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[Game Mechanics][Theoretical] Income/Resource Allocation in a unique, made-for-esports MOBA

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***I'd like to preface that this topic is about flushing out the mechanics of my idea... implementation will come later***

 

Hi everyone,

 

I'm a little bit of a gamer, but more importantly I'm a competitor. I played sports growing up (still do), I played card games competitively and ran/run tournaments for a number of activities. As my career has switched from networking to programming I've thought a bit about creating a game specifically made for competition and more importantly, broadcasting/viewing that competition.

 

Case studies

 

League of Legends is a success, there's no denying that. DOTA 2 is as well. They've created a game that people love to play and love to watch and is easy to monetize. 2 reasons it’s successful - it masks itself as being simple, and you get to root for a team.

  • Simple gameplay mechanics - 4 abilities and a mouse

    • Anyone can play the game, but there’s so much to master. Build trees (runes/masteries), skill progression, item builds, activatables, positioning, team compositions. All intricate parts of the game that allow for improvement but all encompassed under 4 abilities and a mouse.

  • Simple game goal - blow up the enemies base

    • Beauty lies in how the base is destroyed. Farm? or Farm the jungle? or Blow up the other guys? Objectives are great, creeps are great, but it’s all a means to a very easy to understand end.

  • Cheer for (and blame a) team!

    • If you look at almost every major sport in the world, there is a team component to be found. There are successful outliers like Tennis and Golf and Racing, but the vast majority of really popular sports are team sports. Fans get to be a part of something bigger. They can cheer for the whole team while identifying with a small part of it. Because it’s always a team, a fan can say “We won the match” instead of “He won.” Likewise, players can blame other players on their team as a result of losing. How many of us have said “I’d be in Diamond if my team wasn’t so bad.” Good thing or bad thing, excuses keep players from self-defeating thoughts and keep them playing.

 

Starcraft is also a huge success, but has been dwindling in popularity next to the more simple MOBA games.  I think the same two reasons why LoL and DOTA are on the rise are the same 2 reasons why Starcraft is on the downhill.

  • Daunting gameplay mechanics -

    • I have to control my workers… and my army? And build things in the right order? And in the right place? ALL AT THE SAME TIME?!?! Starcraft is unquestionably a harder game, and undoubtedly the better player wins 90%+ of the time. This attracts some hardcore gamers and some hardcore fans but will never win over a fanbase. It’s hard enough to explain 4 abilities per player to a non-gamer, explaining a game of Starcraft is much more difficult, and is more difficult to watch.

  • 1v1

    • It’s awesome to root for your favorite player, but really hard to identify with him/her. They’re amazing at this game, they win all the time.  But it’s just that one person. Players are on teams, sure, but it’s not the same because the team doesn’t win or lose (unless it’s forced like Team League, but it’s still just 1v1 matches). Players want to wear their teams’ jersey and watch their team win, and blame their team for losses.

 

Room for Improvement

So LoL is awesome, why change it? Well we don’t, I don’t think I’m going to make the next LoL. But there are ways to improve the idea (imo).

  1. There needs to be a scoring mechanism - kills are cool but meaningless, gold is awesome but is meaningless. All of the stats that are broadcast in LCS games aren’t accurate predictors of who is going to win. There are touchdowns in football, there are goals in Football and hockey, there are points in Basketball. In my opinion, there needs to be some sort of point-based scoring.

  2. There needs to be breaks - 2 main reasons. 1 - fans need a time to be able to get up and get a beer without missing some of the action. 2 - there needs to be a good time to run commercials. 30 minute games are a good compromise, but I think that a 45min - hour long match with semi-regular stoppages is more fan-retentive. See television viewership of football vs soccer (in the US).

  3. There needs to be a centralized focus - one of the biggest problems with LoL in my opinion. Obviously the camera wants to be where the fighting is but there are 3 lanes and 5 players on a team. The overall focus of the game is the Nexus, but the camera can’t just look at that all game.  In most other sports, there’s a ball… and even though there might be other things going on (blocking schemes, route running etc) the focus is on the ball.

  4. There could be coaching - there is definitely coaching that happens during the week in Starcraft and LoL, but not mid game. There isn’t really an avenue for it. I’m not sure this is a necessity but a coach ‘calling plays’ has always seemed like a pivotal part of sports to me. We have rotations, but how much different would LoL be if there were a 6th person on each team who was only a spectator (with only your teams vision) whose sole job was to be a shotcaller. Pretty cool huh?

 

My Game (so far)

This brings me to my game. I feel like the core of my game is solid and done, but I’m missing a CRITICAL gameplay element that I need some help with.  Here are the core mechanics.

Elements

  • MOBA characters - I’d like to have different champions each with 3-4 abilities (including 1 ultimate).

  • RPG elements - Leveling, income and item purchases

Match Structure

  • Game - Center Flag - There is a ‘Flag’ (some object, will likely be lore-based) in the middle of the map. The goal of the game is to get the Flag from the middle of the map to the starting box of the opponents base. Doing so scores a point.

  • Match - ‘Pro’ matches would be played in 2 15min halves. Teams switch sides at halftime. Teams will continue to play games of Center Flag until time runs out. Whoever has the most points at the end of the match wins. Kills aren’t necessary, you can sore a point without killing a single person, but killing them probably helps (no one to defend).

  • Breaks - between each Game, there is a 1 minute break. During that break players respawn, can switch characters, buy items etc, talk to coaches etc.

  • Map - Typical MOBA map, starting area, (possible) jungle camps, Flag in center, jungle boss.

Gameplay

  • Characters fight for positioning and attempt to get the flag to the opponents teams base.  If your character dies he’s dead for the remainder of the Game - no respawns.

  • That’s it….

  • The game has so much potential. Easy idea, complex implementation. Do you go for the flag and rush it to their base? will you die in the process? should you kill them first? How many people should be defending your base? Do we go for jungle camps and give up some points early to get a gold lead and win more points in the 2nd half? Which team comp is better for which strategy?

 

So here’s my problem and here’s where I think I need ya’lls help.  I am having serious problems with how to work out gold/experience accumulation. Creeps don’t work, because there’s nothing for them to destroy. The Matches are designed to be full of Games so adding towers to the enemy base and then forcing creeps would elongate Games too much (would create a ‘farming lull’ - something common in LoL games that’d I’d like to avoid). I thought about Jungle camps but was worried about that causing the same problems.  Maybe jungle camps with bonuses? Then a strategy could be 2 players try to get the flag, 1 scouts/snipes/invades, 1 farms and 1 defends and they rotate to get xp and gold?

If the question becomes ‘Why do we need RPG elements?’ - I’m not sure. I think that item choices are important to add depth to the game, those can’t go away. Experience can probably go away idk. I just don’t want to run the risk of Bloodline Champions which was similar but was just about kills and too skillshot oriented and didn’t have the ‘small psychological wins’ that come from leveling and increased income.

Sorry for the long rant, I wanted this to be well thought out and thorough. Thanks for those who decided to read along and would like to contribute.

 

tl;dr - Made for eSports game. 5v5 Center Flag MOBA. How should I do resource allocation?

 

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Capture the flag is something better suited for a fast-paced shooter.

 

I understand that point of view, but respectfully disagree. I think that a MOBA like game would create some pretty interesting CtF scenarios - CC the character that's running, drops the flag and then teamfight around it. Just because it isn't the norm doesn't mean it isn't a good idea.  

 

Regardless, I'd still like to know people's opinions on income allocation in this scenario

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How about scattered global objectives, doesn't have to be a neutral mob, it can be a mini flag that you have to bring it to certain risky spots, or a zone you capture after standing there for x seconds, but you're revealed while standing on it. 15~20 seconds seems reasonable.

 

Another idea is vision-control based income. You start off with X number of invisible wards that are permanent, and everyone has a skill to reveal the ward, but it has a fairly long cooldown. Revealing the ward and destroying it gives your team gold. So do you place the ward at their part of the map, allowing you to see what they're doing but risk losing it and giving them gold? Do you place the ward on your side of the map, more defensive but you wouldn't know where their team is as much.

 

That's all I can think of right now. Hope it helped

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Nice idea, but in current form you there are multiple major problems with it. Also, I think there are some problems with your view, so I'll address each issue.

 


1) There needs to be a scoring mechanism - kills are cool but meaningless, gold is awesome but is meaningless. All of the stats that are broadcast in LCS games aren’t accurate predictors of who is going to win. There are touchdowns in football, there are goals in Football and hockey, there are points in Basketball. In my opinion, there needs to be some sort of point-based scoring.

 

2) There needs to be breaks - 2 main reasons. 1 - fans need a time to be able to get up and get a beer without missing some of the action. 2 - there needs to be a good time to run commercials. 30 minute games are a good compromise, but I think that a 45min - hour long match with semi-regular stoppages is more fan-retentive. See television viewership of football vs soccer (in the US).

 

Scoring mechanism is mostly in a time limited game (see Unreal Tournament for example, also counts for most RL sports), whether classical MOBAs are "score" limited games (blow the enemy Nexus/Legendary building/whatever). As such, individual score does not mattler, it only matters who destroys enemy important building first, hence the lack of accurate predictors of who's going to win - even 1 mistake in the late game can turn the "certain win" into "total defeat".

 

Also, for the same reason, you can't simply split up game into 2 parts. You don't know how long the match will run, which can be anywhere from 10 minutes to hour and a half. Tennis is similar to this, but as the game is split in sets, you can put breaks in between sets, while in MOBAs it's only one game and interrupting it midgame would also interrupt the flow of both teams.

 

StarCraft 2 handles this differently - average SC2 matches are usually two or three times shorter than average MOBA matches, so to make it more fair and interesting most tournament matches are played in Best of 3 format, where finals are Best of 5.

 


There needs to be a centralized focus - one of the biggest problems with LoL in my opinion. Obviously the camera wants to be where the fighting is but there are 3 lanes and 5 players on a team. The overall focus of the game is the Nexus, but the camera can’t just look at that all game. In most other sports, there’s a ball… and even though there might be other things going on (blocking schemes, route running etc) the focus is on the ball.

 

In the early game, that's simply impossible, as MOBAs lack such object of focus, with the exception of global objectives such as Dragon (LoL) and Roshan (DotA) for example. You have basically 4 battlefields camera needs to watch - 3 lanes + jungle. Only way you can monitor all this is to use 4 spectators instead of 1.

In the mid and late game, however, as the teams group, it becomes much easier to track with camera.

 

Now, onto your game...

 


Game - Center Flag - There is a ‘Flag’ (some object, will likely be lore-based) in the middle of the map. The goal of the game is to get the Flag from the middle of the map to the starting box of the opponents base. Doing so scores a point.
Map - Typical MOBA map, starting area, (possible) jungle camps, Flag in center, jungle boss.

 

Those two are contradictory. There is absolutely no use to go to the side lanes if the flag (main objective) is in the middle - both teams will (naturally) try to secure it and converge in the middle. If you're going to put such object in the game, you have to base the maps around it - again, see Unreal Tournament games.

 


Characters fight for positioning and attempt to get the flag to the opponents teams base. If your character dies he’s dead for the remainder of the Game - no respawns.

 

And this is the game killer. Players will be forced to play passively as loss of only one team member will decide the game right there - team with more members now simply has to group together and they gain the number advantage.

 

So, what you have to do if you want to keep MOBA map layout is:

1) Alleviate focus on the middle lane (where flag is)

2) Remove punishment via design.

 

What I'd do (need to think more precisely about it, so it's just food for though):

  • Replace basic towers with "power circles", which generate money in addition to the base money generation (for example, 8 gold per 10 seconds + 1 gold for each held power circle per 10 seconds), 12 power circles total (4 per lane, spanning from "goal" to the center of the map).
  • Only furthermost power circles can be captured for more gold generation; also spawn creeps which assault enemy furthermost power circle. Creeps give small amount of gold on kill (lower than LoL and DotA2) and experience.
  • Killed players respawn.

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Hey, it is my first post in this Forum :)

 

I will just briefly discuss a few thoughts :)

 

I think you are disregarding the "good things" about split-action.

 

I do agree that todays MOBAs are really splitted in Action (especially in the laning stage), however, there are more "action downtimes" than you think when every player is just pursuing one Goal.

As you seem to know both DotA and LoL quite a bit you sure know the situation where both teams stand in the middle lane staring at eachother, clearing the creepwaves.

This situation occurs when both teams know what the enemy wants and have too much information about where the enemies are.

 

I think you need something to restrict the information. Some kind of vision-limiting in addition to sub-goals.

 

Imagine no teams knows (exactly) where the other team is AND there are sub-goals to achieve gold (or IMO even better: Advantages which only last this round)

Now there is a tension in the game. Each team tries to predict the enemy movements while achieving sub-goalds or going for the main-goal.

Now imagine one player sees one or more players from the other team, he immediately tells his teammates, so they can decide how they can take advantage of that knowledge.

Also depending on the situation, the player who saw the other team might get caught because of it (which is a high risk for scouting)

 

I think there are a few tricks to create tension in the game:

 

1. restrict the information the teams have. of course the observer  knows everything (maybe cheering for one team which is about to be caught in a trap?!)

2. make as many different strategies viable as you can (well maybe not as you can, but you get the idea)

--> splitting up, staying together, sending scouts forward, hunting for lone opponents (scouts) to take them out

3. You need Sub-Goals. They offer different tactical choices to the teams -> more complex gameplay --> see point 2

 

Also a few things about the match times etc. :

 

On the one hand, with different "Rounds" there is the possibility to make each round a new "game" where no team has the advantage

On the other hand, the pauses between the matches are just MADE for shopping new Items!

 

Also: When teams are about to switch sides ANYWAY, why not make the game asymetrical?

for example the one team has to defend the other team has to attack, or when you stick to the CTF mode: One team has to bring the flag to certain waypoints, the other team to other waypoints etc.

On the one hand, with asymetrical map-design it is difficult to balance the sides.

On the other hand, with the side-switching there is no unfair disadvantage and (if balanced-good) it might lead to interesting gameplay.

 

Sorry if I show bad grammer and/or spelling mistakes :/ I'm not a native speaker

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Great posts everyone.  I am a huge fan of LoL and more broadly other kinds of real-time team multiplayer strategic/tactical games.  

 

I am very interested in this topic, and want to do something sort of similar (was thinking more along the lines of a King of the Hill style game for Tablet, for more of the casual player / very quick games) but other more hardcore versions too.  I have too much on my plate right now so am not working on it currently, but hopefully one day would love to explore this much more.

 

Just to chime in on some random points:  

 

- in terms of permanent death as opposed to resurrection timers: my initial gut feeling was this would be unappealing.  A simple mistake and you would have to sit out potentially a long time until the next game spawns.   That said, I do remember playing I think it was Ghost Recon or something like that 10 years ago and the hardcore death mode was a great part of the fun.  Even if I got killed in the 2nd minute and waiting 15 min for the next game, at least I could observe the other players which was still fun and it was good motivation.  So I guess my point is perma-death can work effectively, but probably would not be popular for casual players.

 

- as far as other kinds of income etc, I don't see anything wrong with Starcraft / LoL where you buy upgrades over time.  Then it is just a matter (once again) of how casual versus hardcore your game is.  On the casual side, simpler is better, on the more hardcore side, complex can be better (but even then, ideally with a simple learning curve in terms of at least getting into the basic action).   

 

- the commercial breaks concept is pretty interesting.   Doesn't make any sense for a game with a small number of players, but for something around LoL scale that could be an improvement.  Bathroom / beer breaks are good as well as much as commercials are unpopular, they do provide an important function by helping fun the game developers, professional teams etc.

 

- love the coaching integration idea.   The game developer could even take a split (say 20%) of the coach's income but in turn provide excellent tools for real-time coaching.   

 

- for gold/income generation this is a great game design topic.  I actually like LoL style jungles, but you could even go for a mix of Starcraft and LoL ideas by putting in a mini-version of mineral + gas mining.   So any player could try to set up their own resource gathering bases, and as well they could be destroyed by enemy players.  Or it could even be simpler than that, it doesn't have to be a full on "Command Center" style tech tree Starcraft style.  It could even be as simple as TF2 style Sentry Guns etc that also provide gold income over time (and give gold to the enemy team if destroyed).   

Edited by starbasecitadel

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