History of MOBA Part 3
by Mowen July 12, 2012 @ 04:07pm
In April of 2009 Gas Powered Games released the first stand-alone game in the MOBA genre, Demigod. This game was in the same DotA format, but had much better graphics. However, the game could not find the success that DotA did and was a commercial flop. The fact that the multiplayer mode didn't work on release may have had something to do with it, just throwing that out there, but either way Gas Powered Games was the first company to try to capitalize on the MOBA genre.
However, in October of 2009 a game was released that saw much more success; League of Legends. The gameplay of LoL was still very similar to DotA, but unlike Demigod the game was released with higher quality (and of course the multiplayer mode worked). Riot Games had also hired Guinsoo as a designer early in the development process to give LoL more credibility from the DotA community, as well as ensure the quality of the product. The fact that LoL was free to play gave Riot Games a much bigger player base and was an innovation to the genre. Riot also chose to tackle DotA's steep learning curve by altering the game a bit to make it more new player friendly. The addition of a tutorial, a leveling system, a matchmaking system, and the removal of denying (killing your own creeps), secret shops, and multiple units all made League of Legends an easier game to get into than DotA. The combination of these design changes and being free to play made League of Legends a rollicking success. Business Insider estimated Riot's revenue at $25-50 million dollars in the first year, which is astounding for a startup company.
Another big development happened in October of 2009 for the MOBA genre. Icefrog publicly stated that he had been hired by none other than Valve themselves. He also said that this new job was "good news for DotA fans" and rumors spread like wildfire of a Valve made DotA game. More on that later...
In May of 2010 S2 games released Heroes of Newerth. HoN stuck closer to the original DotA than LoL and Demigod, even down to the art direction. This gave it more popularity with hardcore DotA fans since it retained all of DotA's mechanics and had copies of DotA heroes, while also throwing in some heroes of their own. HoN's sales were not stellar, as its player base dropped at the end of the free beta stage of the game. They were also competing with League of Legends for players, and it's hard to compete with a free to play game.
Along with the commercialization of the MOBA genre, of course come the scandals of the MOBA genre. In July 2010 Pendragon announced that he was shutting down DotA's official site, DotA-Allstars, that he had been running since its launch in 2004. He claimed that Icefrog had been secretly worked with S2 Games on Heroes of Newerth, and that was his reason for shutting the site down. This rumor, while still ongoing, has never been confirmed, and the community is a little stumped on why it would be such a bad thing even if it was true. Icefrog had already publicly announced he was working for Valve, and at the time Pendragon was working for Riot Games. There is also seemingly no reason for Icefrog to have worked on HoN in secret as there was no reason to keep it secret. Either way, Pendragon was clearly upset by this and distanced himself from the DotA community. This event was the first of many battles between the original DotA team, Riot, and their competitors.
Read about DotA 2, MOBAs and esports, and more in next week's history article!