Taking a look back over the past 12 months there has been a lot of movement in the video game industry and particularly when it comes to MOBAs. Whether its new Beta tests, releases, cancellations or massive tournaments there’s always something to talk about. A lot of big names have made changes this year including Riot, Blizzard and EA, and not all have ended on a positive note. So without further ado let’s take a look at some of the most important MOBA news of 2014.
IT’S THE END OF NATIONS
Literally. During its initial phase End of Nations began as an MMORTS, but after several stages of testing it was transitioned into a MOBA in July, 2013. After transitioning into a MOBA Alpha testing began early in August, 2013, but development was halted in late 2013. In early 2014 Trion announced that End of Nations was officially on hold after MMOGames’ Editor in Chief, Shannon Doyle discovered Trion had quietly redirected the website to Trion’s website. Apparently Trion thought it was more important to work on their other titles including Rift, Defiance, Trove, and ArcheAge. Having never actually played the game when it transitioned into a MOBA I can’t speak on its quality, but the MMORTS version was actually quite enjoyable. Seeing as how “successful” most of their other games have turned out, I feel that Trion could have spared a little love for End of Nations without it impacting the other IPs too much. This is a prime example of what happens when a developer isn’t entirely sure what they want to do with their game.
DOTA 2 INTERNATIONAL 2014
While this might not have been the first Dota 2 tournament, it was definitely the biggest. Team Newbee won the Dota 2 International 2014 tournament on July 21, 2014, bringing home a massive $5,025,040 prize pool, which is the biggest in eSports history. Even though team Newbee was considered the underdogs all tournament they managed to beat out the top-seeded ViCi Gaming. The total prize pool ended up at $10,924,000 and was raised by other Dota 2 players who purchased in-game Compendiums. These Compendiums allowed players to actively participate in the tournament by creating fantasy teams, voting on their favorite players and characters and even earning special in-game perks via stretch goals. More than 20 million viewers tuned in to watch the tournament, proving that eSports definitely isn’t going away anytime soon.
Hi-Rez decided to coordinate their official release of SMITE with a $200,000 launch tournament on March 28th. Team SoloMid ended up walking away with first place after sweeping Team Dignitas 3-0. With initial Beta tests beginning in 2012, SMITE has undergone numerous gameplay changes, but is still one of the first MOBAs to venture away from the typical RTS style of play. What separates SMITE from most typical MOBAs is its third-person perspective that emphasizes on the use of skill shot abilities. Even though numerous balance changes have taken place and new gods have been added, it’s felt like a fairly polished game for quite a while now and really needed to see an official launch. Furthermore, Hi-Rez has partnered with Tencent Holdings Ltd. And Level Up! Games in an attempt to bring their game to a more global level in China and South America respectively.
STRIFE HITS OPEN BETA AND IMPLEMENTS DEEP STORY ELEMENTS
Strife might look a lot like a DOTA clone, but it certainly doesn’t feel like one. The world got to experience for the first time this year in open beta where they discovered it wasn’t so much the clone they thought it was. First off, Strife attempts to minimize the toxic nature that tends to follow the MOBA genre. Last hitting is still a mechanic, but there’s no fighting over gold because it’s shared between lane members. Additionally, kill-death ratios aren’t displayed in game and the Karma system allows for players to receive a rating based on conduct that can lead to lower rewards and even bans for abusive players.
Another aspect that makes Strife stand out is how much depth S2 is putting into the story. Instead of simply making a battle arena and giving some diluted back story for the characters, they are building scenarios that let players live through the defining moments in the world of Strife. Child of the Dawn is the first in the series that allows players to experience the story of Bastion as he fulfills his destiny. In addition to an interactive story, Strife also includes other ways to personalize gameplay through the use of pets and a unique item crafting system.
DAWNGATE ANNOUNCES SHUT DOWN
There was a deafening blow to fans of Dawngate when EA announced that servers would be shutting down in the near future. Apparently the player base wasn’t growing as fast as EA would have liked so they decided to pull the plug. Basically it sounds like EA tried to jump on the MOBA bandwagon to make a few quick bucks and realized that their venture wasn’t going to pan out as intended. “Dawngate has been in beta for almost 18 months, including a full open beta for the past six months. And although the game has grown, we’re not seeing the progress we’d hoped for.”
According to Consumerist, EA was voted the worst company in America in 2013 for the second year in a row. EA has a fairly terrible track record for shutting down game servers and I doubt they’re picking up any loyal fans with this latest decision. Even though Dawngate had its flaws it was hardly a terrible game and even had some innovative game mechanics such as telegraphed boss attacks, customizable shaper roles and the ability to deny enemy passive income. Thankfully they were at least willing to refund all of the money spent by Beta testers up to this point.
LEAGUE OF LEGENDS RESHAPING RUNETERRA
Due to League of Legends massive expansion over the years, in terms of both players and champions, Riot has decided to completely rework its storyline. Previously when new champions were introduced there was generally a reason as to why they’d come to the Fields of Justice. Now, however, Riot has decided to separate the game from the story and essentially do away with concepts such as the Institute of War, Summoners and even the League of Legends. According to Riot, the concept of the Summoner took away from the qualities of each champion, “Furthermore, the very idea of all-powerful Summoners made Champions little more than puppets manipulated by godlike powers.”
The Riot narrative team felt that the involving players and the league in the story made the world feel small and the upcoming changes are going to represent a more diverse, full-fledged world. Basically the game and the story world are now going to be two complete separate entities. While this could add some exciting new elements to the game there has been a bit of backlash from players. One of the top comments on Riot’s blog reads, “As someone (who’s) been very invested with in the lore; I feel like a part of me just died.” It’s been promised that the old content won’t just be thrown away, but we’ll have to wait and see whether fans embrace changes to their story or not.
HEROES OF THE STORM BEGINS ALPHA
Whenever Blizzard releases a new IP everyone listens. Regardless of how much you might hate World of Warcraft or if Diablo III didn’t quite live up to your expectations, everyone gets that little tingly feeling when the next installment of a major series or expansion is announced. This time, however, Blizzard is trying something new and creating their own take on the genre that was ironically spawned from StarCraft/Warcraft III player-made maps. Initially restricting Alpha access to a limited few, Heroes of the Storm testing began in March this year while the game was displayed at PAX East and various other gaming conventions. Eventually more keys were sent out to loyal Blizzard fans and an additional 4,000 were sent out to players’ friends who had reached level 20 by late November.
Instead of copying current generation MOBAs, such as Dota 2 or League of Legends, Blizzard is trying to reinvent the genre by creating a focus on objectives, team play, and character customization. Not only is battling with iconic characters going to make Heroes of the Storm exciting, but there are also some major differences to typical MOBA game mechanics. Because everyone shares the same experience pool, and items have been replaced by skill variants, the times spent farming has been decreased and the idea of a “carry” has been minimized. Furthermore, when a character hits a certain level progressions they gain access to new skills or modifications of current ones and all their attacks and abilities become more powerful. Registration is currently open for the Closed Beta access, which begins on January 15, 2015.
This concludes my list of the top MOBA news of 2014. There were a lot of big plays including a complete overhaul of League of Legends lore, the cancellation of Dawngate and End of Nations, international tournaments, and new testing phases for potentially genre changes games. We didn’t even get to look at things like the League of Legends World Championship or that time eSports made the leap to the television. It was a huge year for MOBAs and eSports alike and it was no easy task picking the biggest. If you felt like we left something out let us know in the comments!Related: Alpha, Beta, Dawngate, Dota 2, End of Nations, eSports, Heroes of the Storm, Launch, League of Legends, MOBA, News, Shut Down, SMITE, Strife, World Championship