Multiplayer online battle arena

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Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), also known as action real-time strategy (ARTS) or Hero Brawler, is a sub-genre of the real-time strategy (RTS) genre of video games, in which often two teams of players compete with each other in discrete games, with each player controlling a single character through an RTS-style interface. It differs from traditional RTS games in that there is no unit construction and players control just one character. In this sense, it is a fusion of action games and real-time strategy games. The genre emphasizes cooperative team-play; players select and control one "hero", a powerful unit with various abilities and advantages to form a team's overall strategy. The objective is to destroy the opponents' main structure with the assistance of periodically spawned computer-controlled units that march towards the enemy's main structure via paths referred to as "lanes".

The genre traces its roots to Aeon of Strife (AoS), a custom map for StarCraft[1] where four players each controlling a single powerful unit and aided by weak computer-controlled units were put against a stronger computer-controlled faction.[2] Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a map based on Aeon of Strife for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne, was one of the first major titles of its genre and the first MOBA for which has been kept sponsored tournaments.[2] It was followed by the two spiritual successors League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, and eventually a sequel, Dota 2, as well as numerous other games in the genre.


Generic map of a MOBA genre game. Yellow lines are the "lanes" where action is focused; teal dots are the defensive "towers" that defend them; orange quarter circles are the teams' bases; and teal corners are the building whose destruction claims victory.

In 1998, computer game company Blizzard Entertainment released its best-selling real-time strategy game (RTS) StarCraft with a suite of game editing tools called StarEdit. The tools allowed for ordinary players to design and create custom maps, much like the included maps, for other players to play on. The expansiveness of the tools allowed for the creation of custom-maps that also differed greatly to normal maps in the way they play. Among the many custom-created maps, one known as Aeon of Strife (AoS), made by a modder known as Aeon64, became very popular.[2][3] Aeon64 has stated that he was trying to make an add-on with gameplay similar to that found in the Precinct Assault mode of Future Cop. In the Aeon of Strife map, players controlled a single powerful hero unit fighting amidst three lanes, though terrain outside these lanes were nearly vacant.[4]

In 2002, Blizzard released Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, with the accompanying Warcraft III World Editor. Both the MOBA and tower defense sub-genres took substantive shape within the WC3 modding community. A modder named Eul began converting Aeon of Strife into the Warcraft III engine, calling the map Defense of the Ancients (DotA). Eul substantially improved the complexity of play from the original Aeon of Strife mod. Shortly after creating the custom DotA map, Eul left the modding scene. With no clear successor, Warcraft III modders created a variety of maps based on DotA and featuring different heroes. In 2003, after the release of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, a map creator named Meian[1] created a DotA variant closely modeled on Eul's map, but combining heroes from the many other versions of DotA that existed at the time. Called DotA: Allstars, it was inherited after a few months by a modder called Steve "Guinsoo" Feak, and under his guidance it would become the dominant map of the competing genre. After more than a year of maintaining the DotA: Allstars map, with the impending release of an update that changed vastly the map layout, Guinsoo left the development to his adjutant Neichus in the year 2005.[1] After some weeks of development and some versions released, the latter turned over responsibility to a modder named IceFrog, that initiated large changes to the mechanics that deepened its complexity and capacity for innovative gameplay. The changes conducted by IceFrog were well-received and the number of users on the Dota: Allstars forum is thought to have peaked at over one million.[4]

By late 2008, the popularity of DotA had attracted commercial attention.[5] Minions was a game by The Casual Collective released in 2008 as a Web game using Flash.[6] Demigod, a video game developed by Gas Powered Games was the first stand-alone commercial title in the genre.[7][8] Riot Games' debut title, League of Legends, was initially designed by Feak and released in October 2009.[9][10] Riot began to refer to the game's genre as a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA).[11] Prior to this, these games were usually referred by the originating maps – as "an AoS", "DotA-style", "DotA-esque", "DotA-clone", "DotA-based", "DotA-like" or even simply "a DotA".[citation needed]

In May 2010, S2 Games released Heroes of Newerth, with a large portion of its gameplay and aesthetics based on DotA: Allstars.[12][13]

In October 2009, IceFrog, who continued to develop DotA: Allstars, was hired by Valve Corporation, in order to design a sequel to the original map.[4] A year later, Valve announced Dota 2 and subsequently secured the franchise's intellectual property rights,[14][15] after being contested by Riot Games for the DotA trademark.[16] Valve referred to Dota 2 and similar games as "action real-time strategy" games.[11]

At BlizzCon 2010, Activision Blizzard announced their entry to the genre with a Blizzard DOTA map for StarCraft II.[17][18] In May 2012, Blizzard announced that the project would be named "Blizzard All-Stars", after settling a trademark dispute with Valve over the usage of the DOTA trademark.[19] The project was eventually adapted to be a stand-alone multiplayer online battle arena game.[20] In October 2013 Blizzard changed the name of the game to Heroes of the Storm.[21] Blizzard has adopted their own personal dictation for their game's genre with "hero brawler", citing its orientating around action above role-playing elements.[22]


There are two opposing teams whose goal collectively as a team is generally to destroy their enemy's base to win,[23] though some games have the option of different victory conditions.[24] Typically, there is one main structure which must be destroyed to win, though destroying other structures within the opposing team's base may confer other benefits. Defensive structures are in place to prevent this, as well as relatively weak computer-controlled units which periodically spawn at each base and travel down predefined paths toward the opposing team's base.[25]

A player controls a single powerful in-game unit generally called a 'hero'. When a hero stands near a killed enemy unit or kills an enemy unit, it gains experience points which allow the hero to level up. When a hero levels up, they have the ability to learn more powerful skills and abilities. When a hero dies, they have to wait a designated time, which generally increases as they level up, until they revive at their base.[26]

Each player receives a small amount of gold per second from their base. Moderate amounts of gold are rewarded for killing hostile computer-controlled units and larger amounts are rewarded for killing enemy heroes. Gold is used by heroes to buy a variety of different items that range in price and impact. For the most part, this involves improving the combat viability of the hero, although there may be other items that support the hero or team as a whole in different ways.[27]

As the heroes of each team get stronger, they can use multiple strategies to gain an advantage. These strategies can include securing objectives, killing enemy heroes and farming gold by killing A.I. units. The stronger a team gets, the more capable they are at destroying the enemy team and their base.

Members of the genre do not generally feature several other elements traditionally found in real-time strategy games, notably base management, and army building. Some video games have certain heroes which control a few specialized units. The RPG genre has a much closer resemblance to the gameplay, only limited to an arena.


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  2. ^ a b c "History of DotA". Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
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  4. ^ a b c "Dota 2: A History Lesson". The Mittani. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Nguyen, Thierry (1 September 2009). "Clash of The DOTAs". Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  6. ^ Psychotronic (30 November 2008). "Minions". Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Lopez, Miguel (21 February 2008). "Demigod". Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
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  14. ^ "Valve Announces Dota 2". Valve Corporation. 19 October 2010. Archived from the original on 15 October 2010. 
  15. ^ Totillo, Stephen (13 October 2010). "Valve's New Game Is Dota 2". Kotaku. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
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  18. ^ Augustine, Josh (23 October 2010). "The first heroes in SC2's DOTA map". PCGamer. Archived from the original on 24 October 2010. 
  19. ^ Reilly, Jim (11 May 2012). "Valve, Blizzard Reach DOTA Trademark Agreement". Game Informer. 
  20. ^ Bramblet, Matthew (1 August 2013). "Diablo III Announcement Coming at Gamescon – Activision Blizzard Q2 2013 earnings report details the Blizzard All-Star progress and 'Project Titan' revamp". Diablo Somepage. Retrieved 19 October 2013. 
  21. ^ "Heroes of the Storm". Blizzard Entertainment. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
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