Multiplayer online battle arena

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Typical map of a MOBA genre game. Yellow lines are the "lanes" where the action is focused; blue and red dots are the defensive "towers/turrets" that defend them; the two light-colored quarter circles are the teams' bases, which encompass the blue and red corners: the structures upon which destruction results in victory. Map of MOBA.svg
Typical map of a MOBA genre game. Yellow lines are the "lanes" where the action is focused; blue and red dots are the defensive "towers/turrets" that defend them; the two light-colored quarter circles are the teams' bases, which encompass the blue and red corners: the structures upon which destruction results in victory.

Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), also known as action real-time strategy (ARTS), is a subgenre of strategy video games that originated as a subgenre of real-time strategy in which each player controls a single character, often through a bird's-eye view, as part of a team competing against another team of players. Often the objective is to destroy the opposing team's main structure with the assistance of periodically-spawned computer-controlled units that march forward along set paths; MOBA games can have other goals, like defeating every player on the enemy team. Player characters typically have abilities that improve over the course of a game and that contribute to a team's overall strategy. MOBAs are a fusion of action games, role-playing games and real-time strategy games, though MOBA players usually do not construct buildings or units and there are examples of MOBA games that cannot be considered RTS at all (Smite, Paragon). The genre has become a big part of the esports category.

A strategy video game is a video game that focuses on skillful thinking and planning to achieve victory. It emphasizes strategic, tactical, and sometimes logistical challenges. Many games also offer economic challenges and exploration. They are generally categorized into four sub-types, depending on whether the game is turn-based or real-time, and whether the game focuses on strategy or tactics.

Real-time strategy (RTS) is a sub-genre of strategy video games in which the game does not progress incrementally in turns. This is distinguished from turn-based strategy (TBS), in which all players take turns when playing.

Birds-eye view Elevated view of an object from above

A bird's-eye view is an elevated view of an object from above, with a perspective as though the observer were a bird, often used in the making of blueprints, floor plans, and maps.


The first widely-accepted "game" in the genre was Aeon of Strife (AoS), a custom map for StarCraft [1] [2] in which four players each control a single powerful unit and, aided by weak computer-controlled units, compete against a stronger computer. [3] Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a mod that includes a map based on AoS for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne , was one of the first major titles of its genre and the first MOBA for which sponsored tournaments have been held. [3] It was followed by two spiritual successors, League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth , and eventually a sequel, simply titled Dota 2 , as well as numerous other games in the genre, such as Heroes of the Storm .

StarCraft is a military science fiction media franchise, created by Chris Metzen and James Phinney and owned by Blizzard Entertainment. The series, set in the beginning of the 26th century, centers on a galactic struggle for dominance among four species—the adaptable and mobile Terrans, the ever-evolving insectoid Zerg, the powerfully enigmatic Protoss, and the "god-like" Xel'Naga creator race—in a distant part of the Milky Way galaxy known as the Koprulu Sector. The series debuted with the video game StarCraft in 1998. It has grown to include a number of other games as well as eight novelizations, two Amazing Stories articles, a board game, and other licensed merchandise such as collectible statues and toys.

<i>Defense of the Ancients</i> Mod for Warcraft III

Defense of the Ancients (DotA) is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) mod for the video game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, The Frozen Throne. The objective of the game is for each team to destroy their opponents' Ancient, a heavily guarded structure at the opposing corner of the map, which is based on the "Aeon of Strife" map for StarCraft. Players use powerful units known as heroes, and are assisted by allied teammates and AI-controlled fighters. As in role-playing games, players level up their heroes and use gold to buy equipment during the mission.

A mod is an alteration by players or fans of a video game that changes one or more aspects of a video game, such as how it looks or behaves. Mods may range from small changes and tweaks to complete overhauls, and can extend the replay value and interest of the game.


The roots of the genre can be traced back decades to one of the earliest real-time strategy titles, the 1989 Sega Mega Drive/Genesis game Herzog Zwei . [4] [5] It has been cited as a precursor to, [6] or an early example of, [7] the MOBA genre. It used a similar formula, where each player controls a single command unit in one of two opposing sides on a battlefield. [4] [5] [6] . Herzog Zwei's influence is also apparent in several later MOBA games such as Guilty Gear 2: Overture (2007) [8] [9] and AirMech (2012). [7]

<i>Herzog Zwei</i> 1989 video game

Herzog Zwei is a real-time strategy video game developed by Technosoft and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis. An early real-time strategy game, it predates the genre-popularizing Dune II, being released first in Japan in 1989 and worldwide the following year. It is the sequel to Herzog, which was available on the Japanese MSX and PC-8801 personal computers.

<i>Guilty Gear 2: Overture</i> video game

Guilty Gear 2: Overture is a video game in the Guilty Gear series made by Arc System Works for the Xbox 360. Unlike previous Guilty Gear titles, this installment makes use of 3D graphics. The Xbox Live demo of Guilty Gear 2 describes the game as, "a mix between the action and real-time strategy genre." A playable demo featuring three modes of gameplay was released in Japan via Xbox Live on 30 October 2007. A North American version was released on October 7, 2008 released by Aksys Games. A port for Microsoft Windows was released on March 31, 2016 worldwide by Arc System Works.

<i>AirMech</i> 2012 video game

AirMech is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Carbon Games for Microsoft Windows, with Android and VR version in the works. Originally released onto Steam's early access program in November 2012 as the game was fully released in March 2018 under the name AirMech Strike, and additionally released a version on the Xbox 360, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 under the name AirMech Arena.

In 1998, Future Cop: LAPD featured a strategic Precinct Assault mode similar to Herzog Zwei, in which the players could actively fight alongside generated non-player units. [10] [11] . The PC version also allowed for online competitive play [12] , technically making Future Cop: LAPD the first MOBA game ever released as, unlike Herzog Zwei, it meets the criteria of an online battle arena.

<i>Future Cop: LAPD</i> 1998 video game

Future Cop: LAPD is a third-person shooter developed by EA Redwood Shores and published by Electronic Arts and released first for the PlayStation, then Mac OS and Microsoft Windows. Future Cop was originally developed as an installment of the Strike series.

Also in 1998, computer game company Blizzard Entertainment released its best-selling real-time strategy game (RTS) StarCraft with a suite of game editing tools called StarEdit . The tools allowed members of the public to design and create custom maps that allowed play that was different from the normal maps. A modder known as Aeon64 made a custom map named Aeon of Strife (AoS) that became popular. [3] [13] Aeon64 stated that he was attempting to create gameplay similar to that of Future Cop: LAPD's Precinct Assault mode[ citation needed ]. In the Aeon of Strife map, players controlled a single powerful hero unit fighting amidst three lanes, though terrain outside these lanes was nearly vacant. [14]

Blizzard Entertainment video game publisher and developer

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. is an American video game developer and publisher based in Irvine, California, and is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard. The company was founded on February 8, 1991, under the name Silicon & Synapse, Inc. by three graduates of the University of California, Los Angeles: Michael Morhaime, Frank Pearce and Allen Adham. The company originally concentrated on the creation of game ports for other studios' games before beginning development of their own software in 1993 with games like Rock n' Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings. In 1994 the company became Chaos Studios, Inc., then Blizzard Entertainment after being acquired by distributor Davidson & Associates.

In 2002, Blizzard released Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (WC3), with the accompanying Warcraft III World Editor . Both the MOBA and tower defense subgenres took substantive shape within the WC3 modding community. A modder named Eul began converting Aeon of Strife into the Warcraft III engine, calling the map Defense of the Ancients (DotA). Eul substantially improved the complexity of play from the original Aeon of Strife mod. Shortly after creating the custom DotA map, Eul left the modding scene. With no clear successor, Warcraft III modders created a variety of maps based on DotA and featuring different heroes. In 2003, after the release of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, a map creator named Meian [1] created a DotA variant closely modeled on Eul's map, but combining heroes from the many other versions of DotA that existed at the time. Called DotA: Allstars, it was inherited after a few months by a modder called Steve "Guinsoo" Feak, and under his guidance it became the dominant map of the genre. After more than a year of maintaining the DotA: Allstars map, with the impending release of an update that significantly changed the map layout, Guinsoo left the development to his adjutant Neichus in the year 2005. [1] After some weeks of development and some versions released, the latter turned over responsibility to a modder named IceFrog, who initiated large changes to the mechanics that deepened its complexity and capacity for innovative gameplay. The changes conducted by IceFrog were well-received and the number of users on the Dota: Allstars forum is thought to have peaked at over one million. [14]

<i>Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos</i> 2002 video game

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is a high fantasy real-time strategy computer video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment released in July 2002. It is the second sequel to Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, after Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, the third game set in the Warcraft fictional universe, and the first to be rendered in three dimensions. An expansion pack, The Frozen Throne, was released in July 2003. Warcraft III is set several years after the events of Warcraft II, and tells the story of the Burning Legion's attempt to conquer the fictional world of Azeroth with the help of an army of the Undead, led by fallen paladin Arthas Menethil. It chronicles the combined efforts of the Human Alliance, Orcish Horde, and Night Elves to stop them before they can corrupt the World Tree.

The Warcraft III World Editor is the built-in level editor for the real-time strategy game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion set Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Incorporating the core mechanics of the level editor of Blizzard Entertainment's previous strategy game StarCraft, it allows users to create and customize their own maps with a high level of detail and flexibility. The editor has been used in creating several popular custom maps, including Defense of the Ancients. The level editor was substantially improved for The Frozen Throne and allowed users to create cut scenes supporting voice-overs. Advanced features of the editor allow for custom models, tilesets and icons. The editor also supports Blizzard's JASS scripting language for programming complex actions otherwise not supported by the graphical interface.

Tower defense (TD) is a subgenre of strategy video game where the goal is to defend a player's territories or possessions by obstructing the enemy attackers, usually achieved by placing defensive structures on or along their path of attack. This typically means building a variety of different structures that serve to automatically block, impede, attack or destroy enemies. Tower defense is seen as a subgenre of real-time strategy video games, due to its real-time origins, though many modern tower defense games include aspects of turn-based strategy. Strategic choice and positioning of defensive elements is an essential strategy of the genre.

By 2008, the popularity of DotA had attracted commercial attention. [15] That year, The Casual Collective released Minions , a Flash web game. [16] Gas Powered Games also released the first stand-alone commercial title in the genre, Demigod . [17] [18] In late 2009, Riot Games' debut title, League of Legends initially designed by Feak, was released. [19] [20] Riot began to refer to the game's genre as a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). [21] Also in 2009, IceFrog, who had continued to develop DotA: Allstars, was hired by Valve Corporation, in order to design a sequel to the original map. [14]

In 2010, S2 Games released Heroes of Newerth , with a large portion of its gameplay and aesthetics based on DotA: Allstars. [22] [23] The same year, Valve announced Dota 2 and subsequently secured the franchise's intellectual property rights, [24] [25] after being contested by Riot Games for the DotA trademark. [26] In 2012, Activision Blizzard settled a trademark dispute with Valve over the usage of the DOTA trademark and announced their own standalone game, which was eventually named Heroes of the Storm . [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] Dota 2 was released in 2013, and was referred to by Valve as an "action real-time strategy" game. [21] In 2014, Hi-Rez Studios released Smite, [32] a MOBA with a third-person perspective. Heroes of the Storm was released in 2015. [33] Blizzard adopted their own personal dictation for their game's genre with "hero brawler", citing its focus on action. [34] In recent years a number of MOBAs have been released following the success of Dota 2 and League of Legends including Arena of Valor in 2015, Battlerite in 2017, and AirMech in 2018.


The Halcyon Fold map from the mobile MOBA Vainglory features a single lane connecting the two team bases, and the "jungle" underbrush beneath the lane Vainglory Halcyon Fold map.tif
The Halcyon Fold map from the mobile MOBA Vainglory features a single lane connecting the two team bases, and the "jungle" underbrush beneath the lane

There are two opposing teams whose goal collectively as a team is generally to destroy their enemy's base to win, [35] though some games have the option of different victory conditions. [36] Each team most typically consists of five players. Typically, there is one main structure which must be destroyed to win; destroying other structures within the opposing team's base may confer other benefits. Defensive structures, which are usually automatic "turrets", are in place to prevent this, as well as relatively weak computer-controlled units which periodically spawn at each base and travel down predefined paths toward the opposing team's base called "minions". [37] There are typically 3 "lanes" that are the main ways of getting from one base to another; in between the lanes is an uncharted area called the "jungle."

A player controls a single powerful in-game unit generally called a 'hero'. When a hero stands near a killed enemy unit or kills an enemy unit, they gain experience points and gold which allow the hero to level up and buy items at a store. When a hero levels up, they have the ability to strengthen their abilities which they typically have four of. Dead heroes revive at the team's base after a delay which generally increases as it levels up. [38]

Heroes typically fall into one of several roles, such as tanking, damage-dealing, or healing and support. Each individual hero is unique, with its own abilities that it does not share with any other character, even those which share its role(s). Also typically, there is a large starting pool of heroes; League of Legends, for instance, began with 40, and has added at least one new one every month for its entire lifespan, reaching 100 in 2012. [39] This adds to the learning curve of the game as players learn the game's goals and strategies; find at least one hero they excel at playing; and familiarize themselves with the remaining roster. Additionally, each hero is deliberately limited in the roles they can fulfill. No one hero is ever (supposed to be) powerful enough to win the game without support from their team. This creates a strong emphasis on teamwork and cooperation.

Each player typically receives a small amount of gold per second during the course of the game. Moderate amounts of gold are rewarded for killing hostile computer-controlled units and larger amounts are rewarded for killing enemy heroes. Gold is used by heroes to buy a variety of different items that range in price and impact. For the most part, this involves improving the combat viability of the hero, although there may be other items that support the hero or team as a whole in different ways. [40]

As the heroes of each team get stronger, they can use multiple strategies to gain an advantage. These strategies can include securing objectives, killing enemy heroes and farming gold by killing A.I. units. The stronger a team gets, the more capable they are at destroying the enemy team and their base.

Members of the genre do not generally feature several other elements traditionally found in real-time strategy games, notably base management and army building. Some video games have certain heroes which control a few specialized units. The MOBA genre resembles role-playing games (RPG) in gameplay though the MOBA genre focuses on multiplayer battle in an arena while RPGs typically revolve around a single player story.

Character Types and Roles

In most MOBAs, players assume specific roles such as Tank, Marksman, Mage, Fighter, Assassin and Support. Most (if not each) champion/hero can be played as carry, support and ganker; the number and type can differ depending on the game. [41] [42] The carry role is expected to scale and itemize themselves to do the most damage against enemy characters and objectives, but may also require protection and assistance from their team members. [41] Supports are characters who support the entire team with abilities that are meant to aid allies and disable or slightly harm enemies. Some supports have healing abilities which can be very useful in fights, giving health to an ally while the enemy is losing more and more of theirs. [41] Ganker roles are flexible, as they have both carry and support skills that are used to disrupt and eliminate enemies, thus giving their teammates an advantage over their opponents. [41] Gankers can "act as a strategist, decision-maker or supporter depending on the team's needs." [41] Player roles can also be classified by the particular lane they are focusing on, such as "top laner", "mid laner", and "bottom laner". [43]

Data analytics and match prediction

Due to the large volume of MOBA matches played on a daily basis globally, (League of Legends alone had a reported 100 million active monthly players worldwide in 2016 [44] and an average of 27 million League of Legends games played per day reported in 2014 [45] ), MOBA has become a platform to apply big data tools to predict match outcomes based on in-game factors such as hero kill/death/assist ratios, gold earned, time of a match, synergy with other players, team composition, and other parameters. [46] [47] Artificial Intelligence playing in matches and predicting match outcomes is being researched. [48] Open AI developed the Open AI Five which were first showcased at the Dota 2 World Championship, The International 2017, during a 1v1 demonstration. [49] Open AI returned to The International 2018 where the Open AI Five played in two games against professional players. [50]

See also

Related Research Articles

Valve Corporation American technology company

Valve Corporation is an American video game developer, publisher and digital distribution company headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. It is the developer of the software distribution platform Steam and the Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, and Dota 2 games.

<i>Warcraft: Orcs & Humans</i> 1994 video game

Warcraft: Orcs & Humans is a real-time strategy game (RTS) developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, and published by Interplay Productions in Europe. The first version, for MS-DOS, was released in North America on 23 November 1994 and the Classic Mac OS version followed in early 1996. The MS-DOS version was re-released by Sold-Out Software in 2002.

<i>Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne</i> computer game by Blizzard Entertainment

Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is the expansion pack for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, a real-time strategy video game by Blizzard Entertainment. It was released worldwide on July 1, 2003 for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. The Frozen Throne builds upon the story of Reign of Chaos and depicts the events after the main game's conclusion. The single-player unfolds from the perspective of two new protagonists—the Night Elf warden Maiev Shadowsong and the Blood Elf prince Kael'Thas—as well as returning protagonist Arthas Menethil. Additionally, the expansion contains Act I of a separate Orc campaign that is independent from the main storyline with Blizzard releasing Acts II and III via patch in December 2003, taking in player feedback of Act I when developing these chapters.

<i>League of Legends</i> Multiplayer online battle arena video game

League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Riot Games for Microsoft Windows and macOS. The game follows a freemium model and is supported by microtransactions, and was inspired by the Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne mod, Defense of the Ancients.

<i>Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness</i> fantasy-themed real-time strategy game published by Blizzard Entertainment

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness is a fantasy real-time strategy computer game developed by Blizzard Entertainment and released for DOS in 1995 and Mac OS in 1996. The game was met with positive reviews and won most of the major PC gaming awards in 1996. In 1996, Blizzard released an expansion pack, Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, for DOS and Mac OS, and a compilation, Warcraft II: The Dark Saga, for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. The edition, released in 1999, provided Blizzard's online gaming service, and replaced the MS-DOS version with a Windows one.

Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. The game is a sequel to Defense of the Ancients (DotA), which was a community-created mod for Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion pack, The Frozen Throne. Dota 2 is played in matches between two teams of five players, with each team occupying and defending their own separate base on the map. Each of the ten players independently controls a powerful character, known as a "hero", who all have unique abilities and differing styles of play. During a match, players collect experience points and items for their heroes to successfully defeat the opposing team's heroes in player versus player combat. A team wins by being the first to destroy the other team's "Ancient", a large structure located within their base.

IceFrog is a pseudonymous video game designer known for being the lead designer of Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a custom Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos mod, as well as for the stand-alone sequel, Dota 2.

<i>Heroes of the Storm</i> video game

Heroes of the Storm is a crossover multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment and released on June 2, 2015, for Microsoft Windows and macOS. The game features various characters from Blizzard's franchises as playable heroes, as well as different battlegrounds based on Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft, and Overwatch universes. The game uses both free-to-play and freemium models and is supported by micropayments, which can be used to purchase heroes, visual alterations for the heroes in the game, and mounts. Blizzard does not call the game a "multiplayer online battle arena" or an "action real-time strategy" because they feel it is something different with a broader playstyle; they refer to it as an online "hero brawler". At the end of 2018, Blizzard announced that game was being transitioned to a long-term support plan, with some staff members moved to other projects and its official tournament circuit cancelled.

<i>Strife</i> (2015 video game) multiplayer video game

Strife was a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed by S2 Games. This is S2 Games' second MOBA game aimed to a more casual player base than Heroes of Newerth, most notably incorporating various gameplay elements that focus on heavily reducing player toxicity and introducing persistent mechanics outside of the arena, including Pets and Crafting. The game uses an engine called Kodiak which is based on the Heroes of Newerth with some improvements on lighting and physics.

<i>Vainglory</i> (video game) multiplayer video game developed and published by Super Evil Megacorp for iOS and Android

Vainglory is a free-to-play video game with in-game purchases, developed and published by Super Evil Megacorp for iOS, Android and PC. The game is a version of the MOBA genre wherein two opposing teams of three or five players fight to destroy the enemy by controlling the path between the bases, which is lined by turrets and guarded by AI-controlled enemy creatures. Off the path, players battle for control points that provide resources. The game was released for iOS in November 2014, after being soft-launched for over half a year, with the Android version being released in July 2015. A Mac and Microsoft Windows version of the game was released in July 2018. Through cross-platform play, players on all four platforms can play together simultaneously.

The International 2019 Dota 2 video game tournament

The International 2019 (TI9) was the ninth iteration of The International, an annual Dota 2 world championship esports tournament. Hosted by Valve Corporation, the game's developer, the tournament followed a year-long series of awarding qualifying points, known as the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), with the top 12 ranking teams being directly invited to the tournament, which took place in August 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. In addition, six more teams earned invites through regional qualifiers played in July 2019. The grand finals took place between Team Liquid and OG, who had respectively won the International's 2017 and 2018 events. There, OG defeated Team Liquid 3-1 in the best-of-five series to become the first ever repeat champion of an International.

<i>Dota Underlords</i> 2019 strategy video game

Dota Underlords is a free-to-play strategy video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. The game is based on a popular Dota 2 community created game mode called Dota Auto Chess, which was released in January 2019. Dota Underlords was released in early access on June 20, 2019 for Android, iOS, macOS, Microsoft Windows, and Linux, with it planned to be officially released later in 2019.


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