If you frequent this site then you will at some point have seen us use the term MOBA. This is not to be confused with MOBO (the music awards for music of a black origin.) So now we have vaguely established what it isn’t let’s delve into what it is!
At a glance
The term stands for Multiplayer online battle arena and concerns itself with a particular genre of game. The games it refers to are mostly top-down with an isometric view. They are games where a player controls a single character on a battlefield and competes as part of a team. In many of these types of MOBA, the player is also granted the ability to summon minions in order to do their bidding. League of Legends and DOTA 2 are both examples of this.
The history of the genre
The history of how these games came to be is itself worthy of an article. Its exact history is patchy and debatable but the very first game is often credited as being Herzog Zwei, an ancient Sega Genesis title that came to prominence way back in 1989. While the game may not look or play like modern MOBA it was the first to have many of the elements that many now associate with the genre.
A decade goes by
Almost ten years later the popular strategy game Starcraft was responsible for bringing the genre back into gamers consciousness. Though not directly. The game was very mod-friendly and even came with functionality to help modders and this resulted in a custom mod being created with a map with three lanes where users controlled one powerful character in order to try and dominate the battlefield. Many people credit this mod with being the birthplace of the genre.
Warcraft defines genres
A few years later and it was Blizzard Games commitment to its community that further helped developed the genre. The release of WarCraft three with its suite of tools to help modding helped to define not just the MOBA genre but also set in motion the roots for the rise on popularity of the tower defence genre. The same team that had created the popular Aeon of Strife mod for Starcraft created an exciting mod for Warcraft. A port of their original work and name it Defence of the Ancients, or DOTA.
2008 the genre is labelled
It was around this sort of time that the exciting genre began to catch on. Flash games were made using the elements that defined it and the genre was given the name, MOBA. Commercial games started being produced around this time as well, seeing the birth of one of the world’s most popular and enduring MOBA’s, League of Legends.
MOBAS in the modern world
Fast forward ten years and we have swathes of decent MOBAS to choose from, from the old school League of Legends and DOTA2 to games that have taken the genre in a different direction such as Smite. You could even link Battle Royale type games as a sub-genre as they have their roots MOBAS.
The future of the genre
There have been a wealth of LOL and DOTA clones. No doubt people will try and usurp those two titles. But they are at the forefront of the gaming world and have become so intrinsically linked with eSports that it seems almost impossible that they could be toppled. Especially given the clout of Valve who are at the helm of DOTA 2. Increasingly MOBAS are being brought to mobile devices and integrating the mobile and PC titles so players are on a level playing field seems to be the dream, but we will have to wait and see if that becomes a reality.