Coyote and the problem with MOBA games
Coyote is introduced to a brand new genre by his son and is displeased. Big surprise.
Back when the earth was new, and the sun had just begun its first day of its new job (regulating the day and night cycle) and all of the animals were still very confused about their new existence and all of the trees were still saplings and Unicorn was still around, there was a Coyote.
And this Coyote liked video games. In fact he liked them so much that if you were to ask him how much he liked them he would probably not respond because he'd be so into whatever game he was playing.
But this Coyote had a son, and his son Little Coyote also liked video games. In fact he was playing a game right now, and Coyote overheard the noise of battle and rushed to see what was happening.
My son, said Coyote, what game are you playing? And Little Coyote responded, Why father, this is what is known as a MOBA.
And Coyote thought about that, since this was an acronym he had never heard. He thought about it for many moons, he thought about it until the leaves turned red and yellow and orange and fell from the trees, he thought about it until the snows came, and when the snows left he was still thinking about it, and finally it was summer once more, and he looked at his father, and he asked his sole question.
My son, what the f*** is a MOBA?
Ah father, said Little Coyote, it stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, he said as if that explained everything.
Coyote prepared for another full year of thinking when Little Coyote stopped him. Father, said Little Coyote, perhaps it is best if you just watched.
And watched he did. He watched as Little Coyote's avatar, a scary-looking man named Slays-With-Knives, fought through a million million of his enemy's finest soldiers towards a great tower of stone in the middle of the narrow forest path. Or perhaps fighting wasn't the proper term to use. It was more like he was watching his own million million finest soldiers fight with them and swooping in to murder the ones that had barely any health left.
My son, why do you not fight harder? Do you not seek to destroy that great stone tower? And Little Coyote responded, No, father, for if I push the lane too hard then I open myself up to ganks. First I must zone Heals-With-Love until she must B, call the MIA, and then farm the wave.
Coyote stared. It would take more than a couple of years to take all that in.
Father, you seem confused about the complex mechanics in this game that you have never played. For some reason I am filled with fury at the very idea, said Little Coyote.
My son, your game seems very stupid and counter-intuitive.
It is, father, but it is also very fun.
And Coyote watched. He watched the inexplicable behavior of the characters in the game, he watched them get angry at each other for reasons that didn't make sense, he watched some of them roll over others effortlessly and by the end of it Little Coyote was frothing at the mouth from how stupid his team was, but when Coyote attempted to give his son his medicine he assured his father that he was fine, that he was okay, and he just had to take a little walk.
Well, Little Coyote took his walk, and it took him all across the world of creation and through many adventures, but we won't talk about them here because this is about MOBAs.
The point is, he eventually returned. Then he queued up for another game.
My son, how can you continue to play this game that makes you so upset every time you play? This game that seems to be able to be thrown by one bad player on your team? And Little Coyote replied, Father, that is because it is fun. Coyote understood, but there was something strange about this MOBA genre, something that reminded him of a story he once heard.
Long ago there was a Rat. This Rat was a very social creature, and was always looking for new games to play with his friends.
One day his quest brought him upon an unusual scene. A group of other animals had set up two bases at either side of a large squared area. Connecting these areas were three long “lanes” and between these lanes was a jungle full of savage monsters.
Rat watched as five animals from each of the bases ran down their lanes and began to do battle with the opposing five. It looked like such fun! Rat watched them for a good hour, and when it seemed like the battle was over, he ran down to meet them and ask if he could join them.
Sure! Said one of the animals. No, said another, Rat is a newb and will ruin the game. But the general consensus was that Rat could join, and so he was in.
Well, one of the animals gave Rat a quick rundown of the game. Take a lane, fight your enemy, make it to their base and blow up the great big totem in the middle of their base, of course in this case all you had to do was knock it over, since they weren't really fighting with actual violence, since it hadn't been invented yet.
Well Rat began, and he decided to take the middle lane.
What are you doing, asked Raven, this is my lane. Only one person may take the middle lane. So Rat apologized and went for the bottom lane. No, Rat, there are already two of us here. You cannot take this lane, said Bison. Why can't there be three in a lane, asked Rat, and Bison shrugged and said that he did not know, just go top, god. Newb.
So Rat went top, and he began attacking the enemy forces with his stick.
Rat, said Stag, Stop pushing the lane, and Rat was confused, and he asked what that meant, and the Stag just rolled his eyes and sighed. Eventually Rat's combat prowess got him to the tower that had been erected, but Aardvark, who had been seated atop the tower, told Rat that he was dead, because he had been shot too many times. Rat was confused, but he returned to his base to sit in the “death box” and wait for his resurrection.
Well, when Rat returned, he decided instead to engage his enemy, Swan. But oh no, out of nowhere came Wolverine! Rat was slain once more.
When he resurrected again, he decided to go to the middle lane again and help Raven, who had been shut down handily by Yeti, who at the time still existed. Well, since Yeti had become so powerful from repeated victories against his winged foe, he was able to defeat both Rat and Raven simultaneously.
This is insane, said Rat, I've never played a game that allowed one player to have such an impossible advantage over another. And Raven sighed and said Yes, Yeti is powerful, and since you are new here Rat, the blame for this defeat falls to you. What? Asked Rat, why me? And Raven shrugged and said Quiet, Scrub.
Soon Yeti's team was storming into their base and dispatching Rat's team with one or two hits. Victory was impossible, and then they reached the totem.
And so the game ended, and Rat didn't really want to play anymore. For this game, which was usually extremely fun, had incredibly unintuitive mechanics and a vicious, newbie-hating player base that made newcomers feel completely unwelcome.
And so-- But Coyote found that Little Coyote wasn't listening anymore. He'd already queued up again.
Little Coyote, said Coyote, haven't you heard a word I said? And Little Coyote nodded and said something that might have been “eh” and Coyote furrowed his brow.
Truly, this new MOBA genre was a rising star in the gaming scene... But it had flaws, and potentially fatal ones, Coyote said. The MOBA companies of today built themselves on their games, and they relied on these games to flourish and attract new players so that they would survive.
But these games enforce play styles that go against new player expectations, such as the concept of “last-hitting,” that is, only attacking enemy “minions” when they are low enough for you to get the killing blow; Actually attacking these minions as soon as you see them is unwise. It is very easy to make mistakes.
And enough mistakes can make a game unwinnable. If a player allows another player to “feed” off of them, their opponent will become too strong for even an entire team to beat. In most MOBAs, there is no recovering from this point, and it can ruin the 30+ minute game for half of the players participating. Even if you personally do well in a game, a bad teammate can cost you everything and for that reason new players are regarded with the utmost hostility.
And with Valve about to announce DOTA 2 (the sequel to the very first MOBA) and Blizzard working on a MOBA of their own, it was time for MOBA creators to start taking these facts into consideration. But how, Coyote asked aloud, how could they do something like this? He waited for an answer for many minutes, but it was clear that he had lost Little Coyote's attention, and so he shrugged and went into the den to watch television.
And that is why to this day... Well actually, nothing really came of this. Coyotes still play MOBAs, even though they hate everyone else who plays them.
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