champions (http://www.bloodlinechampions.com/) seems to have a strong MOBA vibe without it. However, perhaps that lack of snowballing is what causes so many of my experiences with that game turn into giant clusterfights; without it I guess there isn't a reason to hang back and only attack strategically.


Snowballing is not essential, but it does help it feel more like a Moba in some ways, even if it can ruin the game for some people. I would recommend that, for now, you make it so that you gain exp passively over time such that players can develop their heroes, but for now don't snowball and have equal footing. You could experiment with minor tweaks later.

#5 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1580

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 10:12 PM

Snowballing can damage the game if there is nothing for weak players to rely on other then strong ally players. This is where the towers and minions come in. A weak player needs to feel like they can get ahead in some way or another. Towers give them something to defend, or trap laying skills can make a weak player feel deadlier. The fun of most MOBA is that often you can find a place you belong in the game. There are so many possible strategies that you will be useful with at the very least one of them. aattss makes a pretty good call about the passive exp earning.

I think the locked view feels odd because the orig MOBA's where created from RTS games. The iso view with pan controls are the roots of this type of game, Aeon of Strife for the old SC was one of the first.

Edited by Mratthew, 22 August 2012 - 10:20 PM.


#6 NapoleonicMonkey   Members   -  Reputation: 147

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 04:57 AM

I think the gold, items, and experience are the most vital mechanics. To me, these are really what separates a MOBA from a shooter.

The real focus of 80% of the game is laning, getting creep kills, even getting hero kills to earn yourself more gold and experience. This gold and experience is then used to give you an advantage late game. If these don't exist, you need some other reason to force the player to do anything. ie: it sounds like the focus is to kill the enemy heroes - why should they do that if they're not going to get any gold for it?

#7 KenjiSenpai   Members   -  Reputation: 231

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 01:25 PM

If you want to strip off everything thats un necessary its not even necessary to keep the nexus destroying objective and the lanes. you can do a MOBA thats all about death match with no minions and no structures

#8 zergylord   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 12:17 PM

I think the gold, items, and experience are the most vital mechanics. To me, these are really what separates a MOBA from a shooter.

The real focus of 80% of the game is laning, getting creep kills, even getting hero kills to earn yourself more gold and experience. This gold and experience is then used to give you an advantage late game. If these don't exist, you need some other reason to force the player to do anything. ie: it sounds like the focus is to kill the enemy heroes - why should they do that if they're not going to get any gold for it?

If you want to strip off everything thats un necessary its not even necessary to keep the nexus destroying objective and the lanes. you can do a MOBA thats all about death match with no minions and no structures


These two conflicting views seem to capture something very central to the problem: Can the combat mechanics stand on their own and still retain the MOBA 'feel', or are the objectives of farming gold/exp and killing structures necessary to imbue the combat with meaning?

I'm starting to think that the middleground is worth exploring; I'm currently thinking of implementing destroying the two nexuses as the goal, but not utilizing any snowballing mechanics (e.g. gold and exp) or minions. Thus the only point of killing other players will be to temporarily take them out of the game.

Do you think this concept will make a simple MOBA or simply devolve into a deathmatch shooter with weird combat?

#9 KenjiSenpai   Members   -  Reputation: 231

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 04:28 PM

To me the core of the experience is that
1. You have no progression outside of a single game (meaning youre not objectively stronger on your 100th Game than your first)
2. RTS Camera view (Rotation, zoom in/out, and tilting camera may be permited)
3. Combat mechanics Are basicaly Auto-attacks + Abilities (number of abilites may vary)
4. You're in a restricted environment (Basicaly a map and not an open world.)

Type of objectives, map layout, level progression inside the game, item buying, farming gold and all that stuff are all stuff that can be removed or modified.




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