Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. THIS WEEK, however, she will be digging into how one MOBA can influence another:
Three lanes, patches of jungle, a bunch of player characters, items and minions, oh – and a base to defend. When you put it in those terms League of Legends and Smite [official site] don't seem too far apart. But the devil's in the detail and it's what you do with that detail that counts. But from watching the first pro season of Smite it felt like a lot had been borrowed, or at least learned from other MOBAs in terms of playstyle– particularly League of Legends. With the second season of Smite well underway I got in touch with Graham 'Hinduman' Hadfield – a Smite expert caster with a League of Legends background – to find out how close the two really are and whether Smite is branching out.
On a very basic level how transferable would you say LoL skills are when it comes to Smite?
Transferring across is really quite straightforward – although I've not played [League of Legends] in a year so there's going to be differences in the jungle – but the lane matchups are still pretty much one guy top lane, two guys bottom lane, one guy mid lane and a jungler. that's pretty much standard. When you get into a Conquest game of Smite [the game's 5v5 competitive play mode] it's very similar. You still have your four skills, you still have passives, you still buy items, you still recall back to base, you still push down the lane and take phoenixes to get fire minions like you'd kill inhibitors to get super minions – it's the same transferable stuff.
Earlier in the year we were talking about whether Smite players were limited by knowledge from League – could they be playing differently but aren't simply because it wasn't done in League? And are you seeing little things from League still bleeding through?
Hmm. I think the biggest thing most people need to get out of the habit of with Smite is about how much you can rotate because of how fast the game is. Smite is more fast-paced than League of Legends. In League of Legends you stay in your lane for a long period of time and there's not many heavy rotations on the map. It could be done in Smite but everyone falls into the same trap – with most MOBAs you're in this lane, you must stay in this lane.
Other things that are transferable? Lane wards are starting to come into play now which is something that happened in League of Legends a while ago. Now it's started to breathe into Smite as well. I'm not sure if it's directly because of [League] but people are starting to realise how strong a lane ward is if the jungle's sentry warded or pink warded. You can't go in there and place your ward because you know they're going to get vision so having the lane wards give you the vision you're looking for. That's a thing that's come over from League of Legends, I feel. Not necessarily 100% out of League of Legends but it was done in League of Legends first. Then again compared to the old - with DotA a lot of things have transferred over as [the games] came forward.
In terms of lane organisation do you think there's scope for different lane compositions?
For sure. The first thing that ever happened when I came into the game was I didn't understand the reasoning for why the hunter [Smite's version of an ADC] was in the duo lane. The reason it's that way in League of Legends is the lanes are identical in distance apart. If you go top lane or bottom lane in League of Legends the tower distance [between red tier one and blue tier one] is identical. In Smite it's not. The reason you have the hunter in the bottom lane in League of Legends is you need someone to protect him in that lane because the tower distance is too far apart. In Smite the solo lane is the short lane [the one where the distance between those tier one towers is shorter] and would be perfect for a hunter. The shorter distance back to tower makes it technically safer to leave him in a 1v1 fight against the enemy hunter and to farm up to late game. Because that's all you're looking to do – get your hunter to late game.
Back in League of Legends in the old days hunters used to go mid. You'd see Ashe mid – that was quite standard back in season 1. Slowly people realised to put them into the duo lane for extra protection of having a teammate but the reason they were in mid was because the lane is shorter than the top or bottom lane in terms of the distance between the two towers. Smite should have – or still can – look at putting hunters in the solo lane and running their tanky bruiser with a support in the duo lane instead and playing more aggressively there. [Mages] can still stay mid. They have been run in the duo lane before in place of a hunter. You already see that in Smite – you see Vulcans – I'm not sure I remember seeing much of that in League of Legends though.
Have you seen any of the current pro teams playing with those ideas?
Actually there was a game this weekend just gone. TSM (who used to be Cognitive Red) had TheBoosh in mid lane play Ullr who's a hunter. That's the first thing in the pro scene but it's been run elsewhere as well. Europe have been messing around with things like this for a while. There's a team called Panthera in the Challenger scene [the league just below pro] who are made up of a bunch of pros who didn't make it into the pro league and who made a team together. They've run solo hunters and hunters in mid lane. Teams that have run mages in the duo lane; that's been going on quite a while. Snoopy on TSM ran a lot of Vulcan. So does Allied from AFK Gaming.
This weekend's game is a good one to look at – the Ullr game from TSM – as a prime example of switching the meta around and not following standards that are not necessarily just set in stone by Smite but by the MOBAs in general. MOBAs in general seem to follow the same pattern. You want to protect your late game carry early on and you put the tanky guy solo because he can handle being ganked alone and get out of the situation, and mages mid so they can rotate around and get good farm. Junglers can be gank heavy or late game heavy.
I suppose it's too early to tell if any other teams have picked up on that idea…
There's not been any pro league games since then but as I say that's actually been tried over in Europe already by somebody on Panthera. What you seem to see is the Challenger stuff happens and people think it's quirky, then pros will run it and everyone will be like, 'Oh my god, he invented it!'
With how Smite is at the moment it's still young but people are starting to realise they can do more with the game. The game is much quicker in terms of rotations across the map. If you need to run from top lane to bottom lane, comparing Smite to League of Legends, you'd be there in half the time just because of how mobility works in the game. Ward coverage is slightly different and gods you end up playing you don't have to go for the standard meta just because of how the lane setup is. The jungle is slightly different to League.
League's jungle has that river that runs through the middle of the game so the jungle is divided into four quarters whereas in Smite it's just divided into two by the mid lane. They're conjoined and it means you're never really out of the jungle. The jungle is such a big factor in Smite – a bigger factor than League of Legends because I think the river control is more important and maybe the jungle areas just behind the river are the important zones while in Smite most of the zones are important.
The river in League clearly marks out that when you move further forward there's risk…
It's like the Lion King – everything the light touches is ours, everything beyond it? Don't go there. In Smite you don't have that feeling until you get to mid harpies and gold fury. When you see those it's like this is halfway and if I go beyond this I'm in there jungle but you don't think of that because you're in the jungle still. There's not as much of a mental stop as there would be. The mental stop is probably further up the map before you get to their red buff.
Are there any other pro league experimental ideas you've seen?
The thing with season two is that everything was up for grabs because nobody could work out what was strong and what was weak. All the hunters got changed, buffs and nerfs to all of them. When the hunters got nerfed everyone was like, 'Well, maybe we play mages now? Is that what we do? Or warriors?'
The first couple of weeks were really messy because it didn't make sense as to what people were doing. We've seen a bit of a rise of guardians going into the solo lane but that's just because some guardians can be played in the solo lane as a version of mage tank instead of warriors which are clased as the tanks really. That depends on the gods and the itemisation though.
It's a rough one because I feel like the pros are starting to realise they have the freedom to do what they want, they don't have to follow the tradition of other MOBAs. But a lot of players and a lot of the Smite community isn't MOBA focused. You get a MOBA crossover but you also get the FPS crossover. That's people who don't think about rotations and how the map works out, they're looking to run and gun to an extent. You've got two different breeds of players in here.
Do the FPS players have a tougher time? When I'm playing Counter-Strike I don't have to take into account damage scaling or magical versus physical damage.
That's the cool thing about how Smite works. I think FPS players get easier into the game in terms of landing abilities. Everything's a skillshot. That's the easy thing for them. The hard thing for them is learning to purchase items and understand the scaling of abilities. Whereas the MOBA player knows about buying items and scaling of abilities but having everything be a skillshot and needing to get used to the camera angle – you feel threatened coming into it. I was like 'Oh my god is somebody behind me?'
Gnaw use to play for Dignitas and he's an ex-CS: GO player. He transferred over because he liked the game and it was FPS-focused and he found it easy. Then you've got players who played a lot of League of Legends in the past or other MOBAs but they liked the transition [to Smite. So you're getting a total crossbreed of different types of player. I think that's why you see more variation in Smite now because people are trying stuff out – the FPS players who don't know any different and the MOBA boys saying 'No, this should be done this way because this is how we do it'.
Thanks for your time, Graham.