Tag Archives: League of Legends

Longevity of Gaming

Longevity is a funny thing. It’s feels great to dive into a game and really get your money’s worth. MMORPGs are certainly at the top of the heap when it comes to replayability and longevity. Not only is there a wealth of content for one character, but unique classes/races/factions can play quite differently. Is it a good thing though?

In an absolute sense, sure. Value is great. Who hates value? Not me. But there is a point of diminishing returns, and MMO games typically hit them faster than other genres. The loop of “level up, get new items, see new place” gets old quick, especially for genre vets. Now that’s not exclusive to MMOs. Other multiplayer genres like FPS, MOBAs, and RTS also offer a high quantity of repetitious gameplay for one price (excluding loot boxes I suppose). I’d argue only MOBAs really break that mold because different combinations of characters really throw each game on their head.

elder scrolls online new content

Clockwork City, new content from Elder Scrolls Online

Of course, unlike these other games, MMORPGs are in a situation where they can provide a lot of different types of content to alleviate potential boredom. One day you raid, the next you quest, then you craft, and finally you wander into some worldwide PvP. There’s still the benefit of familiarity but with less repetition. This adds longevity and provides players with a warm, comfy feeling to dive into after a long day.

The flip side of longevity is radically unique content that’s one and done. A good example is Pony Island. I promise it’s not what you think, and it’s a wholly interesting experience for 2 hours. The game is fantastic, but I can’t imagine playing it much longer than I did. There’s no longevity, and now I’m back seeking another unique experience. Unless I’m in the specific mood to compete, cooperate, or socialize, unique single player games provide pound for pound more fun than their multiplayer counterparts.¬† The problem is that after beating Pony Island, now I have to spend valuable time determining what to play next. My backlog scrolls down pretty far, but a lot of those titles turn out to be poor matches. And that’s where the worth lies in a familiar game.

If I decide to boot up Elder Scrolls Online, Neverwinter, or League of Legends I know more or less what I’m getting into. When I boot up a new single player game, I’m just not sure. I might know that I’m playing an FPS like Dishonored or a tactical RPG like XCOM, but I don’t know the intricacies. I have to learn – which can be a lot of fun. But it can also be tiring, frustrating, and ultimately not worth my time if I don’t enjoy it.

I think longevity in games comes down to risk vs. reward. MMOs, other multiplayer games, and some single player games (like Civilization) carry with them a certain sense of contentment. I won’t expect anything too crazy, but I’m also not going to be let down. The risk is low and the reward is moderate. When I load up a brand new game, I might find something that will blow my mind for 5 to 40+ hours (Witcher 3 comes to mind). Then I’m done. Sure, I might replay The Witcher 3 but then I’m just falling into that comfortable routine. Repeating anything will never match your first experience. Games are no different.

So how do you balance the allure of comfortable longevity vs. the desire to experience something new and fresh?


Practical Solutions to Lower MMORPG Toxicity

Let’s not mince words. MMO communities are in a bad way. Trolling, toxicity, extreme vulgarity, and cyber-bullying ran rampant, and there doesn’t seem to be any serious effort being made to curtail any of this.

A dungeon encounter in World of Warcraft

I doubt it would ever be possible to entirely eliminate toxicity in online gaming. Human nature is what it is, and the anonymity of the Internet often emboldens people to let loose the worst aspects of themselves.

But far too many people, developers included, have let this fact instill a defeatist attitude toward toxicity. If you can never eliminate it, why bother fighting it at all? But while you may never get rid of toxicity altogether, I do think it could be significantly mitigated. Things don’t have to be as bad as they are.

I think there are simple, common sense solutions that could do a lot to improve MMORPG communities, if developers are only willing to make the effort.

Tangible Punishments

The punishments for misbehavior in most MMOs I’ve played tend to be pretty toothless. Usually it’s just a temporary ban. That might be an effective deterrent if the game in question was the only form of entertainment in the world, but as it is if someone gets banned, they’ll just go play something else, or watch TV, or go see a movie. It’s pretty meaningless.

I’ve long felt it may be more effective to directly penalize a person in-game. Delete a piece of their gear, or fine them a sum of in-game currency. If the latter, it should be based on a percentage of their total wealth rather than a flat amount so that wealthy players don’t become effectively above the law.

Or perhaps instead of taking away what someone already has, it could affect future rewards. Lower item drop rates and experience gains for rule-breakers or put them at a lower priority for server and matchmaking queues until they can go an extended period of time with no infractions against their account.

A paladin character in Neverwinter

As far as I know, no game has done this, so it’s impossible to say if it would work until someone attempts it, but MMO players are nothing if not devoted to min/maxing. If good behavior becomes a requirement for peak performance, I think you’ll start to see things get a lot nicer in no time.

Feedback on Reports

Moderation in MMOs is almost entirely dependent on players sending reports when they see someone breaking the rules. Unfortunately, there’s rarely any way to know if these reports are doing any good, or if anyone is even reading them. They vanish into the ether without a trace.

If you’re the one sending reports, this can get demoralizing pretty fast. It starts to feel as if you’re not doing any good, and it gets harder and harder to bother sending reports in the first place.

Instead, there should be some sort of feedback on player reports. In DOTA 2, if your report results in action being taken against another player, you’ll get a notification. I think this is an idea all of online gaming should embrace. It doesn’t necessarily need to get into detail, but simply knowing that a report you sent has made a difference sends the message that reports do matter and that action is being taken, and that can make all the difference in the world.


Another frustration that players face when reporting is a lack of clarity on what is or is not actually against the rules. Usually filling out a report offers you a small list of vague categories to choose from, and it may not be clear what exactly each category entails. For example, I would interpret “harassment” as any abusive chat, but others seem to define it only as ongoing campaigns of bullying against a player conducted over an extended period of time.

Ideally, a report system should come with a decent variety of categories, and a brief but clear description of each one. This could perhaps be backed up by more extensive explanations of the code of conduct accessible elsewhere in-game. We shouldn’t have to wonder whether someone is breaking the rules or not.

Active Moderation

A group of players take on an Arkbreak in Defiance

One of the problems of moderation in MMOs is that it is entirely reactive, and dependent on the reports of players. Imagine if game masters actively monitored players in-game and could take immediate action if they saw someone doing something bad.

“But wait,” I hear you say, “MMOs are far too big to monitor every chat channel. It can’t work.”

You’re right. It’s totally impractical to monitor all chat at all times.

However, it may be possible to monitor some chat, some of the time. If even a small team of GMs were to be devoted entirely to monitoring player behavior and taking direct action, I think it could have a significant positive impact on communities.

The thing is, players wouldn’t know when they were being monitored. The very possibility that a game master may be watching would, I think, serve as a deterrent to bad behavior and perhaps provide a sense of security to the other players.

One of the biggest issues adding to the toxicity of MMO communities is the belief that developers simply don’t care, that there are no consequences. The trolls think they can get away with murder, and by all appearances, they’re right. Anything that sends the message that the community is actively policed, even if it’s largely symbolic, would have a positive impact.

Positive Reinforcement

Not all methods for improving communities have to be about punishing the troublemakers. There may also be value in recognizing those players who do treat their fellows in a decent and helpful manner.

A character in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Players could be given a way to “upvote” those they feel have been especially patient or helpful, and people could progressively unlock various rewards, cosmetic or otherwise, for receiving enough upvotes. Final Fantasy XIV has a system along these lines, and I think it’s something that should become industry standard.

I don’t think that offering rewards will, on its own, completely change the temperaments of players, but it may encourage people to go the extra mile to be helpful or at least provide an incentive not to be too harsh to their comrades. At the very least it would make helping out other players less of a thankless chore than it tends to otherwise be.

The main concern about such an “upvote” system would be the potential for abuse, but I think there are ways to prevent people gaming the system too much. For example, it could only be enabled for PUGs to prevent people simply spamming upvotes on their friends.

This could also tie into the suggestion of tangible punishments mentioned above. If you receive an infraction against your account, it only makes sense that you would lose access to any rewards earned for being a good community member, even if only temporarily. It adds another layer of incentive for players to mind their manners.

Ask the Experts

These are just ideas that seem to me like they would be helpful, based on my many years as an MMO player. But I’m sure there are those out there who would have a far better idea of how to make things better.

MMO developers should be hiring on behavioral experts to help them find the most effective ways to regulate their communities. They may find solutions that would not be obvious to the rest of us, who come at the problem from a layman’s perspective.

A close-up screenshot from League of Legends

The only game I know of to do anything like this is League of Legends. Riot has poured significant effort into finding the best ways to cut down on the infamous toxicity of their players. I’m not an LoL player, so I’m not sure how much success they’ve had, but I do greatly admire the effort.

MMORPG developers need to start viewing community-building, and community-policing, as a crucial part of design, as essential as environment art, encounter design, or coding. Communities are a crucial part of the online game experience, and if they’re neglected, the games suffer.

It might not be “sexy,” and it might not look exciting in a features trailer, but it is every bit as important as any other element of game design.

The Evolution of Recruit-A-Friend Programs

You just started playing a new MMO or other online multiplayer game. You’re really excited and get to thinking how cool it would be to play with your friends. So what do you do to sell them on this newfound addiction? Do you tell them how awesome your rewards will be for recruiting them? Or do shower them with details about the game’s most attractive features? Unless you have a weird friend group, it’s probably more of the latter.

recruit a friend program in tera

Until recently, MMOs and MOBAs only incentivized the recruiter and not the recruitee for participating in recruit a friend programs. It made little sense because the recruiter was already incentivized by wanting to play with their friends. MMOs already had that group of recruiters buying into pitching their game. What MMOs lacked was a reason for the recruitee to choose that friend’s game over another one. This is mirrored everyday in non-MMO products too via word of mouth. Word of mouth is a powerful tool in promotion and it results from passionate fans, not extrinsic rewards. Humans generally want to spread the word of products and services with which they’ve had good experiences. Yet online games, especially free to play MMOs, have long seemed to consider extrinsic rewards for friend recruiters the best vehicle to fuel growth.

Analyzing Recruit-A-Friend Programs

League of Legends took this self centered style to the max level with their old referral program. Recruiters could earn a ton of Riot Points (the game’s premium currency), rare skins, and even content items named after them. Of course, no ordinary person could possibly earn the top tier rewards and instead was dominated by online personalities such as TotalBiscuit. It’s unclear how this referral program impacted League of Legends’ status as a gaming powerhouse, but it has since been discontinued. That they’ve dropped incentivizing recruiting friends is indicative that Riot no longer believes it’s a strong growth driver.

Other MMORPGs have chosen to evolve their programs instead of trashing them. World of Warcraft tries to promote friends playing together via EXP boosts and friend summoning. Leveling and travel is pretty easy in WoW though so I’d question the efficacy of such a program. Final Fantasy XIV gives more tangible benefits to both friends and recruiters after a subscription is purchased. These rewards encourage low level play and partying together like an EXP boost below level 25. That rewards are capped at five recruits is odd but does suggest Square Enix is more interested in small friend groups over referrals from online recruiter warriors.

Star Wars: The Old Republic shows greater signs of adapting to the times. First, previous subscribers who have been unsubscribed for 90+ dates can be “recruited”. Most recruit a friend programs disallow old subscribers for some bizarre reason. Hoping old players return makes a lot less sense than actively trying to draw them back in. Recruitees receive unfettered access to content through level 50. New players also get a Jumpstart Bundle to make leveling easier. Recruiters receive Cartel Coins (premium currency) for each friend actively subscribed.

Among the top MMO games, the greatest disparity in recruit a friend programs lie between RuneScape and TERA. RuneScape runs an older model which heavily rewards recruiters while giving recruited friends a measly 10% EXP bump for seven days. No one’s buying into that. On the other hand, TERA is the gift that keeps on giving. TERA’s BuddyUp System lets veteran players (over level 40) mentor/recruit anyone who hasn’t played in 30 days. Mentors earn rewards while recruits level and guess what? Recruits also earn level specific rewards for leveling under their friend’s tutelage. Additionally, playing together increases a quantifiable friendship level that offers benefits such as the ability to teleport to one another.

‘Spawning’ Recruits

It's a spawning pool. Get it??

It’s a spawning pool. Get it??

One idea I have not seen adapted to subscription or buy to play MMORPGs is the concept of spawning. For those unaware, spawning allows someone who does not own the game to play it, as long as they group with someone who does. It’s used in StarCraft 2 and older Diablo games. The hope for the developer is that the new player will get hooked enough to want to play without their friend. The only way to do that is, of course, to purchase the game. As cool as virtual item rewards are, playing a paid game for free is far more encouraging. Strong rewards for recruiters would also be justified with ‘spawning referrals’ because of the larger time investment. Spawning in MMORPGs could be exploited but simple restrictions could be put into place to avoid such situations.

Honestly, recruit a friend programs have always seemed like an afterthought. Times are a-changing though. Developers are clearly showing promising signs of adaptation in recent years. However, that evolution is far from complete. Proper recruit a friend programs can drive tons of new players and are worth investing in. Word of mouth is an exceptional marketing vehicle that MMOs will need to get creative with to properly utilize. With the ability to hand out infinite virtual goods for free, it’s just a matter of finding the right mix. MMOs want to get players hooked, and get them hooked early. And nothing is more captivating than a friend to play alongside.



Das Tal’s Alpha is a Story of Sabotaging Greatness

Over the past few days I’ve been sinking my teeth into the Das Tal alpha test. And it’s been fantastic – not because the game is anywhere near launch ready but because the groundwork is laid for an incredible and innovative MMORPG. This is a game that turns combat, player interaction, and leveling on its head. It resembles multiplayer survival games like Rust and ARK: Survival Evolved combined with a two dimensional combat mashup of League of Leagues and Guild Wars. Unfortunately, while Das Tal evokes a refreshing blend of many successful multiplayer games, it falls short of delivering a great multiplayer experience. But it’s just an alpha test, and after playing it I’m excited to see where this game ends up next year. Believe me, that’s not something I say very often about alpha tests.

Das Tal aiming

Das Tal advertises itself as the MMO where MOBA meets sandbox. Character movement is controlled via WASD instead of a mouse typically used in top-down MOBAs like League of Legends. At first I wasn’t a fan, but combat turned out to be slower paced than expected. The WASD controls allowed for more precise attacks, which is critical for oh so many reasons.

First, there are no auto attacks in Das Tal. Every attack must be manually aimed. Lining up an attack, especially a ranged shot, can be difficult between all of the character movements. Second, all abilities hit all targets in an area whether foe, friend, or self. This really takes positioning to the next level. One of my favorite PvP fights was against a mage channeling a healing aura. I blinked into his aura, stayed close, and let him drain his energy on healing both of us. Without any remaining energy for abilities, my opponent fell easily. All of the positioning and manual aiming makes combat rather challenging in a group. Or at least, I assume it would. Das Tal’s group support is absolutely abysmal at this stage and is one of the game’s biggest flaws.

As far as I can tell, there is no way to actually form a group with other players. You can’t trade directly with them either. Really, the only way you can interact with another player is to attack them. It’s incredibly frustrating to find players willing to cooperate who simply can’t because the game doesn’t allow for it.

Das Tal ingredients map

Throughout the game world, resource points spawn which can be claimed and contested by players. These points, along with enemy drops, are the only source for materials needed to level up, craft new gear, increase abilities, and advance your character in any way. Thus, one might feel that grouping up to secure these resources would be a smart survival strategy. In Das Tal, the only way to facilitate that is to let one person claim the points, split the loot manually, and then drop it on the ground. This isn’t 1998. These features are simply not optional for an MMORPG of any kind. Das Tal must create mechanics that not only encourage grouping, but actually allow it. History has shown that everyone is a target in an open, survival PvP MMO. If players can’t band together to survive then it’s going to be a sad, lonely road to /uninstall.

Clans are supposed to serve as the primary social interaction. Events seem to run frequently and territories lay in wait to be conquered, all of which serve as endgame content. While that’s great, I ascribe to the belief that the core gameplay elements must first and foremost be enjoyable, clan or no. It’s also worth noting that individuals in a clan will conquer resource points for their clan instead of themselves. I believe this allows anyone in the clan access to the resource point’s loot. So that’s sort of a way to group, but it’s like asking me to get married on the first date.

Where resource spawns succeed is in creating dynamic focus points to engage players with one another and/or against local mobs. Every few minutes, messages display alerting the player of a nearby resource spawn, with each unique area providing distinct resources. So if multiple players want obsidian to craft a better staff, the scarcity of spawns will create natural conflict. The winner after five minutes of this king of the hill battle will earn solo access to loot the resource point. Of course, Das Tal offers full looting of player’s corpses so sometimes the real danger doesn’t begin until trying to store one’s glittering prizes. The player’s stash is the only place safe from antagonistic interference.

Das Tal resource control

Speaking of which, the stash is a very strange device. There are many potential stashes littered throughout the world’s makeshift towns, but a player can only store items in one of them at a time. This gives off a nomadic vibe, as players must constantly seek new homes in search of higher quality resources and better skill trainers. And the full risk of a nomadic lifestyle comes with it as players can lose all of their items transporting them to a new stash. You can imagine my surprise when I first found this out, trying to drop off some loot in a place far away from my home base. Luckily, I didn’t encounter any aggressive players on the road to town. In town was a different story.

While trying to stow away my inventory (the managing of which is rather cumbersome), I discovered that absolutely nowhere is safe in Das Tal. Another player, hidden in a bush, assaulted me. I managed to dance around long enough to store everything, but the writing on the wall was clear for such a feature. I’m not looking forward to the griefers’ inevitable camping of stash spots if the current system remains in place. Small safe zones simply must exist for players to craft, manage items, and talk without fearing death. I love the tension that Das Tal’s open rule set creates, but tension is only fun with an even ebb and flow. Constant tension does not make good game design.

My other complaints were pretty minor. Some resources spawned in inaccessible points. Level notifications took up too much real estate when they popped up in battle. Players were oddly split between two servers, despite relatively low populations. The insane frequency of mob spawning often frustrated when simply trying to loot the last five dead mobs. The benefits of each increased ability level are completely unclear. Visuals, sound effects, and animations reminded me frequently that I was testing an alpha product. But despite all of that, Das Tal exhibits a certain charm that many of today’s top MMOs lack.

Das Tal inventory stash management

Player levels don’t matter that much and only serve as a maximum power mark. What really matters is the ability levels of the selected weapons and armor skills, which combined act as the player’s class. Like Guild Wars, players are limited to equipping only a select number of abilities (up to 10). This creates no shortage of decision making when building a synergistic skill set. I spent most of my time wielding a staff and switching armor between robes and leather. Both armor types felt different, fun, and viable. It’s the perfect trinity. Learning and advancing skills requires particular resources but never felt like a grind because of the skill based combat, player threat, and frequency of drops. The best thing I can say about my experience during Das Tal’s alpha is that it felt rewarding.

Das Tal is not going to be a mega popular hit. Its hardcore, open world PvP will appeal to a niche audience. But that’s not something MMORPGs should shy away from. The days of a one size fits all MMORPG are long gone, with nearly every online title including some form of MMO gameplay. Das Tal realizes this and never tries to misrepresent itself as something it’s not. The only question is whether they can create a system that is still fun for weaker, newer, or clanless players.

Those interested in the game can still try it out for a few more days. Registered users can get a free Das Tal alpha key from mmorpg.com. The alpha test runs through the end of the week. If you’re reading this too late for that, first you should follow us on Twitter. Second, you can visit the Das Tal website to sign up for future alpha tests.

Play Games Because They’re Fun Now

In the past week, I’ve spent a lot of time researching Albion Online, Camelot Unchained, and Crowfall. The thing is, I already know a lot about these games and their value proposition to the MMO world. So when I research these well known upcoming titles (at least in the MMOsphere) I’m looking into recent core gameplay changes, YouTube videos of the latest game builds, public release updates, community feedback, and general hype levels. It then struck me that I’m doing this in large part as a reaction to my engrossing playtime with Black Desert Online.

Black Desert Online Horse In Rain

So much more to riding a horse in Black Desert

Whenever I really get into an MMORPG I tend to want to cement my place there. I want to justify spending money on microtransactions. My brain translates that to calculating the possobility of something better on the horizon. Logically, I realize the utter futility of these efforts, especially when ‘on the horizon’ is over a year away in the case of Camelot Unchained and Crowfall. But I have a huge issue with loss aversion and that translates to a fear of ‘wasting time’ on a game. It’s not lost on me how silly that notion is for an entertainment product. Yet in my adult life I’ve done this time and again. This sort of ‘confirmation research’ is not limited to MMORPGs either.

I have a strong tendency to look at upcoming multiplayer games and compare them to my current crop of multiplayer games. It’s especially noticeable with MMORPGs and MOBAs because they both require such large time investments. I think it’s a lot easier to play something like a multiplayer shooter more casually for a number of reasons (like The Culling, which I’ll plug as a fun hunger-games-like diversion). FPS systems are more intuitive and more primal. I immediately understand with any typical shooter game that I need to aim my weapons, click my mouse button, and possibly proceed to an objective to win. Sure, there are nuances, but nothing like learning the interactions of over a hundred champions in League of Legends.

MOBAs, like the aforementioned League of Legends, involve a huge time commitment to get the most out of the game. The interplay between League’s 130 champions and 194 items (at the time of this post) is not something one picks up on their first game. Or their hundredth. And with the meta constantly evolving, what I knew a few months ago may no longer be true. Many of the items that existed four years ago when I first started playing League of Legends are no longer even in the game anymore.

League of Legends Items

Visual approximation of the number of League of Legends items

As many readers will undoubtedly know, MMORPGs also involve a huge time commitment. Even in games where reaching max level is a comparatively trivial affair, that time might still equal a full-fledged AAA title. Then there is the ‘Keeping up with Joneses’ need to acquire more loot, more achievements, more gold, or whatever goals the MMORPG emphasizes. MMORPGs were founded as virtual worlds, a place to live with an alternate identity. Living another life isn’t a one and done experience.

These time commitments aren’t inherently a problem. Many people really enjoy diving in and committing to one multiplayer game (or like the idea of doing that, such as myself). The potential problem is that multiplayer games require other people. Some genres need larger audiences than others to function properly. MOBAs with small populations lead to long queue times and difficulty providing balanced match-ups. MMORPGs with small populations don’t even retain their very essence considering the antithetical relationship between ‘massive’ and ‘barren’.

All of this leads to my way over-analyzing the future states of these time intensive multiplayer games. In the process, I lose sight of why I’m playing the games now, which is that I enjoy doing so. Not only does it lessen my entertainment value due to some bizarre first world problem fear of the unknown, but it wastes productive time. Maybe this is an issue isolated to myself. Like most things though, I am rarely ever unique in any line of thinking. There are always more people sharing a rarely discussed opinion than appears on the surface.

unique just like everyone else

As noted earlier, this a line of thinking that surfaced during my adult life. As a preadolescent, time was always on my side. I didn’t fret about whether or not I would be using skills from a game or activity six months later. Even with school and sports, I had plenty of opportunities to engage in a myriad of activities. Not only did my weekly availability have more openings than the present, but I also had over a decade more of life in front of me. As an adult, that lack of time is further compounded in the gaming world by more choices than I ever had as a teenage kid. MMORPGs of today outnumber RPGs of any kind from the 90s. This is where the anxiety sets in making sure the ‘right’ game gets played.

The right game is not so cut and dry though. There is a huge element of timing that impacts the worthiness of a game. Life circumstances change frequently in adulthood, emotions may run high or low, relationships evolve and deteriorate. What is the right game today might not be appealing in a year.¬†Camelot Unchained or Crowfall might be that game when the time comes, but it’s an unknown until the future becomes the present. No amount of research will change that. It’s not just the what for a game but the when.

John Lennon (and a slew of others before him) famously said that ‘time you enjoy wasting is not time wasted’. We play MMORPGs and other games because they are fun here and now. Overcomplicating matters by looking beyond that scope only serves to damage our enjoyment of the present. It’s an attitude that’s worth adopting for years to come.

Which MOBA Is Right for You?

All but unheard of a few years ago, MOBAs (massive online battle arenas) are now one of the fastest growing genres in gaming, enticing players from all the over world with their intense action and fierce competition. But if you’re new to the genre, where should you begin? We’ve taken the time to write a breakdown of some of the biggest and best MOBAs to help you choose between them.

Heroes of the Storm:

A team zones into a match in the MOBA Heroes of the Storm

The newest big name entry in the genre, Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard Entertainment’s attempt to to take the core gameplay of MOBAs and strip away the more arcane or frustrating mechanics. For example, it doesn’t matter who gets the last hit on an enemy minion or hero; the entire team shares experience.

Even more dramatic is the fact that Heroes lacks items. Instead, hero customization is achieved through talents chosen at certain points throughout a match. This is intended to put the focus squarely on the action, with less need to return to base.

Blizzard has also taken some steps to lessen the toxicity that plagues MOBA communities; chat with the enemy team is disabled in all games, and players have the option to disable chat with their own team, as well.

But just because Heroes is more casual-friendly doesn’t mean it lacks for challenge or depth. One of its unique features is a wide pool of maps, each with unique mechanics that must be mastered in order to claim victory.

Heroes has a smaller pool of playable characters than some of its competitors, but new ones are being added on a monthly basis, and there are already many characters with very unique mechanics. For example, Abathur, who cannot fight directly but instead manipulates the battlefield by summoning minions, laying landmines, and casting abilities through his allies.

Like all entries on this list, Heroes of the Storm is free to play. Heroes can be unlocked by paying real money or in-game currency, though the latter is a bit of a grind, and it also offers cosmetics for cash.

Heroes of the Storm is best for players who want a MOBA that’s low stress but high excitement and easy to learn while still offering depth at high levels of play.


A skirmish in the MOBA DOTA 2

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Heroes of the Storm is DOTA 2. It stays the most faithful to the Defense of the Ancients mod from which the entire MOBA genre spawned and thus retains a high degree of difficulty and mechanical complexity.

For example, not only does DOTA 2 have last hitting, but it also retains the practice of “denying,” where a player will kill their own team’s minions at low health to prevent an enemy player from earning the gold from killing them.

DOTA 2 has a large stable of playable characters ranging from the relatively simple to some that are incredibly complex and challenging to play, such as Meepo. Meepo is capable of creating permanent clones of himself, with all of his abilities, that can be controlled separately, but this mighty power comes with a major disadvantage: If one Meepo dies, they all do.

On the downside, DOTA 2 releases new heroes very slowly, usually around four per year, and it has only one map for standard play.

DOTA 2 has the most player-friendly business model of any entry on this list. Every hero is immediately available for free. Only cosmetics are charged for, and even those can be acquired in-game with some effort.

DOTA 2 is best for those who want the deepest, purest, and most challenging MOBA experience.

League of Legends:

A screenshot from the MOBA League of Legends

Halfway between Heroes of the Storm’s lighthearted simplicity and DOTA 2’s punishing difficulty is League of Legends, the most popular MOBA on the market and possibly the world’s most played video game.

League of Legends still has traditional elements like items and last-hitting, but it does away with some more arcane mechanics, like denying. While LoL has fewer and less diverse maps than Heroes of the Storm, it offers significant variety compared to DOTA 2’s single map. The standard Summoner’s Rift map remains the most popular, but there are others with somewhat altered play styles, such as the Howling Abyss, which forces both teams into a narrow space to create constant team fights.

LoL’s community is famously toxic, even by MOBA standards, but the developers have put an incredible amount of effort into addressing the problem, implementing player tribunals to judge offenders and contracting teams of psychologists to help manage poor player behavior.

LoL is another game with a huge stable of playable characters. While new champions were once added very frequently, new releases are now much rarer.

The business model is similar to Heroes of the Storm, with characters unlocked through cash or in-game currency, as well as optional cosmetics available for real money purchase. One difference is that the in-game currency is also required to unlock runes, which provide in-game bonuses to champion performance. This can make unlocking characters a bit slower for new players.

League of Legends is the best choice for those looking for the most popular MOBA with the most middle of the road mechanics.


A screenshot from the mythology-themed MOBA Smite

Smite takes its inspiration from real world mythologies, allowing players to step into the shoes of gods from around the world like Thor, Athena, and Kali. However, its most defining feature is the fact it eschews the standard top-down camera and click to move control scheme for an over-the-shoulder third person camera and keyboard-based movement. This makes it feel much more natural for those coming from an MMO background.

Smite has a large number of colorful heroes from mythologies spanning the world, and releases new ones fairly often. However, mythological purists may be somewhat off-put by the often silly, over-sexualized, or pop-culture inspired gods and their skins, especially since some of them are from religions still practiced today, like Hinduism or Shinto.

Like League of Legends, Smite has a relatively small selection of maps/game types, but still offers a decent level of variety.

Smite’s business model is much like that of LoL or Heroes, but they do also sell an Ultimate God Pack that gives you access to all present and future characters for a very low price, giving it a sort of soft buy to play option.

Smite is a good choice for those who dislike the standard MOBA camera and control scheme.