The carpal tunnel connecting Herzog Zwei and Defense of the Ancients

, | Games

MOBA is a term that’s becoming more popular in gaming, but how many know what it means and where it comes from? Quite a few I’m sure, but for those that might not know this article is for you. However, I guess we should take a minute to talk about what the hell a MOBA is and what does it have to do with gaming.

After the jump, the Arcane History of MOBA

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or MOBA for short, is a type of game that has its roots in Warcraft III though the concept can be traced back quite a few years. In this game type, each team has a base that they protect while minions, often referred to as creep, stream forth to attack the enemies base and troops. The players control champions that fight in these arenas and have varied powers depending on the character selected. As the game goes forward, these champion level up and assign points to their skills in order to become more powerful. They can also shop at certain places on the map to buy upgraded gear with gold earned through gameplay.

The champions gain gold by killing minions, enemy champions or enemy buildings. The player that scores the final killing blow gains the credit and gold for the fight, while all characters involved gain experience and a lesser amount of gold. When a champion dies, she goes back to her base and is put on a timer, one that’s dependent on level, for when they can respawn. The game ends when one team pushes into the others base and destroys their fortress. Sounds complex? It can be. It’s funny how some of the most in-depth and complex experiences have humble beginnings. So, let’s discuss the MOBA legacy. Where to begin? Oh yeah, the beginning.

The logical point is to go back through strategy games and show the legacy that led to the creation of the first, fully dedicated MOBA game and how it spawned. However, that’s a lot of work for very little payoff, so we’re going to hit the high points. The beginning of this tale has to start with Herzog Zwei, a strategy game for the Genesis. Well, saying it’s a strategy game for the Genesis isn’t really doing it the justice it deserves. Herzog Zwei is often credited with the creation of the RTS genre, and rightly so, as it had all the traits that made the genre what it is today. However, more specifically, you can trace MOBA a bit back to here.

You see, in Herzog Zwei, you controlled a mechanized tank thing that used resource management and unit control to fight enemies. You commanded and queued these units from the mech, so it gave you a physical presence other than an all-seeing overlord. In this way, the MOBA game type is similar to the play of Herzog Zwei. Though this can’t be directly connected with the styled used in Defense of the Ancients, it’s a similarity that can’t be ignored.

A condensed version of this short history would lead us to Dune II by Westwood that popularized the RTS game type. Then we would wander into Command & Conquer, etc, but those aren’t necessary for our particular inquiry. We are only interested in the MOBA games, so we skip ahead to Warcraft III.

Warcraft III had a robust modding community, and that’s where DotA was born. A mapper named Eul made the first version of DotA for the base Warcraft III game. Eul stopped updating the map and when Frozen Throne came out, the expansion for Warcraft III, the map needed an update. A few spinoffs of the original DotA started, but the one that took hold was DotA Allstars led by Steve “Guinsoo” Feak.

To have a place for the growing community, Steve “Pendragon” Mescon created the DotA Allstars site and administered the forum. At one point, the forums for DotA Allstars had 1.5 million registered users. In May of 2009, Mescon shut down the site due to dwindling visitors and the need to spend more time on his new project, League of Legends.

Guinsoo updated DotA for Frozen Throne and added a few new features such as making more powerful items through recipes and the boss monster Roshan. Feak continued to develop DotA Allstars until he began work on League of Legends. At this point he handed development of DotA to Abdul “Icefrog” Ismail with the release of the 6.01 version of the map.

DotA is still being developed at this time, with the release 6.72F in July of this year. However, Ismail was hired by Valve to work on DotA 2. DotA 2 is in closed beta and expected to launch next year.