A Brief History Of The Battle Arena, Part Two

Yesterday saw part one of our brief history of the games which followed in the lanes of DOTA. Part two looks at what happened next.

The Business Of The Battle Arena

What followed, in short form, determined the fate of what would eventually become MOBAs. Launching the two titles the same year, whether or not either developer realized it, put Demigod and League of Legends in unwitting competition with one another over which would play a greater part in shaping the genre to be. That is, of course, if either turned out to be particularly successful in transforming a nebulous modding community into what a tech journalist today would probably call a unique “intellectual property.”

Furthermore, the competition was pronounced by the divergent ways the two companies planned to distribute and monetize their product. Demigod was published by Stardock Corporation, a software developer based in Plymouth, Michigan that came onto the project about halfway though production.

“From the moment Stardock took over publishing,” Bingham tells me, “the distribution model was essentially locked in as-is.” The company decided to release the game in the traditional; boxed-copy format and support online play with internal software they were developing concurrently, and they considered Demigod “a high-profile, but exclusive leverage title to jumpstart the [new] digital distribution platform, Impulse.”

Bingham explained it to me this way because I posed my original question from a very present-minded perspective, basically asking as politely as I could: “why didn’t you make your game free-to-play?” But, really, in 2009, the more sensible question for any major U.S.-based game developer would have been something like, “Why on earth would you give something away for free?? Something you worked so hard on?” Keep in mind that Zynga itself was only founded two years before this. FarmVille came out the same year as Demigod and League of Legends in 2009. “Freemium” was something that happened on Flash websites and in Korea.

When asked about the choice, Caldwell shrugs that “free-to-play is just a publishing and distribution model,” claiming that Riot “always envisioned an aggressive content and balance update schedule for ‘League of Legends’”—a type of fast-paced, short term development and production that still pervades FTP games to a much greater extent than their premium brethren—“regardless of how we decided to bring in the bacon.”

But that doesn’t do much to explain the difference between Demigod and League of Legends’ relative success. Critics said that Demigod suffered from bugs and occasional lags, sure. But anyone who’s struggled through the early history of an online game expects a certain gap between performance and expectation. Otherwise, League of Legends wouldn’t need quite as aggressive an update schedule, after all. And on Metacritic, often the driving force of the game criticism’s commercial relevance, the Demigod only lags behind League of Legends by two percentage points.

In other numbers, the game fell much further behind. When I ask Bingham about Demigod’s user base, he replies, “We never quite hit the half million mark, but we were in the ballpark.” To this day, he admits, a lot of gamers don’t know what Demigod is. The size of that discrepancy alone is a sign that Riot’s real success was tapping into freemium’s enormous potential. And much like Zynga did with FarmVille(though many a LoL fan would bristle at the comparison), they were able to make a run at the market long before a direct competitor could muster up a rival IP.

Yet there’s a reason that League of Legends has been able to maintain that first mover advantage and Zynga hasn’t, and that’s because MOBAs, in their own way, are the ideal partners of free-to-play business.

What is it about MOBAs that fits so well with FTP? In a Wired article about Farmville 2, Ryan Rigney criticized the game for being a “perpetual motion money machine.” Really, all free to play games are perpetual motion money machines. The art of game design comes in concealing just how explicit that fact is wedded with the game design philosophy itself.

Vineet Kumar, a professor at Harvard Business School currently completing a study of the model, tells me that compared to other freemium products like, say, LinkedIn or DropBox, games face a particular challenge because the only thing of value they can offer is “engagement.” But unlike a coherent ecosystem like a social network that remains essentially intact and simply amasses user-generated material, “if you’re building a free-to-play game, you have to constantly be producing new content.”

And here’s where the art comes in. FarmVille 2 seems like a perpetual money machine because its content stream consists of random, meaningless rewards like “seasonal” crops and promises to “win exclusive chickens.” League of Legends doesn’t because it feels like a sport. As disgusting as the online player community can be in a game like LoL or HoN, and despite Riot and S2’s constant reassurances that they are doing their very best to control just how despicable their players can be, the irony is that the ferocity that propels Reddit-like trolls is the same zeal that spurs the games’ essential spirit of competition, the some one that makes more than two percent of their users want to buy new stuff.

After all, one of HoN’s core premium products are special in-game taunts to better antagonize your opponents, Brad Bower, S2 Games Director of Operations, tells me proudly. While HoN was originally released through traditional retail in May of 2010, it had switched to free-to-play, or what Bower calls “free to own” by July of the next year.

Valve, meanwhile, was starting work on Dota 2 just as “the Team Fortress 2 team was off learning about free-to-play economies, and more specifically, how the community itself could be involved in creating value within it,” Johnson recalls. Seeing the rapid expansion of its game alongside the standard experiments Valve was running with Steam and beyond, he says the producers “felt like the Team Fortress 2 team was moving forward incredibly fast with some really interesting ideas, and we wanted to see how the community reacted before we made any decisions about how to build the business of Dota 2.”

Ironically enough, making a free-to-play game is now too expensive for the young upstart developers trying to move into the space such as Awesomenauts developer Romino, a small independent studio that made one mobile game before trying their hand at the genre.

Institutionalization and Proliferation

A 2011 Eurogamer article suggests that the history of MOBAs, or at least of DotA specifically, ultimately coalesced around two major players: Valve and Riot. The distinction makes sense, on one level. The companies are the only two that have the key figures that rose from the original DotA community. And after a longer and complicated legal battle between Valve and Blizzard that settled with the former accepting the acronym “Dota 2” for its game, the two also have the most recognizable brand names in the field.

But what really happened after the explosion of Riot’s cunning experiment in business and game design was an explosion of the form itself beyond its original underpinnings. And, if anything, League of Legends, Dota 2, and (maybe) the ridiculously named Blizzard All-Stars, are just the ones that have stayed closest to the coop.

“I think the elements are still being defined,” Bingham says when I ask what he thinks a “MOBA” is today. “At some point, someone will break with convention enough to create another subgenre. Perhaps lines only get drawn when you can point to something within a genre that is distinctly not the genre.”

Ronimo was started by a group of game design students at the Utrecht School of the Arts. Jasper Koning, one of the designers, tells me over Skype that they got the idea for Awesomenauts much like the first generation of MOBA designers: by “playing a lot of MOBAs!” Though he admits, “When we started out, we didn’t know it would be so MOBA-like.”

Their first game, Swords & Soldiers, was a similar attempt at transferring a complex game system—real time strategy—into a smaller platform with a matching pared-down cartoony feel. League of Legends, Jasper says, was already a 2D game in some sense given the emphasis on the verticality of the game’s lanes. The hope with Awesomenauts was to offer the strategic engagement of LoL but the heart of Worms: Armageddon.

“A lot of other MOBAs are very dark and serious, Jasper says. “Our hope was that if you make the game a little less serious, maybe players will take it a little less seriously.”

For inspiration beyond strictly Worms and DotA, the team looked to other “hybrid” MOBAs, if such a thing existed at the time. But all they could find was Team Fortress-style games like Monday Night Combat.

“When we started making Awesomenauts three years ago, we figured another companies to do what we doing,” Jasper says, laughing. “But it never happened!” The trepidation of moving over to consoles may have prevented more of the industry titans from first taking any interest in the space, given the general concern of companies like Electronic Arts and Take Two to churn out yearly sports and War on Terror-titles to appease their loyal Xbox fans combined with the fact that even John Carmack claims he doesn’t develop with the PC in mind anymore.

“If we were to make a console MOBA,” Bower tells me when I raise the hypothetical, “it wouldn’t be as simple as porting Heroes of Newerth. There are just too many difference as a game console.”

Of course, the move eventually did happen, with Awesomenauts and soon with much larger capital investments. In May 2012, “Guardians of Middle Earth” was announced as an XBLA/PSN game developed by Monolith and produced by Warner Brothers Interactive. And now that League of Legends is officially the biggest thing ever, it’s only a matter before more of gaming’s old guard follows suit. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if people start arguing about the next Command & Conquer being a MOBA when it finally comes out, freemium convert that it is.

And what of the genre’s detritus, the last forgotten remains?

“Production quality and character depth still have a long way to go in current games,” Bingham says when I ask him what he thinks Demigod’s legacy will be to the form it helped create and just as quickly lost control of. “That is really just a technology and budget limitation. That should open the door to ever wider audiences.”

“We still get fan letters from people whose eyes were opened to computer gaming by Demigod because they saw or heard something they felt was unusually beautiful,” he ends. “Team advancement still is a deep well for the genre to pull from, and rewards team communication, coordination, and self-sacrifice.”

There are many lessons in the history of battle arenas, and not all of them are about what IceFrog’s real name might not be. One thing is certain, though. The future of these games, whatever its exact form, will involve heroes, lanes, creeps, and many, many millions of players.

Yannick LeJacq is a technology reporter for the International Business Times, though he also writes a lot about video games for Kill Screen, Bit Creature, and The Wall Street Journal entertainment website, The Speakeasy. His work has also appeared in Salon, The Atlantic, and The Huffington Post. You can follow him on Twitter @YannickLeJacq, and will almost certainly kick his ass in Dota 2 or League of Legends.


  1. misterT0AST says:

    I think you’re making the game out to be more hostile and hateful than it actually is.
    The most fun in these games is not playing with random teammates who might or might not insult your mother every time you press a button.
    The nice thing is having a team of friends who you can actually trust and fight with.
    That’s also a reason for their success: I desperately try to convince every friend I have to play with me, so I won’t be alone.
    The sense of cooperation and accomplishing something with your friends in one of these games is unmatched.
    You’re fighting against a real threat, and you can actually LOSE, unlike killing kobolds together in Diablo or Warcraft.

    Victory is intoxicating.

    • rockman29 says:

      I agree.

      But learning to tune out ragers is easy when you know the ropes too. I play random more often than I lpay with teams, and it’s still more than a serviceable game.

      I think all the MOBA’s get a little too much flak for having caustic communities.

      If you play Starcraft II as a first time player, there’s a barrier to entry too. And people will definitely scream at you until you get over it.

      And in all these games there are public games and AI bots to practice yourself.

      • Yosharian says:

        People need to learn to use the mute button.

        • PopeJamal says:

          I’d prefer that people learn to not participate in communities full of assholes. Thereby decreasing the size of said hostile communities.

          There are far too many other games that I can play to be bothered with babysitting man-children. “Real” games too, not just Angry Birds and the like. I find the truly optimum strategy is to leave the angry internet men to play with themselves/each other

  2. Senethro says:

    Who can be the first to troll the HoN players? Quick!

  3. AIAndy says:

    Demigod did not just have some lags, they had made fundamental mistakes in programming their multiplayer synchronization. If anyone in the game had a slow computer or a slow connection (and for some reason the amount of data they transferred was significant), the game speed slowed down for everyone. Worse, the amount of data transferred by everyone scaled with the number of players. Everyone sent everything to every other player and if only one of those connections between players is bad, you get a slow game.
    The result was that 10 player games were highly unlikely to work out without significant slowdown so players rather played 3 vs 3 and even in that game type you often got a slow game.

    Players didn’t stay long with that kind of problems and the community died fast. Very few updates were made to the game after that which did not help either.
    I am quite sure that Demigod would have died with F2P as well.

    • Sic says:


      Not to mention that it wasn’t really balanced all that well and had next to no maps and Demigods (Gas Powered Games promised content production and release from the day the game came out, but nothing ever happened.).

      The premise and game was brilliant, though. I played it a lot against the bots, because at the core, they had made an absolutely awesome game.

      What they didn’t do was focus on how the online community would interact with the game, which, of course, is the single most important thing.

      • Doddler says:

        Demigod was a huge shame… it had some great concepts, some amazing visual and hero design, and wasn’t afraid to change the genre formula that everyone is sticking so close to. It was wrecked however by a relatively poor launch, poor matchmaking and a complete and utter lack of metagame (stats tracking, ladders, etc), which I feel is required to reach any level of success. It just didn’t really understand the player base for this kind of game, you can’t just throw a game like this out there and expect it to remain relevant without any hooks to keep players coming back for more. And that’s a real shame, every time I see screenshots from demigod I think “Daaamn, I wish it were still relevant today”.

      • AIAndy says:

        Well, compared to the current major DotA-likes, Demigod had quite a lot of maps. And the flags were an interesting addition to the gameplay.
        But I fear we will never know what it would have become without the technical issues.

    • cyrenic says:

      It was a huge oversight for them to go with Peer-to-Peer networking. But p2p worked for GPG in their RTS games, so that’s what they went with. Most of the broken lobby stuff Stardock flubbed got fixed. But the peer-to-peer networking once in game would have been too expensive to fix. It’s pretty amazing the game made it through full development without someone considering how important client/server networking is for a game that’s meant to be played in a 5vs5 format.

    • LintMan says:

      Yeah, Demigod was on the rocks right from release day to the point where Stardock was offering refunds. It took literally months for them to resolve the bulk of the networking issues, and was widely being called a disaster. So I don’t think F2P would have saved it.

      Definitely a shame, because it is a good game (at least on LAN, how I play it).

  4. Frank says:

    Alright, Internet. I agree that this is not so well written. It assumes you know the major players (how does Heroes of Newerth end up with its acronym appearing before its name and no explicit mention of its link to S2?) and just contributes a bunch of quotes and unsubstantiated claims (“LoL won cuz freemium” or “Ooh, Riot so cunning”).

    Also, the byline (or whatever it’s called) suggests that the author *is* a tech journalist. By his own criteria, he can go ahead and say “Intellectual Property” if he likes.

    Finally, much of the writing is painful to read. “Furthermore, the competition was pronounced by the divergent ways”? Your “furthermore” is uncalled for and your “pronounced” cannot be used that way.

    • The Random One says:

      I don’t know about MOBAs and when HoN started showing up in the text I assumed I had skipped a paragraph.

  5. KikiJiki says:

    I’m hoping to get back to this to write a detailed post with (hopefully) constructive criticism of this and part 1, but in brief: I think we’ve got the first instance of ‘The Rab Problem’. If it looks like a shill advertisment article for a game, reads like one, and sources information like one then I really can’t take it seriously.

    • Eschatos says:

      Maybe I’m just an easily swayed sheeple, but I can’t tell whether Yannick is trying to “shill” for Dota 2, LoL, or Demigod.

      I don’t know where that came from.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Who’s it trying to shill for? Valve? Riot? Awesomenauts? Also, where are the doritos?

      • The Random One says:

        The fact that it doesn’t promote any of those doesn’t make the article look less like an ad, just more like a bad ad.

      • Kakkoii says:

        Basically, LoL. Especially with the constant use of Riot’s own marketting phrase “MOBA”, which no other A-RTS game developer uses.

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      phuzz says:

      I guess it sounds like he’s trying to promote the entire genre, but I didn’t notice any love for a particular game.
      Clearly I should eat more doritos.

  6. Yosharian says:

    I found this article quite hard to read, not quite sure what the focus of it is supposed to be. Some abstract and vague information about the business aspects of Demigod and League of Legends, some rambling on Farmville… (Was Demigod really all that relevant to the Dota scene?) As an avid Dota & Dota 2 player (since 2003/2004) I’m not sure I see anything relevant to my experiences here… Perhaps the article should be renamed?

    edit: just read Part 1, that was a better read.

    Really though, the history of ‘MOBAs’ (ugh) is quite simple: a bunch of modders made something amazing through hard work, and a bunch of people decided they wanted to copy it and make money off it. And it failed, for the most part. Valve are the first company to really develop the genre such as it is.

    Credit where credit is due, there is a debt of gratitude that the genre owes to Blizzard for developing the Starcraft and Warcraft 3 game systems that underpinned DOTA. It’s just a shame Blizzard never took the mod seriously enough to do what Valve have done.

    • Sarigs says:

      Just OOI what do you mean by “Valve are the first company to really develop the genre such as it is.” Purely because they kept hold of the DOTA tag? Or am I missing something obvious

      • Yosharian says:

        Well, there are a few things. For starters, the level of detail brought to the characters is just phenomenal. One hero in particular, Gyrocopter, has me laughing endlessly at his funny comments, amusing movement design, and so on. (he does a little barrel roll occasionally when he moves about, for example) The sound and graphic design on this game is amazing and so memorable, yet never or rarely irritating. My flatmate and I often joke about the lines some of the heroes say, and he doesn’t even play the game, he just hears me playing it.

        Secondly, Valve is really pushing systems to support the game such as built-in spectating, e-sports, a report system (which unfortunately has some big flaws but at least they’re trying, and it’s still beta), and so on. Also, there is a coaching system coming soon.

        Thirdly, the e-sports aspect deserves its own mention as they are really pulling out all the stops here, putting on great tournaments, getting really talented commentators (and also guys like Tobi! JUST KIDDING HAHA Tobi is awesome) in on the action, and so on.

        The only negative aspect is the whole hats thing that they’ve got going on but I respect that as a necessary evil for Free To Play, and it’s not TOO intrusive (As someone who couldn’t give a shit about that stuff, I’ve still equipped the occasional vanity item that I think is cool-looking).

        Overall, I think Valve is the greatest thing that could have happened to DOTA, and Icefrog might actually know what he’s doing, I mean he actually nerfed Tidehunter in a recent version, holy shit.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Valve are not the only people to develop the genre. HoN has some interesting (and some terrible) concepts. LoL has been trying the tribunal system, many different game modes, recommended items (something Valve rightfully copied), youtube tutorials in the game engine (another thing Valve rightfully copied), etc. Both games have a ton of neat and different concepts for characters (Monkey King and Mundo).

          So far I have been less impressed with Valve’s changes, which are more focused on e-sports than easing the learning curve or making innovative gameplay.

          • Yosharian says:

            “HoN has some interesting (and some terrible) concepts.”

            Such as?

            “LoL has been trying the tribunal system”

            A quite awful system if what I’ve heard is to be believed, but ok.

            “many different game modes,”

            Dota has lots of game modes, this is hardly something new.

            “recommended items (something Valve rightfully copied)”

            Ok, although I think that takes some of the creativity out of Dota frankly.

            “youtube tutorials in the game engine (another thing Valve rightfully copied)”


            “Both games have a ton of neat and different concepts for characters (Monkey King and Mundo)”

            Nothing has really grabbed me visually when looking at these two games.

            “which are more focused on e-sports”

            Which is what Dota needs.

            “easing the learning curve”

            Coaching system is coming, also Dota should not be changed to make it a casual game, because then I wouldn’t want to play it.

            “making innovative gameplay.”

            Such as? Dota is pretty damn complex as it is, I’m not sure what you want to see implemented that isn’t already in development/already in the game.

            So far I’m not convinced.

          • lasikbear says:

            Pretty sure the only people who’s accounts from the tribunal are negative are the people who fully deserve their ban.

            That being said Valves commendation(?) system was a great idea, and I am really glad LoL followed suit with the Honor system.

          • InternetBatman says:

            The monkey king has this neat bit where he jumps off buildings, and the original idea for gangplank (the only character who could deny in a game without it (a decision I agree with)) was much better than his current form. Mundo and Gragas are two very satisfying characters, that have a very unique feel and play style.

            The different modes in Dota 2 are just different pick styles on the same map and team vs AI. LoL has single-player, Domination, 3v3, and a tutorial mode. In addition they added grass, and took out denies (a decision that’s debatable, but I agree with).

            Also, there are things you can do to make a game more user friendly without altering gameplay. A better matchmaking system, flashing chat commands at the start of the match (to show people how to mute things), automatically hotkeying items, having a tutorial, etc. Lol’s leveling system (which some veterans find a pain) is really good at teaching new concepts gradually in a way that Dota 2’s doesn’t (although some of that is partially a result of player base size).

            Don’t get me wrong. I’m playing Dota 2 right now. It’s a well crafted game and pretty game, but it lacks invention.

            Lasikbear is right. I’ve never seen a person on the tribunal who was not genuinely terrible.

          • Randomer says:

            Dota 2 has a “recommended items” feature? I’ve played a couple games so far and found the item system to be almost as inscrutable as the item system in the original. A clear and obvious recommendation system would go a long way toward making it more approachable.

          • Kakkoii says:

            @Randomer: When you click the Shop button, you’ll notice there is a sort of organized list type thing on the left side of the panel that is different for every hero. Which recommends good Starting, Core, Situational and Luxury items for your hero.

        • Ritashi says:

          So, basically, you play and like Dota 2 (as well as the original Dota), therefore it’s the only game that’s “develop[ed] the genre?” I call bullshit on that, in so many ways. First, everything you mentioned exists at least as much in LoL as in Dota. Good sound and visuals? Got it. I mean, you can claim subjectivity and therefore you can like whatever you want, but then you’re just saying what you like more, which has nothing to do with developing the genre. Your thing with Gyrocopter? Corki does the exact same thing with the barrel rolls. Every character has a number of general lines they say while moving that flesh them out, along with at least one joke, taunt, and laugh (and a lot of it is really funny). There’s also a dance for every character. Built-in-spectating? Got it, and had it for a while now, including the ability to spectate random high-rank matches, friend’s matches, and any custom game that permits it. Report system? Been there forever, and they’re still working to continue to improve it. Notably, the Tribunal is just a method for Riot to reduce the number of cases they have to review personally by letting the community filter it first. E-sports? Riot just hosted the Season 2 Championship, with 12 teams competing for a $2 million prize pool. There were over 1,100,000 concurrent online viewers, not counting anyone watching it on Korean and Chinese TV, with over 8 million unique viewers across the whole event. That’s the most-watched e-sports event in history, by a *very* comfortable margin.

          Riot’s also got great commentators at LoL tourneys (Phreak and Rivington, Deman and Jatt were the pairs for the S2 championships), and they really are pulling out all the stops for these tourneys (S2 in total had $5 million in prizes from Riot).

          As for the F2P system, I personally like Riot’s system. The skins are cool, and I’ve bought a few, as well as buying one of the large champion bundles for cash. Overall I never feel like I need to pay real money for an advantage; if I really like a new champ I can buy them with stuff earned through time, and I’ve always been able to pick up whatever runes I needed easily. The free champion rotation (which does include every champ over time, and new champs within a couple of weeks of release) means that I rarely buy a champ without having tried them first. It works for me, and it means that I get to play the game for free (I never would have tried it otherwise). It also means that Riot makes continual money and therefore can easily continue to update the game over time. It doesn’t get in my way, so it doesn’t bother me.

          The only thing you mentioned that League doesn’t have is a coaching system, but instead it just has a much easier initial learning curve. Mastering League is every bit as hard as mastering Dota, but at lower levels of play (like when you first start out) League doesn’t punish you as much for not being familiar with its systems.

          My other major point is that Dota is not a genre. Valve are pretty much doing nothing to develop the genre (call it MOBAs or whatever you will); they’re just remaking the thing that started the genre. LoL, HoN, Smite, all of these do various things to actually try to develop the genre in different ways, because they actually do things that are different. If you don’t change anything, you aren’t developing the genre at all. That’s not to say that Dota 2 is bad; I’ve not played it, but I imagine that it’s probably pretty good. It’s just to say that Valve is not doing anything new or unique with it, in any way. It is Dota, monetized by Valve, with all the features that have become completely standard to the genre. It’s a good game (from what I hear), but it’s not innovating or developing anything.

          • Yosharian says:

            Ok fair enough, perhaps I was a bit harsh on LoL; it has done good things also.

          • Irishphnx says:

            You know I was gona write an essay calling out every lie, piece of bullshit and sucking of riots cock going on in these comments but in a moment of clarity I realized I frankly don’t care. Dota2 is already bad enough with russians and brs, in the unlikely event i convinced you of your own stupidity that would just mean dota would be become more populated with the likes of you. Keep playing league, keep enjoying an exploitative p2w/grind to stay relevant system, enjoy the stale rigid meta, enjoy using a fucking adobe air client, enjoy watching cheaters get to the semi final of the season championships and witnessing Riot enable them, enjoy watching a bo3 game take 5-6 matches of crashes and dcs because riot cant run a lan for shit

  7. Moraven says:

    Demigod sold 400k+? Or was it a mix of sold and pirated user base? (Had a bad launch when retail copies sold early and was pirated right away, hammering the servers, forget why without a legit key that was a problem).

    I played it at release and never seemed to have that big of a user base. Or it died off quick due to problems, was a pain to find games.

    Great fun tho and reminded me of some other early War3 maps. You had your hero who levelved but you had the ability to upgrade units and buildings.

    • cyrenic says:

      Probably the most amusing thing about Demigod was that is actually sold pretty well. It had good box art, and a lower than average pricepoint. I saw it at U.S. Walmarts for months after people had written it off (and walmart won’t leave something on the shelf/reorder stuff that’s not selling).

      At one point after release one of the developers (I don’t remember who) mentioned a majority of players never even tried the multiplayer (not that it didn’t work for them, they just never even tried to connect to the multiplayer). So those sales were generated by the super limited single player. Which is pretty interesting.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Publishers might not like singleplayer, players do!

        (I’m actually one of those people who never bothered with multiplayer Demigod.)

        • dE says:

          I generally believe (as in, have no facts about it) that Multiplayer is massively overrated. Same with competitiveness. Sure, tournaments generate a lot of attention. It’s great stuff to write about, comes with inherent drama and tensions and is deeply rooted in human conflict. But when it really comes down to it, I believe most people prefer a single player experience or at least a non competitive coop one.

          • raydenuni says:

            I generally believe (as in, have no facts about it) that Multiplayer is massively overrated. Same with competitiveness. Sure, tournaments generate a lot of attention. It’s great stuff to write about, comes with inherent drama and tensions and is deeply rooted in human conflict. But when it really comes down to it, I believe most people prefer a single player experience or at least a non competitive coop one.

            I would suggest you’re imposing too much of your own personal preferences here. Chess seems to be pretty popular without a single player experience. Almost all popular sports are competitive. I completely agree with you that some people prefer single player, or at the very least, non-competitive games. But to say that most people seems to be a stretch. There’s only so much you can do without an intelligent opponent. Competitive games mean you will always have a thinking, learning person to play against. I personally care more about cooperation than competition, but most real cooperative games are also competitive. Competitive games also offer the most interesting meta game and strategy in my opinion. Also for this conversation, we are talking about an inherently multiplayer game. Even though there are bots and you *can* play single player, the same is true for games like Quake 3, Counter Strike, etc. It’s ok for a game to have single player without multiplayer, and it’s ok for games to have multiplayer without single player.

      • Chris D says:

        I played a lot more of Demigod single player than I ever did the multiplayer. I had a few pleasant games with other people and a couple of deeply unpleasant ones and decided that, on balance, it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time. I still enjoyed the single player for some time after that.

  8. Timothy says:

    But all they could find was Team Fortress-style games like Monday Night Combat.

    I feel like this is a bit misleading. Super Monday Night Combat is definitely a lot closer to DotA than Team Fortress; in fact, many new players fall in to the trap of treating it like an FPS rather than an ARTS. It is essentially an ARTS with a different perspective, just like Awesomenauts and SMITE.

    Speaking of which, why isn’t SMITE mentioned? Or Bloodline Champions? Or Rise of the Immortals and the many other imposters to the throne?

    • InternetBatman says:

      I wouldn’t call them imposters. As an example, Bloodline Champions is significantly different. I do agree that this lacks a bit of diligence by focusing so heavily on Demigod, and then not interviewing with Valve and Riot.

      • Brun says:

        It’s possible that Valve and Riot declined interviews. The Demigod-heavy focus would then be a product of the limited information available directly from the developers of LoL and DotA 2.

    • dontnormally says:

      Yeah, what the hell is with this line?

      MNC is a MOBA. Cut and dry, without argument, it is a MOBA.

    • danielfath says:

      Well they are no more imposters to throne of DotA, than DotA is an imposter on the throne of Aeon of Strife. It’s a genre now. And quite frankly I still find it lacking.

  9. daphne says:

    I don’t think this part of the article… says much, though yesterday’s was quite nice.

  10. markcocjin says:

    A brief history of MOBA.

    One day, Riot decided that they want people to forget that their game came from Dota and thus created the marketing buzzword MOBA which is short for MIGHT OV BEEN ANYGAME.

    The fucking end.

    There’s an article right there RPS and it didn’t even have to take two parts to read.

    • danielfath says:

      A brief history of AoS.

      One day, DotA fans decided that they want people to forget that their game came from AoS and thus created the marketing buzzword DotA-like game which is short for Damn Othermaps This Awesomeme -like.

      The fucking start.

      Blaming Riot for not using their opponents game name to advertise themselves is dumb. Their move was smart in two ways:
      – They don’t promote game that competes with their game (FFS)
      – They don’t get hit with a lawsuit when Valve decides to capitalize on DotA (like Blizz did).

      Doing opposite of what they did would have been dumb. Hugely. Colossally. It would have been the Nirvana of dumb. Like shooting your own foot to save yourself from thirst while submerged in an aquarium filled with sharks.

      • Timothy says:

        – They don’t get hit with a lawsuit when Valve decides to capitalize on DotA (like Blizz did).

        Are you sure it was that way round? The way I remember, Riot trademarked DotA and then gave the trademarks to Blizzard to sue Valve with (although the legal mess was so complicated that I could easily be wrong)

        • markcocjin says:

          Yes. Riot did trademark Defense of the Ancients claiming to secure it for the gaming community and then later on sold it to Blizzard which was the start of the Blizzard lawsuit.

          Riot are immature brats with nothing more to their claim to fame than just a monetized Dota.

          • cyrenic says:

            You got a source for that? It really smacks of rumor. Valve and Guinsoo/Pendragon were in a legal battle over tradmarking DotA a little before Blizzard and Valve got into theirs. That would have been some really impressive turnaround for the legal system to grant Guinsoo/Pendragon the trademark and then being able to sell it to Blizzard in that span of time. Plus I don’t recall mention of Riot selling the trademark when the Blizzard vs. Valve story broke.

            Sources, please. It was super confusing so I’d like to be informed of what all went down (and as far as I knew the Guinsoo/Pendragon thing could still be going?). I’d like to know if Riot really was being that jerkish to sell a trademark so another company could litigate over it.

        • danielfath says:

          I do not remember that escapade. If they trademarked DotA without using it and selling it to Blizzard I can see where the business acumen comes from.

      • markcocjin says:

        Dota developers named their game Dota, they did not name the genre. Your attempt at being funny by reversing what was written did not have the intended effect.

        Sure it was understandable that Riot rename the genre because they wanted to re-brand it. But that speaks of arrogance since it’s the equivalent of re-naming FPS games into Personal Perspective Targeting Games.

        I’m glad Valve just insisted on calling it ARTS regardless of how popular Moba chumba wumbas are right now.

        • danielfath says:

          Yeah, but calling them all DotA-like is still subpar. In the modding community, AoS was the “official” name for such games. That DotA players decided to rebrand AoS into DotA-like and then complain when companies rebrand it from DotA-like to MOBA, seem like double standard. If words can be changed by one group, then other people can change it as well.

          Your example fails as well. It would be like making a Quake and calling your game Personal Perspective Targeting Games instead of Doom-like. It’s still better than calling it Doom-like, but not quite there yet. Community still hasn’t settled on a single definition.

          LPG is flawed (because there might not be a leveling system or pushing lanes per se – see Bloodline champions and Dominion mode in LoL, respectivelly).

          ARTS also enforces “strategy” even though game like Awesomenauts/Smite are divorced from the strategy aspect (RTS implies some kind of semblance to standard RTS like Starcraft, Red Alert etc.). It’s name is subpar as well.

          • markcocjin says:

            So you’re saying that MOBA is up to par. At least we have that clear then.

          • danielfath says:

            Don’t put into my mouth what I didn’t said or implied. Just because I didn’t mention it, doesn’t mean I implied it is any good…

            MOBA first of all, it sounds iffy, drawing implications to mob or internal organs (or so I heard). Second I don’t think it captures the essence. It is essentially correct. But very dry. It is a bit like FPS, which is essentially correct but focusing on the wrong aspect (I prefer the term shooter since it captures the essence of the game as opposed to what perspective game is made). Essentially Portal(2) is a FPS, because it is a shooter (you shoot portals) from first person.

      • Kakkoii says:

        NOBODY is saying that Riot should use “their opponents game name to advertise themselves”. The point was that there is already an accepted term for this type of game, ARTS. It’s a damn sub-genre of the damn RTS games they spawned from, Starcraft/WC3. MOBA doesn’t explain anything about the game, it could be an FPS game for all we know, since that label fits it as well.

        Riot invented the term so that whenever people talk about “MOBA”s, they are inadvertantly advertising LoL, because that name is first and foremost tied with LoL. Thus it is horrible for us as gamers to support that. A developer shouldn’t own the rights to the name of a genre.

  11. Archipelagos says:

    It’s somewhat amusing that the feedback to this article (and the previous entry) has been so hostile. It’s almost a parody at this stage.

    • Timothy says:

      To be fair, I think a lot of the feedback is justified. The History of AoS/DotA/MOBA/LPGs/ARTS games is very contentious, and a lot of people would really like a proper well-researched history of the genre. However, the article reads more like a summary of Wikipedia articles, with a vague attempt to spin the facts into some narrative. The finished piece assumes too much knowledge for people who don’t care about DotAlikes, and the people who do have some knowledge usually have enough to spot at least one or two points where the article isn’t telling the whole truth, if not being flat-out wrong.

      As a result, the comments are mostly people who don’t like DotA complaining about DotA, people who don’t like Riot complaining about Riot, and people who wanted a good article complaining about the facts.

      • elfbarf says:

        The people who are familiar with ARTS/MOBA games are upset because of how inaccurate/incomplete the article is. The people who are unfamiliar with them are still fairly unfamiliar with them because half of the article seems to focus on Demigod for some strange reason (even though it was a flop and was quickly forgotten).

  12. Slinkyboy says:

    You know what’s innovative? NPCs having a rat problem.

  13. fooga44 says:

    The article should read : ” A gaming illiterates view of MOBA’s”. The fact that they are even called that shows huge illiteracy. No one calls counter strike or rocket arena it’s own genre.

    Free 2 play model is scummy from the outset, it takes advantage of the dumbness of gamers generally speaking and they never own the game they play.

    • Kakkoii says:

      I hardly think the way Valve is doing theirs for DotA 2 is “scummy”. It’s the best choice for a game of this type. It brings in permanent revenue for the game, and it doesn’t effect the game balance at all since they are only cosmetics, and quality controlled ones at that. No super silly stuff like TF2.

  14. namad says:

    demigod had a rocky release, I believe the release date was something like a tuesday, and the dev team took the weekend off because they’d been working 28 hour days for so long to get ready? then gamestop decided that it didn’t care about release dates because they’re morons there… so they sold the game on, uh I dunno I think it was that weekend and/or monday? I might have the exact days of the week confused.

    as as result the servers weren’t “turned on” and almost no one could get the game to work at all, whatsoever on the day they bought the game, 100% entirely due to gamestops fault? forcing release day sales onto “beta” servers?

    then there were the problems with lag, in that it wasn’t a problem with latency, it was a problem wherein some people just could NEVER connect because of the weird way connections were made from peer to peer…

    we’re not talking about an issue where occasionally your character freezes and you idea we’re talking pay 50$ for a game, try to connect to a match, wait a minute, fail, try again, fail, restart try again fail, play scrabble with your mom instead while crying… so yeah… total downplay of the technical issues demigod saw on launch, they weren’t within the realm of normal…early in it’s lifetime online gaming experiences…. they were on the order of magnitude of things like AO launch or EQ1 launch or worse…. demigod was one of the absolute worst video game launches of all time, that’s a factor, that has to be a factor, although freemium is probably key, you really downplay the bad release and technical issues…issues that didn’t get fixed quickly! I had fun playing demigod in beta, when the game came out no one could play anymore and I simply uninstalled it and never played again… I had a small amount of fun in beta, not 50$ worth, I got ripped off really, so… I’m never ever ever ever ever ever pre-ordering from stardock again, they have a horrible track record of pre-ordering a game that just turns out to be a pile of poo!

    on the bright side demigod saved me from pre-ordering elemental: war in magic

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  16. atworkforu says:

    “Critics said that Demigod suffered from bugs and occasional lags, sure. But anyone who’s struggled through the early history of an online game expects a certain gap between performance and expectation.”

    I liked Demigod. I paid full price for Demigod. But the game went way beyond bugs and occasional lag. It was basically pretty much impossible to get a multiplayer game going. On the rare occasions that a game filled up, somebody would drop on load and the rest of that team would quit. The game was vanquished by terrible network coding, despite awesome character art.

    PS is there anybody bringing any actual strategy to the table like EOTA did back in the day?