With the unrelenting rise of MOBAs, I feel it is appropriate that we provide a simple list on how to play MOBAs properly. Sure, there are plenty of game-specific guides and some general MOBA guides but they all focus on the same thing everyone else does:
- Item building.
- Last hitting and farming.
- Learning from the top tier players.
- Counter-picking characters.
- Mastering specific characters and roles.
- Blah blah blah.
That’s all fine and dandy.. But…
What about the fundamentals of MOBA/ARTS games?
I’d like to look at the core mechanics, attitudes, and other less-discussed items that will give you a real edge. More importantly, these are the things that will allow you to truly enjoy the MOBA experience, in spite of the tendency to encounter toxicity and BM (bad manners). On that note, I would say fighting games and MOBAs tend to have the most toxic communities, with FPS games somewhere in that Top 3 but anyway… Here we go!
Here are 10 misconceptions and myths surrounding MOBA/ARTS games – in no particular order…
1. MOBAs Are For ADD/Twitch Gamers
No, no, and, furthermore, NO. (Sorry Stan – I still love you, bro!)
There are certainly a majority of MOBA players that have no strategy, tactics, or finesse, relying purely on twitch gaming skills, but this is not everyone nor is it the pinnacle of the experience. The real fun in MOBAs, to me, resides in the deceptively deep strategy that is available to those that believe in teamwork and developing their own unique playstyles. Great MOBAs are as accomodating as MMORPGs in this aspect: you can make the experience your own and play up your strengths, even if PvP isn’t usually your thang.
That said, ADD is more prevalent with gamers now than ever. Heck, the Internet as a whole has spoiled us. There’s just so much content vying for our attention. People “don’t have time” for deep thinking. I worry that future games will feature one or two-button control schemes at most.. Or maybe respond to grunting and farting.
2. Tanks Only Exist To Soak Up Damage
Recently, a wonderfully snooty gamer said the following and I found it much too funny not to share:
Tanks are supposed to soak up damage. That’s like their sole purpose. Just sayin.
This is the sort of elitist behavior that scares people away from competitive games as a whole. Nobody likes a know-it-all, especially when they are misinformed or misguided. The worst types of players on MOBAs are the ones that worry more about the rest of their team’s performance instead of their own. BTW, the guy who fed me this line of horse crap had the worst record in the entire session and kept over-extending…
Gee, there’s a shocker!
Yes, tanks are meant to be initiators and soak up damage; however, to relegate their roles strictly to that shows a lack of grasp on strategy and tactics. The tank or support’s role varies but, essentially, they are there to mitigate damage, slow down threats, and provide focus. In many ways, they function as the generals and playmakers for their teams. The thing is, if teams do not follow the tank’s lead or positioning is off, tanks should not just dive in because then they die for nothing.
The expectation that tanks should just jump into battle all the time is nothing short of stupid. Tanks have to be able to assess situations and make quick calls. If he pings to go in or retreat, the team should follow suite because glass cannons and squishies should not go in or get caught out alone. All too often, tanks are either too aggressive or too passive. Players will always disagree on the level of aggression needed but, if teams move together as a unit, beautiful things happen.
It’s also worth noting that there are MOBAs like Dawngate where, late game, damage penetration tends to overshadow any damage mitigation. At this point, tanks have to play more cautiously and resort to guerrilla tactics (i.e. baiting and rape bushes) or more coordinated team battles. Since tanks tend to offer CC (crowd control) and AoE effects they should not recklessly lay down their lives if the opportunity to shift the tides of battle or take an objective is not really there. #L2P
These concepts apply to other PvP games where you have traditional RPG roles in play. I find that Dawngate and DotA 2 tend to favor more versatile roles as well, whereas games like League Of Legends tend to be more about compartmentalizing roles and positions. Tanks can sometimes soften up and weaken enemies, making them far more than more useful that glorified punching bags and decoys.
3. Farming And Last Hitting Are #1
Imagine a game where the primary objective is timing button presses so you get points and your goal thereof is to get the high score. Oh wait.. That’s a rhythm game!
I’d say farming and last-hitting is the least fun aspect of MOBAs yet people check CS (Creep Score/Kills) all the time, as if that is the only that determines skill or the match outcome. The slight edge that the added income gives you is nice but it does not guarantee victory; in fact, being too obsessed with CS will often make you sloppy if you’re not careful.
Consider this: every time you bring up the scoreboard or glance over at your CS or income, you are distracted. That makes the gap bigger and opens you up to attacks. Your attention is better shifted towards map awareness and working as a team to take objectives; you know, things that win matches. What’s even more important to note here is that there are MOBA/ARTS games where the mechanics of last-hitting, denying, and farming are either not there or not as important. Dawngate, Tome, and Guardians Of Middle-Earth are good examples of this, as they focus more on action and strategy as opposed to boring chores.
4. You Need An ADC To Win
The high DPS (Damage Per Second) and sustain that ADCs bring is certainly nice but the value of team comps (compositions) is often exagerrated. It’s best to pick characters you are comfortable with and discuss with your team what they are comfortable with. Break the meta. Be a leader.
An ADC, for the uninitiated, is an Attack Damage Carry. Alongside your Jungler and the optional APC (Attack Power Carry or Mage), the ADC is part of the damage-dealing machine. What changes within these roles is the positioning and primary damage type (i.e. magic/AP vs. physical/AD). The terminology changes up depending on the game you are playing but the core concepts are almost always there.
Typically, MOBA players like to have one primary damage-dealer so they can feed him. The problem with this approach is that it places too much of a burden on one player instead of teamwork. Various team comps are viable in just about any game but your team needs to know how to work with it. For example, an all ADC team would be very squishy and would need very coordinated attacks to win team battles. Similarly, an APC team could work but there would need to be some heavy CC or heavy burst damage to take out key targets before they could retaliate.
Ultimately, it’s all about teamwork. Tried and true is nice but it’s not the only way to play the game.
5. Lane Assignments Must Always Follow The Standard Format
So we pretty much addressed this on item #4 but it’s worth emphasizing that the laning phase usually doesn’t last long. Teams should adapt to changing circumstances and win conditions. If the enemy team is ganking (ambushing) your lane a lot, you might have to respond in kind. Think of lane assignments as a starting point but not your position the entire match.
As we’ll see in the next segment, the standard plays or meta indicate the commonly-acceptable gameplay decisions but not necessarily the best plays. As such, your typical League Of Legends game will likely have a solo top, solo mid, jungler, and duo bottom format. Dawngate simplifies this approach with two duo lanes and a jungler (typically). Regardless of the specific MOBA/ARTS game, the initial portion of the game (about 10-20m) is where you farm (level up and increase income) until you are strong enough to gank lanes and take risky objectives (wells, shrines, jungle camps, bindings/towers, etc).
An important thing to note is that, the more people are in a lane, the less experience individual teammates get. An aggressive duo or trio-lane can work but you can easily fall behind if you’re not careful.
6. The Meta Is What You NEED To Follow
I look at the current meta in a MOBA as a popularity contest in high school: most people turn to the popular kids to see what is cool to do but, ultimately, the cool trends are lame if you can think for yourself. If you follow the meta in any MOBA, you’ll see which characters are the most popular in which positions and roles, which ones are being banned in competitive play, and the items that are preferred at specific roles. These trends should inspire you but you should not feel confined to them.
The meta, to me, is a fun thing to follow just because you’ll see characters and strategies go in and out of fashion, regardless of the actual game developments. The meta is driven by what top-tier players do, rather than what game changes (balancing, nerfs, new releases, etc.) force/influence competitive gamers to do. As such, feel free to break the meta but be aware that close-minded players will likely expect you to fail.. Or troll you hard. There are also certain things that just won’t work most of the time (for example, an all-tank team on Dawngate could work but, on League Of Legends, good luck with that).
Break the meta.. But you may not want to do it in ranked games, where people tend to get butthurt/salty quite a bit.
Following the meta is basically a courtesy but, above all, remember to just have fun!
7. MOBAs Are Not As Deep As RPGs
MOBAs are super deep and I would put them in the overall category of strategy games. Sadly, there is a significant majority that treats MOBA/ARTS games as mere action games. The action elements are certainly satisfying but the strategy is where I get happy in the pants.
How are MOBAs deep?
- Item builds can be planned to counter the biggest threats, overall enemy team comp, or personal playing style.
- If you play smart, you can win matches and battles that would otherwise be one-sided.
- Characters can often be played beyond their intended role.. To great effect!
- Regardless of your current level of mastery, you can always improve in several areas.
- Skill and teamwork outweigh any elements of pay-to-win or luck (usually).
- The more you play any given MOBA/ARTS game, the better you will understand stats (their limits, scaling, impacts, value, etc).
- Even when you fall behind on levels/experience and item builds, teamwork and skill can triumph.
- The slightest decisions can have a huge impact, for better or worse.
- Every match is a unique experience if you really take in all the variables and possibilities.
The list goes on and on. This is not a mere matter of getting lots of kills/frags to become an unstoppable force. There are so many subtleties to MOBAs that it can be staggering.
8. MMORPGs Are Better [For Socializing]
So we already established that there is tons of depth in MOBAs and they are indeed comparable to MMORPGs. The only thing that really changes between these game genres/categories is the scale. MOBAs require less of a time commitment and the gratification comes sooner with far less of the grinding and monotonous aspects. That said, there are those who feel that the faster nature kills social potential.
While the interaction and immersion certainly is not on par with MMORPGs (okay, I’ll concede to that), the opportunity to make friends and forge alliances does indeed exist. I would say that all it takes is some simple preemptive good sportsmanship and encouragement. Here are some examples:
- Wish everyone good luck.
- Do not say GG preemptively. It’s BM (bad manner).
- Share friendly advice with your team, being wary not to single out underperformers.
- Do not assume others are dumb or be a know-it-all/elitist snob.
- Congratulate players on good plays.
- Do not be a sore loser and blame lag, teammates, the moon’s alignment, periods, or whatever.
- Coordinate your character choices and share intended strategies with your teammates.
- Do not auto-lock on characters or ignore teammate preferences in the pre-game lobby.
If you avoid asshat behavior, you’ll make friends. Being skillful helps but being a non-douche is even more effective. These friendships can sometimes expand into other games and projects, too. In fact, quite a few of the contributors and staff members on our network are people we met through MOBAs!
…Of course, if you are into dancing and emotes, MMORPGs do have the advantage there. MOBAs need more dance macros, clearly!
9. All MOBAs Are Too Slow
MOBAs are slow compared to what exactly?
If you’re used to MMORPGs, the action can be slow but the battles are shorter so it balances out (you also don’t need to grind for hundreds of hours to get epic or legendary gear). Other competitive genres like FPS (First Person Shooter) games are certainly faster but, if you dig strategy, MOBAs are very satisfying at every step. Unlike the aforementioned genres, you can’t just jump into the fray. Practice certainly helps and you’ll find your skills will always be fine-tuned if you learn the basics.
I feel that spending the time to grasp core mechanics and concepts on any MOBA/ARTS game is still less overwhelming that the constant minutia of crap you grind through on a typical MMO. If you look at how long it takes you to reach a level where your character feels complete in an MMORPG versus the amount of time it takes to do so in a MOBA, you can see that the pace is just right and does not require that you get married to the game. #justsayin
For a real action-focused, fast-paced PvP experience, there are tons of great MOBAs out there. Check out Tome (referral link coming soon), Heroes Of The Storm, Guardians Of Middle Earth, or Smashmuck Champions. Tome is web-based, which can be a turn-off to some, but it is one of the fastest, most streamlined MOBAs out there. It’s easy to pick up and most matches are 10-15 minutes long. Compare this to League Of Legends, where matches can be 40-60 minutes long.. Or worse.
10. Learning The Characters And Item Builds Is First Priority
Every time someone recommends learning a specific champion and the best item builds as the first step in their MOBA journey, my eyes roll. There are MOBAs that make these aspects easy to learn in-game but the core concepts are what most people struggle with… At any level. Here are some examples of things you should consider:
- What do you do when you are trying to farm and you are being harassed a lot?
- How can you protect against ganks and people babysitting your lane?
- How do you distinguish a battle you should run from or jump into?
- What are some signs you can look for to know that an enemy is about to attack or spring a trap?
- Why do you die so much and what can you do to feed opponents lest gold?
- What objectives exist on which maps and what benefits do they give you or your team?
- If you have the opportunity to win a team battle or take down a turret, what do you go for?
- What are the caps/limits on certain stats and how well do they scale?
These are the sorts of questions you have to be ready to answer with split-second decision making. Any hesitation and you might very well fail. Sure, it helps to know what the characters and items do but that will come with experience. Practice helps with that.
The thing is, if you don’t understand the fundamentals of MOBAs, you’ll learn characters, items, and game-specific stuff, but your gameplay will be sloppy and you’ll fall prey to the toxicity of the community. Understanding the little things that can improve your personal gameplay and experience is key. The rest will come in time. I will also note that cookie-cutter builds are a good starting point but don’t think that one size fits all. If you like that sort of thing, play just about any MMORPG. *smirk*
I know many MOBA veterans will likely disagree with what I’ve shared here. I won’t get int how long I’ve played MOBAs, my rank, and other silliness.. Just read these threads and you can see that people have their own opinions on how MOBAs work and how you play them “right”:
What do you think about MOBAs, gang? Leave some comment love below.