MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games are big right now, with League of Legends and DotA 2 being the two biggest games. However, nothing stays on top forever, and there are new games making waves in the MOBA genre. Paragon and Smite are up-and-coming games that are quickly gaining players.
Typically a MOBA game gives the player a bird’s eye view of the field; this is due original nature of the game being created in part on an RTS, Warcraft 3. However, some next generation MOBAs are shifting the player’s view to 3rd person over-the-shoulder camera while using a WASD control scheme. These games remind me of World of Warcraft arena in a lot of ways. They have a hack-and-slash RPG feel to them that makes for an interesting take on the MOBA genre.
Smite is one of the first in this new generation of MOBAs, created by Hi-Rez Studios, the developers behind the Tribes games. Smite looks very dynamic and fast paced, with heroes based on mythological gods from various cultures (Greek, Chinese, Egyptian, Hindu, etc.) and otherwise has similar gameplay design as other MOBAs. There’s laning, gold, buying items, and towers. The art style is colorful and cartoonish similar to how League of Legends looks.
Paragon is a MOBA being developed by Epic Games, developers of the Unreal Engine and Gears of War. Similar to Smite, this game uses WASD controls also while adopting MOBA genre mainstays. The graphics are on the higher-end compared to most MOBAs.
These kinds of 3rd person arena games have already been tried previously. WoW arena was one, Guild Wars 2 was another. Blizzard has had mixed success with e-sports, primarily with Starcraft and Starcraft2. WoW Arena tried to build itself into an e-sport but failed; it had many issues regarding balance, difficult to follow, and very long and boring games. Guild Wars 2 had weaker PvP system and a uninspired PvE game; any lip service paid to e-sport fell to the wayside to the zergfest that is WvWvW pvp. Arguably, these are not MOBAs per-se, but it may have been that the arena battles these two games were always lacking due to the lack of depth; beyond positioning and fast reactions, there was not a whole lot going on.
The 2nd Generation of MOBAs: Paragon and Smite
With Paragon and Smite, another attempt is being made to create a WASD-based arena game. I believe one of the major reasons for this new generation of MOBAs is to tap into the console market. Typically, MOBAs are played on computer as they use a click-to-move control system, thus limiting the potential audience. By using WASD, that can easily be mapped to controllers, and thus opens up the market considerably for e-sport participation. We may see more games in the MOBA genre shift towards the WASD scheme as the industry matures and pressure to expand revenue for these companies.