OK Then: Deep Silver Making A Dead Island MOBA

By Nathan Grayson on August 8th, 2013 at 10:00 am.

The game's acronym is DIE. Die. GEDDIT.

Dead-Island-meets-MOBA might sound like an outlandish pairing, but between the time it took me to write that headline and finish this sentence, it’s all clicked into place. The two are exactly alike. MOBAs are, after all, everywhere, and each new series to be bitten by the battle arena bug begets a horde of lane-shambling brothers and sisters. I’m not knocking the genre or anything (LoL and DOTA 2 are both magnificent, among many others), but I worry that we might be coming up on a saturation point. But hey, if anything, Dead Island: Epidemic is proof that we’re not quite there yet. I mean, how has no one paired MOBAs and zombies – the two most overdone staples of the current gaming era – yet? How did it take so long?

Deep Silver’s announcement was bizarrely sparse, offering the barest of details and then throwing up an ominous “To Be Continued…” sign in Gamescom’s direction.

“Deep Silver today announced Dead Island: Epidemic, a new ZOMBA (Zombie Online Multiplayer Battle Arena) game set in the ever-expanding Dead Island universe. Dead Island: Epidemic will pit three teams of players against each other in a desperate fight for survival. Dead Island: Epidemic is a Free-to-Play PC title that will feature all the trademark elements that are part of a Dead Island experience.”

First-person? Electrified boat paddles? Depressing mediocrity? At this point, it’s tough to say. Fingers crossed that the latter never made it through R&D (research and deadvelopment), though.

I know I sound down on this announcement, but I’ve got to respect a series that’s unafraid to break out of its genre’s creativity-stifling box, even if a MOBA isn’t exactly the riskiest leap into the bottomless unknown. I suppose we’ll hear more fairly soon, but until then, does anyone actually want yet another MOBA? Have you been sitting on the sidelines because the ever-expanding battle arena of battle arenas didn’t have enough, er, zombies?

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73 Comments »

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  1. cdx00 says:

    I cannot wait for Excalibur Publishing’s MOBA. Think of it, tractors versus buses versus big rigs!

  2. gunny1993 says:

    These constant MOBAs are becoming an epidemic.

    • Chalky says:

      Discovering a concept that makes money then frantically scrambling to duplicate the game’s success – what could possibly go wrong. It worked with WoW after all! Oh no wait.

      • Shuck says:

        To duplicate WoW, you have to spend $100+ million, which means you need hordes of players to be successful. MOBAs are cheap (and therefore require fewer players), and there are already several that are quite successful. I’m not sure the space is entirely saturated yet (though it will be soon at this rate, obviously).

    • Kollega says:

      Yeah, exactly… i simply don’t understand how everyone plans to make money off them if the community is dead on arrival in 90% of cases.

      • Shodex says:

        That’s what I don’t get. A lot of people play and put money into MOBAs, but they already found a MOBA to play and they’ve already put money into it. They aren’t looking for another, let alone one based on a franchise nobody cares for.

        The same can be said for any generic MMO, everyone that would buy your game already has put $500+ worth of sub fees and expansions into their level 80 WoW characters. They aren’t looking to do it again.

        Everyone already has a modern military shoot fest to play, nobody wants another one because Call of Duty is perfectly fine at what it tries to be. Why look for something else when you’ve already got the most popular/well made entry to the genre?

        Publishers have this nasty tendency to mistake popularity with demand. A game that is popular is often times the least in demand item, since everyone is already playing it and doesn’t need another. The best way to sell new games is to look at what people DON’T have, but it’s too hard for the poor publishers to figure out what people want but don’t have. It’s not like they can rely on that ever so untrustworthy source of the +10,000 customers complaining in the forums that they’re killing their favourite franchise by turning it into a shooter/MMO/MOBA/whatever.

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          Malibu Stacey says:

          You make some great points.
          I think the core of the problem is the suits think that their game is going to be the ‘killer app’ in that genre. Much like Counter-Strike & many other modern military FPS existed and was very popular for years before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was ever released.
          Same goes for World of Warcraft, stuff like Ulitma Online, Everquest, Ragnarok Online etc. predated it by years.
          However they fail to realise Dota has been around for a decade & there have already been around a dozen clones which have failed. Hell even League of Legends took a while to become the top dog in the genre because Heroes of Newerth came out around the same time & offered a more DotA-like experience.

    • phelix says:

      So few of these games go viral, but do the executives ever learn? Nope!

      • Shuck says:

        So few games are successful; if “executives” learned, they’d stop making games. In this case, I suspect they’re using existing assets and the road to profitability is a short one, even for a MOBA.

    • tormos says:

      In this thread:
      A whole lot of people mistaking an RPS pun thread for serious business

  3. Delicious Narwhal says:

    ZOMBA.

    Outstanding.

  4. KikiJiki says:

    To be honest it doesn’t sound very much like any of the big ticket names in that style of game, which is going to be about the only way they’re likely to draw an audience away from those games.

    I just don’t understand though why developers/publishers think that they can compete with two of the most popular games in the world (Dota/Dota2 and LoL). I thought after repeated attempts to dislodge WoW companies would have learned a thing or two.

    • Shodex says:

      They can’t learn, they follow player bases. “MOBAs are extremely popular, so if we make one we’ll be popular!” at first glance maybe the theory sounds solid, but in reality it’s as daft as picking isle 7 at the super market because that’s where the most people are. If everyone is already playing a MOBA, they’re already satisfied by said MOBA and aren’t looking to try out the MOBA based on a game everyone agreed was bad.

  5. bstard says:

    Lane-shamblers. I like it.

  6. AngusPrune says:

    Oh dear. MOBA is officially the new MMORPG. Everyone has seen the vast floods of cash being chucked at Riot games and now every suit who ever dared to unimaginatively clone a popular game’s shovelware circuits have lit up.

    I’m looking fowrard to the Elder Scrolls MOBA, and perhaps an Aliens: Colonial Marines MOBA too.

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      lowprices says:

      Wake me when the Dear Esther MOBA is announced.

      • KirbyEvan says:

        The team with the most wistful introspective looks at the meaning of loss wins!

        But only if you stop feeding, sheesh

        • Premium User Badge

          lowprices says:

          When two Heroes meet, they each tell each other their tragic backstories, and whoever’s sadness meter fills first takes their own life. Instead of special moves, each hero has heartbreaking plot twists that add sadness at a much faster rate.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      At least (I presume) MOBAs don’t take a huge amount of money to run, so when the game tanks a bunch of sysadmins aren’t left twiddling their thumbs or out on the streets because someone made a bad call about how they could muscle in on a market where no-one wants to play a game no-one else is already playing.

    • Choca says:

      Now all we need is a modern warfare FPS MMO MOBA with zombies.

      Come on Activision, you know you want it.

      • The Random One says:

        FPSMMOZBA.

        If it also has procedurally generated, destructible block-based levels it’ll be The Final Game and we’ll all be able to relax at last.

      • Shodex says:

        So some sort of competitive version of CoD Zombies with persistent character progression.
        Oh shit, they already have that.

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      Anthile says:

      Sir, you are being hunted in a multiplayer online battle arena

    • Bluenose says:

      EA Presents Tiger Woods PGA Golf MOBA.

    • Dariush says:

      Tetris MOBA.

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      I am disturbed and confused by the absence of a F2P Star Wars MOBA. Come on, ruin the canon, ex-LA guys. You know you want to.

    • S Jay says:

      XCOMOBA.

  7. Sian says:

    Maybe this time the pre-order bonus will be the legs to go with last time’s torso.

    • Mechorpheus says:

      That’s not quite offensive enough, I think this time the Special ‘Deadening’ edition has a special feature where a Deep Silver employee comes to your home and kills the family pet with a spade, in front of all your children.

      • The Random One says:

        I don’t think that’s quite up to Deep Silver’s standards. Maybe if the employee blamed the Jews afterwards.

    • alw says:

      Deep Silver can fuck right off after that torso episode. Not just because they thought it was a good idea to release the item, more because of how they handled the whole affair afterwards. Wankers..

  8. Premium User Badge

    Cross says:

    It’s true that MOBAs are incredibly profilic, especially considering that every game that

    A) Is multiplayer
    B) Has combat
    C) Takes place in an enclosed space

    is, by definition A MULTIPLAYER ONLINE BATTLE ARENA.
    My point is, could we please get a better genre name for these frikkin’ games?

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      eee… no.
      (and it’s not just “enclosed space” – MOBA games usually have one specific layout of the arena and rather very limited size of it comparing to, say, MMO worlds)

      • Premium User Badge

        Cross says:

        You really could not have missed the point harder if you aimed in the wrong direction.

        • S Jay says:

          I get your point, it feels generic, considering the name could fit the definition of a million games. But everyone understands MOBA as this specific thing, so why change it?

          It is like saying “bank” should be changes because they are either a “river bank” or a “bank, as in finance and money”. People understand the difference, so leave it be. :)

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Riot coined the term MOBA because “Dota-clone” probably didn’t sit well with their marketing chumps.

      I prefer Lane Pushing Game or even Tower Offense but until a proper term enters the general lexicon, they’ll be Dota-clones same way FPS’s were originally “Doom-clones” and the third person sandbox game was a “GTA-clone”.

      • RaytraceRat says:

        I like the Tower Offence, but I’m afraid some people would be defended by that name.

        • spunky says:

          But most would just be penetrated by the rectal idea.

          • Svardskampe says:

            This is exactly the reason I read the comment section. Thanks for the laugh.

        • benkc says:

          Tower Offense would have been an acceptable name for the genre, but it has since been claimed as the genre name for Anomaly: Warzone Earth, which really is a better fit for that genre name.

          LPG is probably the best genre name for DOTA-likes, but I think MOBA has probably gained too much traction and is going to stick for good.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cross says:

        I suppose it is a good point to be made against the ARTS idea, that MOBAs aren’t contrained by perspective. The usual fare is an isometric one, but then you’ve got stuff like Super Monday Night Combat, which is most definitely a LoL-alike.

        • Premium User Badge

          darkChozo says:

          Really, ARTS could be considered a subgenre of MOBA at this point, considering that the name only makes sense for MOBAlanepusherdotalikes with a isometric-like view and a realtime point and click interface. Otherwise we get into a roguelike situation where we have to have Dotalike-likes and Dotalights and whatever nonsense we can come up with.

          I suggest AVGG (Arbitrary Video Game Genre), with the following qualifiers:
          A. Is a multiplayer mostly-self-contained-per-match team-based game
          B. Player characters are distinct in some way, usually tied to a class system to varying degrees of strictness
          C. Player characters develop over the course of a game, almost certainly getting more powerful over time, and usually getting power differentials based on performance.
          D. There is some concept of map control, where controlling the majority of the map is usually key to winning.

          Also genres in general are mostly a helpful but limiting tool and arguing over them is mostly useless. Go me!

          • The Random One says:

            Ugh, not the old “Are games ARTS?” argument again.

      • gryffinp says:

        It is generally understood among Dota players that, if you absolutely MUST have a name for the genre and your marketing department refuses to use “Dota-like” and such, then the appropriate term is ASSFAGGOTS.

        Aeon of Strife Styled Fortress Assault Game Going On Two Sides.

        ASSFAGGOTS.

    • Sian says:

      Ugh, enough with your crusade already. By your logic, RPGs and adventures are just as badly named, because, by definition, every game in which you play a role is an RPG and every game where you have an adventure is, well, an adventure game. This even extends to the narrower definition of point-n-click adventures, because you do that in basically every person shooter, as long as you play it with a mouse and keyboard.

      @Malibu Stacey: Tower offence isn’t really a good idea because Anomaly: Warzone Earth happened. I’m sure there are others, too. And lane pushers won’t ever be accepted by any marketing department, because it’s hard to make it sound exciting.

      • tungstenHead says:

        Pretty much this. Most genre names for games are arbitrary labels for games with a particular play style.

        If I were in charge of naming the genre, I would have called it a Session Contained Action RPG. SCARP for short. Still, it doesn’t fix the problem because the word RPG doesn’t mean anything itself, but it’s closer to descriptive than MOBA.

        Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the word is, it only matters that you know the ideas behind it.

        • Premium User Badge

          Malibu Stacey says:

          RPG fits rather well in this case. You play the role of a hero defending your own ancient and attacking the enemy and you also play a role in the team (support/carry/ganker etc).

          • HothMonster says:

            Oh are people role-playing in DOTA? So all these characters have back story that make them act like assholes? It’s not just an empty vessel with a set of abilities and no narrative ties being controlled by an asshole?

          • Premium User Badge

            Malibu Stacey says:

            Dunno about you but I don’t teleport around the place or summon a ghostly ship which covers people in rum or turn myself into a dragon every day but you may just live in more interesting times.

          • HothMonster says:

            Man I’m sorry, your life sounds boring.

            Seriously though. It’s still not roleplaying. You are playing the character sure but he has no personality based on the character. You never refuse to gank because you character is honorable and only fights 1v1 or keeps charging blindly into combat because Axe has bloodrage. You don’t refuse to deny because you Mirandia loves the common folk.

            You are not acting as a character or through a character. You simply use the abilities of that avatar to win the meta game. There is no attempt to make the avatar a believe able character in the world, hell there isn’t even really a world just a single map that nothing exists outside of.

            Pacman isnt a roleplaying game because you don’t spend your life in mazes eating pellets while being chased by ghosts.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cross says:

        I’ll give you your points with adventure game, but not so much on RPG. RPGs are defined by the player inserting themselves into a character and then developing that character into what the player likes, IE playing a role. There are many games with RPG elements in them, certainly, but those usually are named a hybrid genre.

    • fish99 says:

      Yup, Unreal Tournament or Quake Live absolutely fit the description of Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, but they clearly aren’t ‘MOBA’s.

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Damn it, people, SAUSAGES. I’m going to make it the standard term even if I have to sneak into all your bedrooms and selectively manipulate bundles of neurons while you sleep!

  9. povu says:

    Sheesh, enough with the zombie games already Deep Silver.

  10. Ako says:

    ZOMBA? Seriously?

  11. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Oh, can I play a feminist whore that throws mutilated lady torsos at stuff?

    • Premium User Badge

      lowprices says:

      You will at first. Then Deep Silver will issue a ‘sincere’ apology for causing offence. But then it won’t be changed, so you’ll be able to carry on.

    • derbefrier says:

      And in the game too?

  12. Zogtee says:

    So this is what the bottom of the barrel looks like.

  13. S Jay says:

    I have a disease: I imagine every game as a point and click adventure. Dead Island would be a cool point and click adventure.

  14. Secundus says:

    MOBAs are the new MMOs, but sadly I don’t think we’ll see as many shitty developers destroy themselves making them like the last decade of WoW clones. if i write another acronym i’m going to kill myself

  15. rockman29 says:

    This is like trying to compete with Quake 3 and CounterStrike for MP FPS glory at the same time.

    It doesn’t even have a chance…

  16. gryffinp says:

    The other day I remarked to a few friends that I was looking forward to when World of Warcraft would finally die, so that game developers would stop trying to be WoW.

    One of them immediately responded “Developers are already trying to be League of Legends.”

    As soon as he said it I was struck by how incredibly true it was and I hate him for making me realize it.