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I've lately heard the term Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) used as a video game genre. The Wikipedia entry redirects to the "Defense of the Ancients" genre, hinting that this is used exclusively to describe DotA-like games (e.g. creeps, lanes, heroes, towers etc. etc.)

However, I've also seen this term used to describe games that deviate further away from DotA (in my opinion) such as Monday Night Combat or Bloodline Champions (here's one source, though I've seen other places where these games are mentioned as MOBAs).

So, what exactly does MOBA mean? What are the characteristics of MOBA games?

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Been asking the same question since I started playing LoL – camiloqp May 30 '11 at 15:40
    
Hmm, "Multiplayer Online Battle Arena" sounds like it would cover something like the multiplayer minigames in Dead Rising 2. – Matthew Read May 30 '11 at 15:41
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It sounds like a catch all term turned genre to mark the popular gaming style that doesn't fall into RTS, MMORPG, or FPS. Has anyone referred to TF2 this way? Great question! – Robb May 30 '11 at 15:44
    
@Robb - I think you have the right of it, though TF2 is strictly a class-based FPS. – Raven Dreamer May 30 '11 at 16:24

There is not a clear definition of MOBA out there, so let's define it.

MOBA is a genre definition for multi-player games where not only two parties struggle for resources or attack/defend, but each party/person is against all others in a confined space, therefore the term arena.

Battle arenas in real terms had a pre-defined resource collection: Multiple entry points for opponents, and spread out in the arena, weapons and shields.

Loosely defined, one can see it as a mixture of RTS/RPG and Free-for-all deathmatch, the emphasis is in some games on the former part (DoTA-type games) and in others on the latter (Monday Night Combat).

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+1 for "There is not a clear definition of MOBA". – Raven Dreamer May 30 '11 at 16:23
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Won't that also cover games such as Quake (in multiplayer mode) and Team Fortress? – Oak May 30 '11 at 16:24
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Multiplayer shooters (Unreal Tournament, Quake, Battlefield Series, etc.) are too haeavy on the shooter side and don't need much battle strategy other than proper map control and timing. Team Fortress Arena mode, maybe. Still a bit weak on the resource management side. – DrFish May 30 '11 at 16:30
    
MOBA is just DoTA-type as far as I can tell. LoL like to call it MOBA rather than DoTA-type to build brand differentiation from DoTA2, etc. – Nick Jul 24 '12 at 14:52
    
I'm a little confused by the "free-for-all" deathmatch reference. I didn't play LoL much, but I played Monday Night Combat a LOT, and I don't recall anything resembling FFA DM in either. – DCShannon Mar 1 at 21:53

A MOBA will usually have the following:

  • Creeps: AI that you get "money" for killing

  • Heroes: Playable characters that have something that makes them different from other Heroes

  • Ancient: A "base" that each team has one of and the objective is to kill your opponents'

  • Resources: Upgrades and consumables bought from the "money" earned from killing creeps

  • Limited amount of Arenas: Games do not stress map knowledge, but instead resource usage

With that said, the term MOBA is a bit like saying MMO. The acronym is very general but has a specific connotation. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena could mean just about any online shooter, but it really doesn't. They are games that involve high amounts of strategy and team work over "thumb skill." There can be some deviation over where the strategy lies, like between DotA 2 and Monday Night Combat. DotA is all about resources, you have very little control over your Hero's movement. You tell him/her where to go and what creep to whack. You spend more time looking at your inventory, store, and cool downs. Monday Night Combat seems to be (never played it) more about character movement with power ups being second. Bloodline Champions (again never played it so I could be wrong) seems to a third person shooter with a MOBA feel, but not truly a MOBA.

Games like Quake and TF2 (since you mentioned them) is all about "thumb skill" and map knowledge. The faster reaction times you have, knowledge of "rat lanes" (paths everyone takes), and the skill of knowing where people's heads will be the better you would do at regular shooters.

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+1, but I think changing "always" to "usually" in the first line would be a big improvement to this answer. As you say, the acronym is very general. For example, MNC characters are less like heros, and more like classes. There were also several maps, and map knowledge was somewhat useful on a few of them. – DCShannon Mar 1 at 21:55
    
@DCShannon That's why I did say "limited amount" and "stress." You can benefit from knowing where certain monsters are in DotA's arena, but its not as essential as knowing where the blueberries are always going to come from in other shooters. Unless I'm mistaken, which I could be, you can't customize MNC's heroes. A class you can customize. So TF2's classes may be better described as heroes. – LegoNinja39 Mar 1 at 22:05
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It looks like the classes have been expanded and are more like heroes now. They're called 'pros'. Originally there were just six, and they didn't even have names. Just Assault, Support, Assassin, Tank, Gunner, Sniper. None of that changes my main point about 'always' versus 'usually', though. It's a bit of a fuzzy definition, so 'always' is going to lead to trouble. – DCShannon Mar 1 at 22:16
    
OK, I'll change it. I could see the Internet getting sassy about it. Thanks for the suggestion. – LegoNinja39 Mar 1 at 22:18

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