Would League be considered both an RTS and a MOBA?

I believe it falls into both categories. A colleague says it is not an RTS, but I disagree, as it does happen in real time.

I also believe strategy is required to be skilled at the game. So that covers all three letters of the acronym right?

  • 7
    RTS is the name of the category, not the description of it. Sure, all three words are part of the description, but there's more to RTS than just that. Also, categories such as these are more based on convention and similarity to other games previously categorized in it. As opposed to some ridgid definition.
    – DJ Pirtu
    Nov 9, 2015 at 8:36
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    Most DotA players I know would call a game similar to DotA as an ARTS (action real-time strategy) or ... a DotA-like
    – Fatalize
    Nov 9, 2015 at 8:52
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    Whenever somebody says RTS i think about Red Alert and Age of Empires. For me those are 100% RTS games. Nov 9, 2015 at 11:30
  • 4
    "Multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) refer to a genre of games with real-time strategy (RTS) gameplay but that do not have the resource collection or base/unit management of such games. In a MOBA, you typically control one avatar and are teamed with other players versus another team."
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 9, 2015 at 15:44
  • 1
    We have six answers in half a day. Many of the answers are not sourced, nor even have any backing beyond their own interpretations. That's a pretty good indicator that there's very little objectivity going on. What people define a game as is up for debate; we can tell you how it plays, but defining it tends to be a popularity contest.
    – Frank
    Nov 9, 2015 at 22:28

6 Answers 6


League of Legends is a MOBA as defined by Riot. The major difference between an RTS and a MOBA is, that an RTS allows control groups to play with multiple units at once, which is not possible in a MOBA. Therefore we can fit DotA and DOTA2 into the RTS genre, it has control groups and in general a lot more tactical possibilites due to unit control etc.

League of Legends only allows the control of one unit at a time. Champions like Annie and her Tibbers are still considered one unit as you never have full control of the bear, you can tell him where to go passively by pressing the R button and pointing your mouse, but your focus is still on Annie.

As I stated in the comments: MOBA and RTS are part of the strategy genre. Both have a lot in common but are not the same. The term MOBA was invented for League of Legends to define it better as it is not an RTS per se.

tldr; Biggest difference between MOBA and RTS: Unit control LoL: MOBA as you only control one unit

Alright, I am back from work an will reference a source to make everyone happy!

So let me first quote Wikipedia on what Real Time Strategy is:

Real-time strategy (RTS) is a subgenre of strategy video games where the game does not progress incrementally in turns.

The first part obviously does not make any differences between MOBA and RTS, but the second part:

In an RTS, as in other wargames, the participants position and maneuver units and structures under their control to secure areas of the map and/or destroy their opponents' assets.

Here we are talking about units, that means multiple - more than one. Let's keep going:

In a typical RTS, it is possible to create additional units and structures during the course of a game.

This works in some extend in League of Legends (remember my point about Annie and Tibbers?), but: If we take DotA as an example we have heroes like Natures Prophet or Enigma which allow you to create units on a regular basis for a small amount of resources/units and mana. You are able to select those units and have your focus on them, leaving your hero without control. You could even play the entire game as another unit by purchasing a Helm of the Dominator which allows you to take permanent control of a non-player-unit. This does not work in League of Legends. As said before: You can summon units like Tibbers, but you never gain complete control over them, everything you make them do happens passively. That is how League of Legends is designed -> keep it as simple as possible.

Now let's get to the point:

Though some game genres share conceptual and gameplay similarities with the RTS template, recognized genres are generally not subsumed as RTS games. For instance, city-building games, construction and management simulations, and games of the real-time tactics variety are generally not considered to be "real-time strategy".

This summarizes my answer: Even though the game has strategic aspects and is played in real-time, it is not an RTS.

  • 7
    RTS is already a genre, the umbrella term would be strategy. MOBAs are strategy games, but not RTS, as RTS relies on micro- and macromanagement of your units. MOBA and RTS are both strategy, but MOBA is no RTS. They have some aspects in common, but are still entirely different genres.
    – Marv
    Nov 9, 2015 at 11:18
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    This answer plays a bit loose with the defenitions and I'm not quite sure if you can make the distinction just based on the game having group control mechanics. However, I fear this is as good of an answer we can get to this question.
    – DJ Pirtu
    Nov 9, 2015 at 11:44
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    There's a lot more differences between a MOBA and a RTS than what is stated here. I feel this answer, while true, is far from giving enough information on both type to really understand what's the key differences between them. Nov 9, 2015 at 12:43
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    @Marv No, that's untrue. There's missions in RTS which makes you play single unit... There's a lot more to say on why they're different. Nov 9, 2015 at 13:09
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    Your comment about tibbers is wrong, you have 100% control of him by holding the alt key, you can micro him around and auto attack whoever you want
    – Stephan
    Nov 9, 2015 at 18:27

While League of Legends might be Realtime and a Strategy game, it is not necessarily of the genre RTS. The reason is RTSs mostly involve controlling multiple units to gather resources, build structures and engage in combat. However, League of Legends (and similar games such as DotA and Heroes of the Storm) empathise the control of a single unit, with no controllable structures. MOBA/ARTS has a extreme focus on micro-management and optimization of that single unit (except in isolated cases like DotA's Nature's Prophet, or HotS' Viking).

Another point to consider is that while RTS do allow extensive team play, it is not necessary to categorically coordinate every member of the team to have a effective composition. While on ARTS/MOBA, you are required to estabilish roles and coordinate upgrade acquisition (be it items, spells, whatever).

However, MOBA being a term invented by a vendor, we can't define much without requesting a expanded definition of the term to Riot Games. We can, however, try to dissect its naming, and compare to similar titles:

  • The M and O letters, acronym to Multiplayer Online, just denote the required online play aspect.
  • Battle regards the fact that most of the game is constant offensive, without huge "cold war" periods.
  • Arena might be interpreted as a consistent, "sports" environment, with objectives and rules that wouldn't be present on a usual RTS. (e.g. the fact that you must destroy lane buildings sequentially)

Comparing to the rival games' self-claimed genres, we see ARTS (Action-RTS), on DotA, and "online hero brawler" on HotS.

  • DotA just took the RTS genre and sticked "Action" to it, mostly because the means to accomplish the same tasks of a RTS are different. They didn't call themselves a MOBA because it was a Riot term, and because mechanically there is a little more diversity on unit control (many heroes can actually control multiple units actively, including spells), so effectively DotA is closer to an RTS than its competitors.

  • Heroes of the Storm claims to be a brawler, because even though the goal is ultimately the same as its competitors, there is much less room for resource strategy (no last hits, no items, only buffs and spell upgrades), which makes it a more straightforward game, but balanced by map objectives. The focus of the game is mostly map control, but without resource control. Taking down structures is more like a side effect of a good map control.


Taking this from a different angle than other answers, if all you're focusing on is the acronym - Real-Time Strategy - then it applies to a lot of different games in a wide variety of genres.

Call of Duty happens in real-time, and requires strategy. Battlefield happens in real-time, and requires strategy. World of Warcraft happens in real-time, and requires strategy. You could make similar arguments for sports games, racing games, action games, dungeon crawlers, hack-and-slash, rogue-like games - the list goes on.

  • +1 for a different perspective... but I think hack and slash games require little if any strategy.
    – hellyale
    Nov 9, 2015 at 16:02
  • Well, that is exactly my point, having real-time combat and strategic aspects does not make a game to an RTS game, there is more to that.
    – Marv
    Nov 9, 2015 at 16:41

TL, DR : While you could say a MOBA is a RTS, it doesn't include a lot of things a typical RTS does. It's a real time strategy game but in the strict definition of the term and doesn't fit very well in the RTS games genre. Here I'm saying it's a game being play in real time needing strategy but it far from being a RTS type of game. Read below to understand my reasoning.

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, aka MOBA, or action real-time strategy (ARTS), takes place in a pre-defined arena between 2, or more, teams.

The focus of a MOBA is to take down a central building (called nexus in Lol, Core in Heroes of the storm...) of the other team, which is within a base defended by various type of buildings (depending of the game). The usual arena include 3 "lanes" where minions go down in wave to the other team. They are variants with more or less lanes (Twisted Tree in Lol for example).

In a MOBA, you usually control one character for the whole game. That character gains experience by killing minions, neutral champions and enemy champions. With the experience, it levels up and gain more power and abilities. Their might not be neutral minions in all MOBA.

There's more to MOBA but that's the core of what makes a MOBA.

Real Time Strategy, aka as RTS, the focus of the game depends, usually, on the mission you have to complete. There's too much different missions possible to be listed here but, can include, gathering X amount of resources in a certain time, kill X amount of units, take control of Y locations on the map, clear the maps from all enemies, stay alive for Z minutes, etc.

In a typical RTS, you gather resources, build a base, build units and take on your mission. Some RTS focus on each of those 3 aspects differently even leaving one or two only to the player control. Some mission type also focus on one or two of those aspects only.

You can play a RTS alone, in single player mode which often includes a story mode and a player vs AI mode. You can also play multiplayer online or LAN.

You can play alone in a MOBA to practice but you'll never really play a MOBA game alone as a team includes more than one champion. In the past year (or 2), AI have been introduced in Lol (don't know about other MOBA) which makes it possible but it is mainly seen as practice than actually playing the game as defined by the MOBA genre. Some MOBA games offer LAN play, not all of them.

The focus of each game is obviously different. In a MOBA, the focus never change from a game to the other while in a RTS, the mission you play guides the focus.

There's many differences I've not covered but I think that's enough to see why both are different from each others.

  • DotA and DotA 2 can be played on LAN.
    – Kroltan
    Nov 9, 2015 at 13:55

Well, I guess you could technically call LoL a RTS, but that name in and of itself is something of a misnomer.

The problem is a perception that tactics and strategy are synonymous, which isn't true. Tactics are lower level, how do I accomplish this specific goal? Most video games have some level of tactics, especially cooperative ones. FPSs, MMORPGs, MOBAs and RTSs are all good examples of tactics at play. Yes, RTS games tend to be much heavier on tactics, with strategy generally nonexistent in the game itself (meta gaming to beat a tournament opponent psychologically or choosing a build beforehand based on his/her history are examples of strategy).

Strategy is a theatre-level plan to complete a general objective. TBSs are the only genre can think off of the top of my head that really demonstrates strategy as gameplay. In Civilization, for example, wars don't come down to battles, it's about the choice and placement of units. There's very little variation in the actual fight that will effect the outcome. A skilled player knows exactly how the battles will turn out by looking at how the units are arrayed. Additionally, true strategy games tend to have flexible goals. Most have several win conditions, as opposed to "kill more guys than anyone else", or "blow up the nexus."

As to the question of "are MOBAs RTSs?", my gut says no. You focus solely on controlling your character to the exclusion of most everything else. Champ select and bans are certainly strategy, but controlling one unit is arguably not even tactics. It certainly requires knowledge and skill to do well, absolutely, but it's not strategy.

  • Great example with civilization
    – hellyale
    Nov 9, 2015 at 17:13

RTS is the name of the genre of games descended from Dune 2. (Its ancestors, such as Empire, would be the ancestor of both Civilization and Starcraft).

Dune 2 begat Warcraft, which begat Starcraft. (and a myriad of other games: Red Alert, C&C, TA, AoE, etc).

DotA and LoL are two different games that descended from Warcraft 3. They took the RTS engine and used it to create a battle arena game where you mainly control one hero.

The typical distinguishing pattern of the genre, as opposed to an RTS, is that your main character levels up, gains abilities, selects modifications. You have streams of AI-controlled dumb minions that besiege the other base, and static defences that each side attempts to destroy.

In effect, the genre consists of the "hero units" of Warcraft 3 fighting each other, with added complexity in that unit, and less complexity elsewhere in the game.

The words used in a genre's name do not define the genre. Real Time Strategy is the words in RTS, but not all games that are Real Time Strategies would fall within the genre RTS.

MOBA/A-RTS/Online Hero Brawler are just various names for a genre that has its own patterns and is distinct from an RTS.

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