The Legendary League Of Legends
The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) sub-genre of real-time strategy games was virtually created by a Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos mod called Defence Of The Ancients (DotA). We recently ran a performance analysis on Valve's recent entry into the free-to-play MOBA genre: Dota 2 Performance, Benchmarked. You might want to give that article read if you aren't familiar with this style of game. In any case, no MOBA discussion is complete without mentioning League of Legends.
In 2010, my teenage son started talking about a PC game that spread like wildfire through his school, and he spent increasingly large portions of his evening playing it. He began to invite friends over for LAN parties at our house. And while my son's peer group knows PC gaming well, I had never seen them treat it like a team sport before that point. What's more, this title wasn't advertised on television or major media; it was a game that stealthily ate its way into a huge portion of the mainstream through word of mouth. And the free-to-play model certainly helped it gain popularity, especially among teenagers. My son began to request prepaid credit cards as gifts for his birthday so he could buy in-game items. I doubt he's every spent so much on any entertainment experience, despite the misnamed revenue model. That title is none other than League of Legends, abbreviated LoL.
This isn't an isolated tale. Riot Games, LoL's developer, claims more than 12 million players log on every day, with peak concurrent global numbers reaching five million. The game boasts over 70 million registered players, 32 million of which are active every month. By hours, it's the most played video game in the world. Those are staggering figures that World of Warcraft could only hope to catch. At the same time, LoL managed to stay under the radar of mainstream media, for the most part. The first time I mentioned LoL's impact on the gaming world to a colleague, he clearly thought I was off my rocker. How could a game be that popular and maintain a low profile?
LoL had a relatively unchallenged run until the recent release of Dota 2. But after playing both, I can say that LoL is more honed than Valve's upstart entry. As a very inexperienced MOBA player, here are the three main differences that struck me when I tried them, one after the other:
1) You have access to a limited rotation of heroes in LoL. The game lets you save in-game rewards to purchase a hero for permanent access, or you can purchase it instantly with real-world currency. On the other hand, Dota 2 gives all players free access to all heroes.
2) LoL does not allow players to destroy their own assets. Dota 2 does let you wreck your own towers and structures to deny enemies gold rewards.
3) When a player is killed in LoL, they lose only experience. In Dota 2, the killed player loses gold and experience.
These three differences have a significant impact on how each game is played. It's generally accepted that LoL is more accessible to beginners. Having said that, get a lot of practice in bot matches or with experienced friends before joining a pick-up group; the MOBA community is not known for its forgiving attitude. If you screw up, you're sure to receive a volley of unflattering leet-speak. In a MOBA, a mistake means boosting the other team, and that's a sure way to lose.
Successful LoL play involves a lot of practice and learning. Fortunately, it's a lot easier for us to dig into the game's graphics engine and your hardware's performance.