While Wolfenstein 3D may have established the first person shooter genre, it wasn’t until the success of DOOM that things really began to take off. Along with that success came a couple of years of DOOM clones until things changed once again with the release of Quake, Half-Life, and other influential titles. The same thing is essentially happening now with League of Legends and MOBAs. Sure, LoL wasn’t the first “MOBA”, but the game’s undeniable success truly propelled the genre into the mainstream and surprise, surprise, everyone is now making MOBAs.
The onslaught of MOBAs from every developer out there has resulted in more than a few moans and groans from gamers and press alike. MOBA fatigue seems to have set in. We’re at a point now that articles questioning the need for a new MOBA regularly come immediately alongside their announcements. Even I roll my eyes when I find out a developer’s super secret project turns out to be yet another MOBA. Oh, really? I totally wasn’t expecting that! It’s hard not to have these sorts of kneejerk reactions with so many uninspired MOBAs flooding the market left and right, but that’s not actually what I wanted to emphasize today. I’m not here to whine about MOBA fatigue – even though I too feel it at times. In fact, I’m actually excited.
I’m excited because we’re entering a new phase for the genre. Sure, the LoL clones continue to roll out, but developers are now actually trying new things to set their games apart. We’re seeing new games announced that look to build upon the genre’s foundations in significant ways and there are quite a few out there right now that do things a bit differently already. Games like SMITE, Awesomenauts, and even Super Monday Night Combat already put interesting twists on the formula, but we can go further than that.
Gearbox Software recently announced Battleborn, a new project that sounds sort of like a MOBA and sort of not. I’m not entirely sure what we’re getting from Battleborn at this point, but Gearbox is looking to blend elements from a number of different genres, including fighting games (?!), into Battleborn and I’m eager to see how the MOBA elements play out as part of that mix. Gearbox has a record of doing this sort of thing, given how Borderlands took on the ARPG genre, so I’m giving the team the benefit of the doubt here. Sure, Battleborn could be more derivative junk, or it could be something completely out of left field that turns out to be as brilliant as Borderlands was.
And then there’s Motiga, an indie studio that just unveiled its new game, Gigantic. This one is a little more straightforward, but it’s got its own compelling twist: your base is a living part of the battle. The goal is to take out the enemy guardian all while engaging in hectic third-person combat and dealing with the chaos the enemy guardian sows across the battlefield. It doesn’t sound like a game that is going to turn the genre on its head, but it doesn’t really need to, either. Games like Gigantic show promise in terms of spicing up an already compelling formula. Maybe all it takes is one real key differentiating factor to throw things for a loop yet again.
My point is, if you’re a fan of the genre, I feel it’s important to keep an open mind. Like every other genre, it takes all the clones and little experiments here and there for us to find the next point of evolution. So, the answer is yes, we do need another MOBA; there’s a whole ton of potential we’ve yet to explore.
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB