Lane Pushers vs MOBAs

The term ‘MOBA’ is one that’s really bugged me recently as I’ve begun trying out a few, what I call, ‘Lane Pusher’ games.

MOBA supposedly means “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena” – which to me sounds like it would mean anything where there were two teams of more than 1 a side, all battling online in some kind of arena manner so all players can fight all other players. So this term would apply to many games like team based first person shooters, World of Warcraft or Guild Wars Arena battles, team vs team StarCraft games etc etc.

Instead what it actually refers to is Lane Pusher games. The wikipedia page linked above in fact describes just this:

The objective is to destroy the opponents’ main structure with the assistance of periodically spawned computer-controlled units that march towards the enemy’s main structure via paths referred to as “lanes”.

This a lane, to be pushed
This a lane, which apparently needs be pushed

I’ve tried out a few of these Lane Pusher games – Monday Night Combat, Awesomenaughts and DOTA2. I do feel this format of game is inherently flawed though in a number of ways. It  generally enforces the idea of a slippery slope in the competition, which is a bad thing. It tends towards long drawn out games with small incremental victories before the slope becomes too big. They also tend to be bogged down with lots of meaningless complexity where there are little real choices being made once the best ‘builds’ have been determined.

So a Lane Pusher that I’d enjoy would have to be one that best avoided these pitfalls of design. It should try to get games to resolve quickly, it should only have necessary complexity that is interesting, it should have some comeback mechanism to resist the slippery slope issue. Obviously I want great competitive gaming design as well! Also, being fully playable on a gamepad would be a huge boon for me, as intense keyboard & mouse games always cause me issues with RSI eventually.

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