Prepare for Battle: A little about MOBAs

August 2, 2015 — by Mad "r4gs" Zombie0



Prepare for Battle: A little about MOBAs

August 2, 2015 — by Mad "r4gs" Zombie0


MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) originally started out as a modification of traditional RTS (Real-Time-Strategy) game mechanics, the modification being that the player controls only one “hero” unit as opposed to an entire base.

With The International 2015 event going on, you couldn’t find a better excuse to jump onto the Dota 2 bandwagon. But before you can start slaying creeps with your Dragon Knight, you need to understand what MOBAs are all about. Read on to find out.

Defence of the Ancients is one of the most popular MOBA there is and it started life as a mod for Blizzard’s Warcraft series of games. No matter what sort of PC gamer you are, this is one MOBA that you’re bound to have heard of at some point or other. Dota 2 is the second, free version of Dota that was released as a stand-alone game by Valve corporation (much to Blizzard’s chagrin). But Dota 2 isn’t alone and there are other MOBAs out there that are equally popular. Here’s a quick overview of one of the most popular, rewarding and competitive genres of gaming ever conceived!

"The International 2014" by Jakob Wells. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“The International 2014” by Jakob Wells.

The MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) originally started out as a modification of traditional RTS (Real-Time-Strategy) game mechanics, the modification being that the player controls only one “hero” unit as opposed to an entire base. Matches typically take place on a symmetric map consisting of three lanes (more commonly called the top, mid and bottom lanes), with defensive structures en route. A hero (backed up by a small army of respawning AI units usually called creeps) must take out these structures in sequence before finally mounting an assault on the enemy base. This is, in an oversimplified form, the basis of every MOBA that exists today.


Let’s look at a typical MOBA in more detail. It usually consists of two teams of five players (called heroes) facing off on a symmetric map (as mentioned earlier). The main objective is to proceed along the lanes, taking out the enemy’s defensive structures in sequence and then destroying a central structure at the heart of the enemy’s base.

Each hero is unique and boasts of several specialized skills, and the best teams work together and go to battle with a set of heroes that complement each other’s play style. Heroes level up by performing tasks such as destroying enemy towers, killing enemy heroes and creeps and also jungling (more on that later). They also earn gold for performing these very same tasks and this gold is used to purchase items that augment a hero’s abilities. Everything else being equal, the team that harvests the largest amount of XP and gold will almost always win. Speaking of gold, MOBAs almost always have a shop or two from where you purchase the items that you need, some in a “secret” location that isn’t always secure.

"Dota 2 Map" by DarthBotto
“Dota 2 Map” by DarthBotto


Hero units typically boast of a range of skills that have to be leveled up as you play; a mechanic that is dependent on XP points that you earn by performing tasks necessary for victory, including the killing of creeps, destruction of structures, etc. The particular skill-set of a hero is defined by a whole range of stats and these in turn define the role that the hero has to play in the game.

If you’re just starting out with a MOBA, you really won’t know how to build up your hero, the combination of skills and items to upgrade to most efficiently enhance your hero. This is where “builds” come into the picture. Once you’re comfortable with a MOBA and a hero, do some research on the game’s forums and elsewhere and you’re sure to stumble across a recommended build for the hero of your choice. Once you understand the game well enough, you’ll be able to further tweak a build to suit your play style and the situation at hand.

Without going into too much detail, here’s a quick overview of the broader roles that a player can fulfill in a game like DOTA 2 (among the most popular MOBAs out there):

Carry: These heroes are especially good at later stages in the game, when their skills are sufficiently developed. The role of a carry is to quite literally carry the game. These heroes must steamroll through enemy defenses and heroes and push the team to victory. Such heroes are typically hardy with the ability to soak up and dish out tonnes of damage in clutch situations.

Lane Support / Pusher: These heroes usually have the ability to control an entire lane in the early stages of the game. They’re typically not powerful enough to take on other heroes alone, but have sufficient stamina and regeneration capabilities to indefinitely hold of creeps till the rest of the heroes are in a position to “push” that lane. Another characteristic of such a hero is the ability to fortify creeps and other nearby heroes.

Screenshot by Sergey Galyonkin.

Support: Such heroes are absolutely essential to a balanced team. Think of them as the medics of the game, they provide logistics and support, allowing the rest of the team to stay combat effective on the battle for longer periods of time, in effect allowing them to more efficiently earn gold and XP. These heroes are usually not good at either soaking up or dishing out damage and thus, need to stay away from the front lines as much as possible.

Tanks: No, we’re not taking about an M1 Abrams here. Tanks are heroes with the ability to absorb damage and force enemy heroes to waste their energy. These heroes typically have large health pools and a very strong health regeneration capability and/or excellent armour. Many such heroes can also be classified as carry heroes, but not all.

Initiator: A niche role this, but also one that requires considerable skill to execute. An initiator is the one that starts a fight, this role of player is usually fulfilled by a tank, but one that features a combination of skills that can deal a considerable amount of damage in a very short time. This damage can be either in the form of depleting an enemy’s health or even simply locking the enemy in place or crippling his skills, allowing his team to swoop in and land the finishing blow.

Nuker: A sort of early-game Initiator, the Nuker is usually a hero with the ability to deliver massive damage at the early stages of a game. These heroes can help the team a lot in the early game, but they’re not always useful later on.

Other Popular Mobas

League of Legends

Another extremely popular MOBA this, LoL is claimed to be the most played multiplayer game in Europe and America and apparently, over 67 million players play this game every month. As with DOTA 2, this game is free and is supported by micro-transactions. DOTA and LoL players never see eye to eye and both games boast of a die-hard fan following.



Officially released only last year, SMITE is a slightly different take on the MOBA genre, offering players a third-person view of the combat. The unusual perspective (for the genre) allows for a game that is, arguably, more immersive. While its player base is definitely not as diverse and well developed as LoL or DOTA’s, there is an active community and it’s still an up and coming game and only time will tell how well it will fare.

Thor from Smite
Heroes of Newerth

While not in the same league as either LoL or DOTA, Heroes of Newerth still managed to garner the support of over a million gamers and is quite a popular MOBA in its own right. The game is supposed to have a very steep learning curve. But still, not bad for a new entrant to this genre.



This was just to get you started with the whole MOBA business. If you wish to learn more about this game that has captivated audiences worldwide then here are a few links that you might want to check out.



Mad "r4gs" Zombie

Deposited on this planet sometime in the late 1980s, this being was quick to discover the joys of binge-gaming and has long since mastered the art of the 16-hour game session, and evolved to survive on a minimum of food.

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