Some old and (mostly) broken LoL mechanics

I would never expect a decent LoL article to come out of a radio station, but I suppose as games gain traction in the media we’ll start seeing some decent content everywhere. A Grand Rapids station put together a quick list of 10 old mechanics in League of Legends that were (mostly) broken. It’s an interesting look back at the game if you haven’t been playing for more than 6 months, especially since the post includes video.

I’ll say my favorite “remember when” from this list is the old brush system. Dear god. Riot was one brush-crazed company back in the day. That shit was everywhere. Innervating Locket was also an interesting item, though several strong characters made it ridiculously broken. I didn’t mind it terribly much on Gragas, mostly because AP Gragas is so much scarier than pure tank Gragas. Locket Udyr though? That was broken. Pair Udyr, Sona, and Gragas, get them all to buy Locket and you have one unstoppable push comp. As annoying as it was to see that comp played, I have to say, it added some flavor to the game.

Head over to the WGRD station for the rest of the article.

LoL to DotA: The Shop

It seems almost foolish to have to dedicate an entire post to the shop differences between LoL and DotA but trust me, it’s necessary. Again, this is one of those things I thought League did really well, and for the most part I still prefer League’s shop, if only for its organization. The DotA system does have some perks, though, which I’ll cover a bit later.

It’s impossible to talk about the DotA shop system without first discussing the differences in gold, which is where the shop differences really originate. In LoL, your gold is your gold unless you spend it. In DotA, gold can be lost on death, depending on a few different factors. Gold is divided into reliable and unreliable gold. Unreliable gold, as you probably guessed, is the gold that gets lost when you die. Reliable gold is yours no matter what. As you save more and more gold for more expensive items, more of your gold becomes unreliable. However, when you buy items you buy with your unreliable gold first, which is why shopping frequently is important.

In DotA, players can use the main shop anytime, anywhere. Yes, you can shop from your lane. Items that are purchased remotely go to each player’s individual stash. Those items can then be retrieved by either visiting base or sending a courier to retrieve them. In most games, each team will purchase a courier for the purposes of hauling items to remote locations. It’s a nice system, and it can keep you in lane for a very long time.

DotA also has a “secret shop” hidden in the same place in each team’s jungle. The secret shop contains different items from the main shop and can only be accessed by standing next to it or sending a courier to do the same. Each side lane also has a “side shop,” which contains a mix of items from both the main and secret shops. This can all be a bit confusing, but that’s the DotA way. At the very least, Valve has tried to make the experience a little less frustrating by placing a small “S” symbol on the icon of any item that is only purchasable via the secret shop. If a player tries to buy an item from the secret shop while out of range, Valve implemented a “shop not in range” error that also pings the map so the player knows where to go to buy the items.

The only other significant difference in my mind is the presence of actual recipe items. When a player buys Madred’s Bloodrazor in League of Legends, there is no 775g item that combines the components into the actual item. It is simply a combine cost that automatically happens. With DotA, there are actual recipe items. This is important because it allows the player to spend unreliable gold on a recipe though they might not be able to afford another component. It’s also important because it is possible to accidentally buy duplicate recipes, which is just no good. As in LoL, where I occasionally buy double boots, I sometimes find myself with double Yasha recipes in DotA. Be aware of this.

As with any MOBA, your best bet for understand the shop is to simply look through it. Play a bot game or find a functioning web tool that works like the shop so you can learn which items are purchased at which shop. For me, I always learned best by playing a couple characters that I really enjoyed, trying a few different builds and stumbling across items that way. Once I’ve seen them in shop a few times it gets much easier to remember how to find them.

Is casual MOBA play possible?

Since I got started with the DotA 2 beta, my time in League of Legends has dropped off significantly. At first I thought it was just that DotA 2 was a new game and that I might someday reach a point at which I was splitting my time between the two. That hasn’t happened yet, and I honestly don’t see it happening in the near future.

Every time I’ve gone back to League over the past couple weeks, I’ve been sorely disappointed. My games have been quick and unenjoyable, whether winning or losing. Those same kind of games have been happening in DotA on occasion, but with DotA I’m playing enough to balance the bad games with plenty of good. With LoL, that’s just not the case.

I think this is a core part of the MOBA experience, and something MOBA developers may have to address over the next couple years. Though I go into each play session hoping for a hard-fought, drawn out battle, I would bet the majority of games tend to be shorter and fairly one sided, at least to some degree. Once the lopsided game has played out, my inclination is not to walk away; it’s to stay and play until I get the game I was looking for.

This situation isn’t totally unique to the MOBA genre. RTS players have long dealt with a protracted gaming curve, wherein they might spend as much as 70-80 minutes developing a strategy only to be wiped off the map in 90 seconds. In a lot of RTS matches, though, there are things to be learned. Maybe I should have had more resource nodes. Maybe I needed more unit diversity. Maybe my micromanagement needs work. Most competitive RTS matches provide an immediate and actionable feedback loop. That is, the player knows what he/she can do in order to improve their next experience.

With MOBAs, it’s more like two teams of five people trying to throw darts at the same dartboard, all at the same time. If they all get a bull’s-eye, the game is a success. As players start to miss, the game deteriorates. A few people from a team may be playing well, but when there are two people who can’t even hit the board, the game gets dramatically skewed. That actionable feedback loop from RTS games is all but gone. It often doesn’t matter if I’m hitting the bull’s-eye every time (and let’s be clear, I don’t); the failed efforts of my teammates have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the game.

So back to the question at hand – is it possible to play MOBAs casually? I can’t do it. I’ll own that. I can’t just jump into one game, unless that one game is the 50+ minute back-and-forth that MOBA dreams are made of. How do you guys do it? Do you focus in on a small subset of champions? Do you save up your playtime for one long play session every so often? Do you even bother? Sound off in the comments.

Machinima’s “All Your History” series covers the MOBA scene

I was really happy to receive this video from a friend today, particularly because it fits so well with the slight content shift you’re going to see at the site. Both DotA 2 and League of Legends have their roots in a game that was originally developed as a map mod for Blizzard’s Starcraft. While this video from Machinima doesn’t cover the history in full detail, it does give a nice overview of one of the fastest growing segments of the video game industry.

Viktor Impressions

Viktor.

What better way to make my return to the MOBA field than with my impressions post for the newest champion in League of Legends? I’ll tell you. DotA 2. Yes, I’m finally in the beta, but more on that later. For now, let’s talk about the man-machine, Viktor.

You may remember Morello announcing that Riot had plans to introduce more complicated heroes and mechanics into League of Legends over the course of 2012. Viktor seems to be the first of that wave, adding a new item-based skill customization along with a somewhat complicated skillset. While I love the idea of adding more complexity to the game, the actual gameplay needs to support mechanically complex heroes. With Viktor, that just isn’t the case. Hopefully we’ll see more playstyle changes to League as a whole. If not, complex heroes will simply be outshined by champions like Annie and Brand, champs that deal huge damage through a simple set of skills.

Personally, I haven’t enjoyed my time with Viktor, pretty much for the reasons stated above. His skills are too complicated to use without enough benefit for using them well. I feel like I have to work twice as hard for kills that would be easier with many other champions. That’s not all bad – champions with a decent skill ceiling are usually enjoyable to play. In most cases, though, high skill ceiling means knowing when and how your skills should be used, not just that it’s difficult to land them. That’s Viktor. His beam can be very difficult to land in a chase situation – it’s certainly easy to avoid – and without augmenting his stun, he can be pretty easy to outrun.

That said, he has some insane burst. When all of his skills land, he hits hard. His ult works essentially like Tibbers, dealing a big burst in the beginning and a damage over time as it “churns.” With an augment on his beam, he’ll one-shot most any carry.

I don’t think Riot’s going to need to change him much unless a streamer unlocks a truly godlike build/playstyle. Viktor does things that a lot of other champions in the game do, it’s just that all of those things – his stun, his big damage, his AoE power – require a lot more effort than similar champions. He’s also just not all that exciting, which is why I think I haven’t seen him picked much. If I compare him to Fizz, I see one champion with an interesting skillset that adds a couple new mechanics and has a high risk/reward threshold, and one champion that plays like most AP casters. I’ll leave you to sort out which is which.

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