Comment & Opinion

I hate MOBAs (but I love Vainglory)

One man's first steps into eSports

I hate MOBAs (but I love Vainglory)

I remember when League of Legends came out, and the subsequent loss of my entire friendship circle to a video game I had absolutely no interest in.

"Come play, Ric," they said, "it's a great game, you'll love it."

But I didn't.

With only three matches under my belt, I began deliberately losing to annoy my team so that they would stop asking me to play. It worked spectacularly.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

I've been trying to ignore the MOBA since then, but thanks to the success of DotA 2, HotS, and the aforementioned LoL, it's become increasingly difficult.

The lack of variation in maps (as in, there is only one map) and the pre-determined "builds" that fans of the games tell you to follow devoutly or die turned me off completely.

It almost seemed to me like a zero-player gamer – you can determine the outcome based on which team picks which characters, because everyone's going to play them exactly the same way.

This is, of course, a fallacy. There is a lot of skill involved in playing a MOBA well, as is evidenced by watching even a snippet of footage from a tournament.

But even so, as a genre, it completely alienates me.

If you can't beat them...

So it's with no small amount of surprise that I find myself grabbing my tablet at least once a night to have a game of Vainglory, probably the biggest - and certainly the best-funded - MOBA available on mobile.

It's with no small amount of surprise that I find myself grabbing my tablet to have a game of Vainglory.

I hadn't planned to. I rail against eSports and the culture surrounding it, the regimented ways of playing games, the battles for legitimacy that proponents of eSports fight amongst physical sports.

But as 2016 dawned on us, and eSports only looks set to be getting bigger and bigger, it became obvious that I had to finally succumb and try it out for myself.

Vainglory seemed like the most obvious choice. Super Evil Megacorp's MOBA has hit over a million monthly viewers on Twitch, and is steadily gaining traction in the tournament scene.

If ever there was a game to get in on the ground floor of the mobile eSports scene with, it was going to be this.

A slow burner

I was initially skeptical. It felt a lot like League of Legends, with its vast array of characters, huge web of items to buy, and jungle area to explore and die in.

I scoffed a little at there being only one lane. How was I supposed to sneakily start attacking my opponent's base if I had to battle my way through one set path?

But as I played, I actually took to the streamlined approach. I started working out when certain events would happen in the jungle, and when the right time to buy items was.

I looked at guides online to determine my best build for my chosen character, and worked out ways to best position myself to wipe out the competition with little effort.

And now, here I am, itching to stop writing this article and sink another half hour into a game and try to improve some more.

Touchy-feely

There's three things that I think set Vainglory apart from other MOBAs for me: the touch controls, the communication, and the Kraken.

The touch controls are a joy to use. Tapping around the place couldn't be simpler, and setting up special moves is simply a case of two taps instead of one.

If someone's unhappy with me, they just send me a sad face, and I carry on ignoring them.

You can even plan your move well ahead of time by placing one finger on the minimap, which jumps your view to anywhere on the map, and tapping to where you want to be.

It makes the game a little easier to sit back from and take your time with, rather than having to plan every microsecond ahead of time.

;)

Communicating with others is done entirely with emojis and waypoint markets, negating a lengthy, distracting chat bar filled with people calling me an idiot.

Instead, if someone's unhappy with me, they just send me a sad face, and I carry on ignoring them and stealing their kills for my own monetary benefit.

And the Kraken, which appears fifteen minutes into a match and can give even a heavily losing team a new competitive edge, is a fascinating mechanic.

Kraken is a fascinating mechanic.

You need your whole team there to take it down, and even then a member of your opposing team can swoop in at the last second, land the final hit, and claim all of your hard work for their own.

It adds a whole new element to proceedings, and, particularly in the early level casual matches I'm languishing in, gives you a nice edge over people who seem not to notice that it's there as a viable option.

Baby steps

Of course, I'm no expert on the game. I lose far more often than I win, usually because of poor communication with my team, who ignore all my waypoints and run off into the jungle to get killed.

And the regimented way of playing has started to rear its ugly head, as I start to look around on the online communities for hints and tips on how to improve.

Apparently it's considered poor form to choose your character quickly, because you're supposed to be polite and let others have a chance of choosing them? What a load of pish.

Telling people how to play games detracts from people find their own enjoyment, and while it's annoying when people play as your main, it just means you have to adapt to new playstyles and learn new things about the game.

But I can ignore this for now. After all, I'm just a mewling kitten in the world of MOBAs. I won't be joining any guilds or teams anytime soon, and it's a long time until I'll be ready to enter a tournament.

That said, who knows? Maybe when mobile eSports really takes off, as almost all of us are predicting, I'll be one of the big names on the scene.

Actually, no. I don't think I would enjoy that at all.

Editor

Ric is the Editor of PocketGamer.biz, having started out as a Staff Writer on the site back in 2015. He received an honourable mention in both the MCV and Develop 30 Under 30 lists in 2016 and refuses to let anyone forget about it.

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