RE: About League and HotS

Belghast has written a post coinciding with the launch of Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s entry into the MOBA market. He doesn’t say as much, but I have a feeling that his post was spurned in part by a comment I made on Twitter the other day, in which he and a handful of others chimed in on the discussion.

I actually called Strife baby’s first moba long before using it in reference to HotS, but I retract that comment, because Strife definitely has more levels of complexity than Blizzard’s game, including item builds and last hitting, though it holds your hand through the process more so than games like League of Legends or Dota 2. I should also notate that my Twitter handle was changed because of a comment made by Liore in said tweet-fest, in case you were wondering.

Last-hitting and item builds seem to be the two areas of contention for Belghast, and are the points he focuses on most in his post (these are also points he made on Twitter prior to his blog). I’m not foolish enough to think that my counter points are going to change his mind or his character; he’s not a PvP-oriented, competitive guy, and that’s fine by me. We have had our differences of opinion on the topic of PvP more than once, but I respect him and his writing enough to say so. This is in no way a personal attack, nor is it an attempt to convert anyone’s way of thinking to match my own. I only aim to point out some fallacies in his post, or at least present a different point of view.

Let’s start off with HotS. I’ve written about it twice before. In the first post I found while digging through the archives, I was anticipating the title but also expressed my strange relationship with Blizzard and its games.

A newly released video detailing some of the features of Blizzard’s upcoming MOBA “Heroes of the Storm” has me really wanting to try it out. I remember when it was first talked about and went by Blizzard All Stars or whatever, I figured it was just another cash grab by the mega company. I have a weird relationship with Blizzard. I loved the Warcraft and Starcraft RTS games, and loved the early Diablos, but then when WoW came out I was entrenched in another camp (Everquest). I remember having negative things to say about Blizzard at the time, none of which were really founded in legitimacy. WoW is a great game, I’ve played it since and I no longer feel the need to be a fanboy to one company or another. I have also recently been playing their newest games – Diablo III, Starcraft II, and Hearthstone. Funny enough, I played Hearthstone only so that I could make negative commentary, and then ended up loving it.

I still play Blizzard’s games and enjoy them. Opposite of the Hearthstone reaction, I went into HotS expecting greatness only to be disappointed (though I should point out that my love of Hearthstone waned quickly due to some of their poor design choices). In the second post I wrote about the game, I had just participated in some Alpha gameplay and found that the distinct lack of depth killed the game for me.

It was no secret that I had been anticipating this day as a MOBA enthusiast, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this game is not going to dethrone either of the other “big ones,” but will probably be popular with people who haven’t touched other MOBAs. The main reason for this separation into “camps,” comes down to one word: Depth.

One bit that I will give Blizzard credit for is that they have attempted to remove some of the toxicity from the MOBA environment in that they have decided to pool the team’s XP so that no one falls behind, they made the objectives more of a priority than team fighting or last hitting, and removed item builds so that people have less to be confused about. They also made adjustments to things like your KDA so that the scoreboard after a match doesn’t reflect poorly on anyone. However, in doing so they removed some of the key elements that provided depth in gameplay, and that didn’t sit right with me.

I had at least that many kills by myself, but the game doesn’t give you kills and assists in separate categories, it combines them into takedowns. Do towers and other buildings go in there too? I don’t know, but I do know that 25 Takedowns sounds a lot less awesome than 25 kills, 0 deaths, 2 assists. I know that this is a purposeful design choice so that everyone feels like a winner, like they contributed, even though the are providing significant less DPS or support than others. Mouthbreathers get Takedowns. In the words of Jim Jefferies:

You might not be a winner at everything, you might not be a loser at everything, but you won’t find out what the fuck you’re good at if they tell you you’re fuckin’ good at everything.

I’d say that pretty much sums up where I stand on the HotS front. I have been a longtime fan/player of League of Legends though, and as such I recognize mechanics and elements of design that others who haven’t really played the game might not. Belghast points out some portions of League of Legends (but that would also carry over to some extent to most other games in the MOBA genre) that irk him, and then provides reasons. I’m here to point out a few things that I think were overlooked or misrepresented in his post. Let’s start from the top shall we?

The big problem I had with League was the fact that it felt like I was not only competing against the players on the other team, but also competing against my own team mates for resources.  The concept of last hitting feels so divisive that I am shocked it exists in any team based game.  The fact that a team mate can either purposefully or accidentally snipe the last hit on a minion and gain all of the gold just seems like a horribly selfish tactic to introduce into a supposedly “team focused” game.  While I feel like the higher tiers of competitive play more than likely focus on the team effort and winning games, the low tier players tend to focus entirely on making themselves look good.  The best way to that end result is to feed heavily in lane and go on a murder spree, which means the other player in that lane is going to be starved out of resources and won’t be able to help the team later in the game.

I feel like Belghast doesn’t understand the point of last hitting. In LoL, last hitting a minion results in gold for the player making the killing blow. The meta of the game dictates that a single player takes the top lane, another the mid, two take bottom, and one goes to the jungle. This means the only lane where said contention for resources will happen is the bottom, where the carry and support will be spotted. The support’s job is to keep the carry alive, and allow him the last-hit gold (though improvements to support items sometimes encourage last hitting by the support). In all other lanes, the players are by themselves and have no competition for last hits, aside from their lane opponent, who can and should interfere as much as possible (in games like DOTA, you can even deny gold by killing your enemy’s creeps). When you look at the scoreboard, seeing which side of a lane has more cs (creep score, the amount of minions that person killed) is a good indicator of who is winning the lane. Winning your lane is imperative for the rest of your team, as a losing lane puts pressure on other parts of the map. However, this isn’t the only metric for judging skill or the only factor that contributes to winning or losing the game. Having a jungler that will help losing lanes, a mid laner that roams, or a top laner that will teleport to other parts of the map to help out all play their part. So just as HotS encourages team play by removing the extraneous factors, League encourages it by providing options. At the end of the day, any and all of these issues are countered with practice, and it’s hard to expect anyone to get better at playing/understanding without practicing.

The problem is doing the item build system well, requires you to have actually research your champion and what sorts of things they need.  What I want is a more universal path to “this item adds more awesomeness” so I struggle to find items to build that make sense for whoever I am playing.  Now on champions I have played a lot like Garen, WuKong or Darius I have finally figured out how I want to build each of them for my own play style.  The problem being this was something that happened over lots of trial and error.  Quite frankly I don’t want to have to devote the processing cycles to figure that out, I just want a sequence of choices that add some flavor but in which there is no real “wrong” choice.

Again, I’m confused by the conviction of Bel’s words, but lack of overall understanding. The item system in League is very straight forward. If you have never played a champion (with a pool of 120+ it’s easy to see this happening), Riot was nice enough to provide “recommended items” and you cannot fail by using these. It’s that simple. Build what is provided to you, and you will have the stats needed for any situation. Knowledgeable players in the game will also recommend items you might want to pick up based on who you are playing, so listen to them. Also, it’s rather easy to visit sites like MOBAFire or LeagueCraft and quickly search for build advice before you jump in a game, and make personal item sets for specific champions that will replace Riot’s built in recommended items. A small amount of effort, and problem solved. Just remember, Magic based champions require ability power for damage, Physical champions take attack damage, and armor/magic resist and health are great on tanks. These are all RPG basics people.

In conclusion to this, I will say that the levels of depth that I crave/love are ones that turn other people off, and that’s fine. Belghast makes his points, but makes it clear that he’s just not someone who likes competition. Competition drives me to do the research and put in the practice to get better. Competition drives him to a simpler game. I suppose the niche HotS is filling is great for people in the same boat, but I can’t help but feel like it’s an insult to the genre. Now that the game is launched I’m going to give it more of a shot, but I’m not holding my breath expecting my opinion to change.

For some more related reading, check out these posts by Syncaine:

HotS: A New Low For Blizzard
HotS: Shut Up Newbie
Last-Hitting in a MOBA is Like XP in an RPG; Don’t Leave Home Without it

To me someone not liking the actual gameplay of last-hitting is like someone not liking questing in an RPG; at some point it’s not so much the game as it is the player needing to find something that better fits them. Just like an RPG doesn’t need ‘fixing’ by removing quests, the MOBA genre doesn’t move forward by removing last-hitting, at least not without a suitable gameplay replacement.


#mobas #leagueoflegends #heroesofthestorm

10 thoughts on “RE: About League and HotS

  1. Nope! I fully understand why the mechanic of last hitting exists, and i also understand why the item build system is as fiddly as it is. Both of them serve a purpose in the game play of what makes League of Legends tick. Understanding a mechanic does not automagically make it better however. I don’t find either “fun” and anything that does not increase my fun but also actively decreases my enjoyment… is something I don’t like. I am not suggesting that League change, because it is the game it is, and it is loved by millions and millions of players. I am largely just suggesting that Heroes is a MOBA for the rest of us, the people that don’t care about the finely crafted purpose behind mechanics if they don’t make our game experience more enjoyable. I will still play League on occasion with friends, but the MOBA I actually enjoy playing is Heroes.


    • We just have to agree to disagree on the mechanic as a whole. I just felt points needed made so that both sides were accurately represented.


  2. I hate last hitting. I’d play a MOBA without it that is good, but sadly HOTS wasn’t especially good when I tried it the first time. It was still a MOBA though, no other qualifiers needed.


  3. I wouldn’t necessarily say that liking HotS over other more complex MOBAs means someone isn’t competitive. I’m pretty competitive. I enjoyed RBGs and Arenas in WoW (much more than general, random PVP). I’m working towards being able to play ranked in HotS – because playing for rank and so you can say you’re betters than other people makes things more fun. Other MOBAs just have too large a barrier to entry and I’ve never been able to stick with one for more than a little while. Becoming skilled requires practice and research, but preferring a game where the extent of practice and research required is less doesn’t mean you don’t want to compete.


  4. Good explanation on last hitting. I can appreciate why someone might enjoy it, but as far as I can tell based on your description, the function of last hitting serves to encourage players to not step on each others’ toes. Basically, split up the party, excepting the case where you have two players (because one is incapable of killing things efficiently on their own). This doesn’t feel like something that increases skill requirements, but rather something that primarily serves to enforce the current meta.

    Basically it’s a complexity that *reduces* depth because it’s making certain strategies unviable out of the gate (everyone piling into a lane). Is that inherently a bad thing? Nope! I actually dislike the penchant in HotS for folks to bunch up in roving bands of 5 players (the mine level I hate the most because only two lanes).

    But at the same time, is there perhaps a mechanic that allows for more viable strategies, but still pushes players to work more independently? I don’t know off-hand, but I don’t think last-hitting isn’t a sacred cow that could be slain. There are probably less teammate-rage-inducing methods of doing so.

    Good post!


    • Well as I said on Twitter during that day’s discussion, going against the meta is a thing. People have to think outside of the box in order to find things that work and then those things become the meta. Smite top laners is a good example. Or Teleport top lane. Or several teleports for random ganks, double jungle, etc. etc. That is just what is the normal meta for the game, currently. There were times we no one ran jungler comps, we had two top and two bottom with one mid, and often times the mid was an AD carry (or mixed damage like Corki). The game is more flexible than I described, but the last hit mechanic keeps people in line so to speak. Because sitting out of lane too long will end up costing you in the long run, so know when to take the risk of leaving (big objectives are usually a good reason to leave lane momentarily).


  5. Conversely, I’m not a very competitive person, but I love depth and complexity to explore and research in a game.

    I’m still very much a dabbler in Dota 2 at the moment, but I like the idea that supports (the lanes tend to go 2-1-2 in pubs, but even the amount of flexibility in laning in Dota 2 is interesting, pros use a trilane often) need to voluntarily hold back and control the impulse to last hit, it’s another level of skill to last hit when you can (ie. no carry around) and not last hit when someone else needs the gold more than you.

    They’re probably just all different games though, with differing levels of complexity or depth. HoTS appears to have spread some of it out into changing the battlefield with different maps instead.


    • I found that watching the LCS (pro players) helped me to pick up mechanical techniques and overall game strategies that you don’t see in normal modes of play. They aren’t the only ones setting the meta, but they do help change things around by being the best players in the game (everyone wants to copy them).

      When all is said and done though, it’s definitely different strokes for different folks. I just see League/Dota’s success being derivative of their mechanical design choices. HotS is getting good reviews, but most people I know who are already dedicated to other MOBAs are of the same opinions that I am.


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