Here’s a quick rundown on MOBAs so you don’t get lost in the next scramble of objectives or team fights.
Esports covers a wide genre of games but few would deny that MOBAs are one of the hardest to watch. Short for “Massive Online Battle Arena,” the appeal of MOBAs comes from their team-based player-versus-player gameplay that involves a healthy dose of both action and strategy. Things can get pretty complicated from there but it doesn’t have to be. All you need is to keep these basics of MOBAs in mind.
The Basic Flow
First, the most basic of basics, how do you win in a MOBA? Simple: you destroy your opponent’s base, specifically the big, central object representing the base.
MOBAs usually involve 10 players divided into two teams and both battle it out, gaining incremental advantages until one team is the victor. We’ll get to those incremental advantages in a moment, right now we need to go to the next key element of a MOBA: the map.
The map is divided into two sides where the bases of the two teams are located at opposite corners. Both teams start in their respective bases and then spread out among the three connecting lanes: top, middle, and bottom. Along these lanes are towers that defend their side of the map and need to be taken down in order to reach the opponent’s base. Players can travel along these lanes or roam in between them in an area known as the jungle.
In short, the basics of any MOBA game involve teams fighting and defending their territory across the map. Teams will take opposing towers and objectives along the way, gaining more strength until one side takes their enemy’s base and wins.
The Tools to Victory
Now that you know the main path to victory, how do you get there? This is where the two biggest strategic elements of a MOBA come in: the characters, the team, and their items.
The character is what you play as and each MOBA has their own title for them (heroes, champions, legends, etc.). In essence, they provide unique abilities that help secure leads or gain advantages. Some characters are good at assassinating opponents, making them useful for team fights. Others have abilities that help defend or empower their team. Characters also “level up” throughout the game, giving them access to new and more powerful abilities. Knowing what your character can do and maximizing it is key to achieving victory.
This leads us to team compositions, as a team of all assassins might not provide the best course to success. Remember that each team comprises five players and each player can play whatever character they want. A team needs to balance both offense and defense so that they can handle any challenge they face.
Last but not the least are the items that you can acquire for your characters. It’s here where a lot of MOBAs diverge in design as items can either be used to further enhance your character’s abilities or completely warp an entire game by their mere presence. The number of items a team has is usually the margin that determines who’s ahead in a game. Keep that in mind the next time you see teams clash as their advantages may not always be so obvious.
Putting it All Together
We’ve got our team composition, everyone’s picked their characters, and we’ve all moved to our lanes, what’s next? Well, it comes down to those incremental advantages I mentioned earlier. There are a lot of moving parts in a MOBA and the more you tilt one in your favor, the higher your chances of winning.
Items, for example, don’t just appear out of nowhere, you have to purchase them for your character. That will require money, so where do you get money? You passively earn it but you can get more by slaying: the enemy minions that periodically file out their base, the neutral monsters that inhabit the jungle, or your opponent’s characters themselves.
This means that you need to work with your team to get favorable situations from your opponent. Whether that’s buying time for you to gather resources or ganging up on a mispositioned enemy, the team has to work together to secure their lead.
And so the action and strategy elements come into play as teams move and set up plays around the map. It’s a constant battle of mental awareness and mechanical skill, which makes MOBAs engaging to play and watch. All you need is a bit of the basics and the whole world of MOBAs is now open to you.
Banner image from Dota 2.