Visit League of Legends’ EU West shard at its peak on your average day, and you’ll find about 500,000 players at play. It would be the stuff of madness to then shout over the din: “Hey! You lot only think you’re enjoying yourselves. Just you wait until the genre grows up!”
But it’s Dave Cerra’s job to shout over the din. As lead producer on EA MOBA Dawngate, he’s tasked with working out where the most popular eSports genre in PC gaming is going next. He told Machinima: “When I look at where MOBA is it reminds me of where shooters were in the mid-’90s”.
“I don’t think we really know what a perfect MOBA is yet,” said lead producer Dave Cerra. “Because we’ve seen a lot of similarities in design. [In mid-‘90s shooters] there was a lot of recreation of design over and over again, and then the genre just exploded - larger maps and larger team sizes, vehicles and verticality, all these different dimensions came into gameplay.
“I feel like that’s where MOBA is right now.”
And where might MOBAs be in six months’ time, a year, or in the Korean hyperspace internet cafes of the distant future? Somewhere closer to where they started, if Waystone Games have anything to do with it.
“I’m interested in some of the RTS roots of MOBAs,” creative director Hunter Howe elaborated. “In our game we have economy nodes and territory control gameplay that’s a little bit different than other MOBAs while still trying to keep the core of what’s fun about the MOBA.”
Dawngate’s economy nodes are spots on the map called Spirit Wells. They produce harvesters over time and provide income for your team, used to buy items and increase your power. However, enemies can engage in economy line harassment by killing your workers if they’re unattended, or even take control of the well and bring in extra income for their own side.
They sound like a brave invention in a genre not exactly smitten by the idea of change. Do you think the risk will pay off for EA’s new MOBA outfit? If you sign up for the Dawngate beta before it begins this Friday, there's a chance you'll be able to find out for yourself.