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Comparing MOBAs

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1 Comparing MOBAs on Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:38 am


This is my first thread on this forum and I want to briefly compare MOBAs in terms of gameplay complexity.

For your information I tend to play MOBAs a lot. I play Dota 2 almost every day and have about 1500 hours in it thus far which is more than any other game I've ever played with the sole exception being (my somewhat guilty pleasure) Runescape.

I have much less time in League of Legends (less than 100) much of which I blame on Riot's UI being god-awful. However I have many friends that play LoL and I've clocked hundreds of hours watching LoL games.

Take these credentials for what you will. The comparison here is based on a video I made for Youtube about a year ago where I compare the two games in terms of complexity:

The video is 2 hours long, and it was one of the first ones I made so it's a little primitive, but if you want to watch it go ahead.

To make one thing absolutely clear: I am not trying to offend anyone. People are oft times too emotionally attached to what someone thinks of their MOBA. I am merely trying to analyze the facts.

Why are the facts important? Because by knowing the facts we can have an accurate and nuanced view about the merits and flaws of the game we love.

I invite anyone to comment and share their own views on these games' mechanics.

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2 Dota 2 vs League of Legends on Wed Jun 24, 2015 2:33 am

For argument's sake I would suggest for people to try both to get a feel for the difference between the two.

So theres 3 main areas where to compare the two games: hero(champ) abilities, itemplay, map and environment

Hero Abilities:

So in my video I try to explain this idea of opportunity cost. This is a concept in economics that evaluates the cost of every decision you make by evaluating the possible benefits that you give up by making a certain decision.

Heroes in Dota and LoL both have abilities, but the LoL champs have LOW opprotunity cost (OC) abilities, whereas Dota heroes have HIGH OC abilities. The difference between the two is evidenced by stuff like mana cost and cool down, an ability with high OC has high cooldown and mana cost, and low OC is the opposite.

LoL having LOW OC abilities is ubiquitous throughout the game. Many champs have spammable abilties, or abilities that can and are cast fairly often. More or less every champ has abilities that can be used for farming and pushing lanes (AOE). Most abilities in LoL also do some amount of damage rather than simply having a crowd controlling effect.

Many abilities are skill shots that can be spammed at creeps or thrown wildly at enemy heroes in the hopes of landing hits. LoL also has a lot of cooldown reduction and low CD spells.

One of the reasons the game needs to have lots of spammable spells is because of AP carries. AP carries are champs that do damage by casting spells rather than right clicking. The purpose of a carry is to do a lot of continuous damage, very quickly. For a caster to be a carry he needs to be able to cast spells frequently to do lots of continuous damage - which is exactly what AP carries do.

The prevalence of AP carries and cd reduction reduces the OC of abilities and in effect streamlines many of the champions and their abilities. The prevalence of nuking abilities also adds to the streamlining.

Now the streamlining isn't necessarily a bad thing. It makes the game easier to learn and easier for new players to get into the game. The drawback is it reduces the game's complexity and depth.

By contrast in Dota OC of abilities is very high. If you throw a stun and miss, you are screwed. Missing abilities in Dota is disastrous almost immediately and has great ramifications later in the game since traveling around the map isn't as easy as heroes don't have Recall.

In Dota it feels like every little decision that you make has serious effects later in the game. This is both a good and bad thing since if you make a bad decision it compounds your failure and makes it harder to come back. However the good thing about this is it adds to the game's depth because it means you have to seriously stop and consider every single decision. The game becomes a giant thinking exercise - a test of whether or not you can be aware of many variables at once.

Dota heroes feel like they divide up labour. Each hero feels unique and has a play style that is totally unique from literally every other hero in the game (to a point) as opposed to streamlined. For this reason every hero has a very specific role when juxtaposed with the team that hero is on. This is different in league where every champ belongs to a pool of other champs that fulfill a certain task - for instance Tanks.

Dota also has a whole range of abilities that LoL either doesnt hav at all or has very little of. Dota has a whole range of illusion spells, summonable units, debuff effects, and unique passives that don't do damage that makes it's ability pool feel more diverse.

I could go into more detail and talk about attributes, but then I'd go on for pages and pages. The gist is that the hero pool in Dota feels more diverse whereas in LoL champs fall into a few streamlined categories.


Itemplay in LoL is kind of simplistic. It features about 180-ish items last I checked, but from what I can tell the items aren't that relevant.

People who have played both games seem to universally agree that itemplay in Dota is far more nuanced and game changing. The reason for this is that items not only boost stats, but have active effects as well.

From what I've seen itemplay in Dota (120ish items) is incredibly complicated and changes from one game to the next. There are build orders for some heroes, but many times the optimal item build in a given game can vary tremendously from one game to the next and depends very much on the heroes you're up against.

In LoL the itemplay seems fairly static and I have yet to see a case where the acquisition of a given item totally changes how the game goes.

Part of the reason why the itemplay might be more interesting in Dota could be because heroes in Dota have attributes (str, agi, int) on top of base stats (dmg, attack speed, mov speed, armor etc.) whereas LoL champs only have items based on base stats.

Map and Environment

This one is fairly simple.

The LoL map is smaller than the Dota 2 map and also features creeps, altho the creeps don't have their own abilities and cannot be mind controled, ie microed.

The Dota map has destructible trees and terrain which makes the way fog of war works a little more interesting. It also has high vs low ground vision, creep camp stacking, creep camp pulling, runes, ancient creeps, and secret shops in the jungle where some rare items are sold.

In essence theres a lot of features that LoL doesn't have. I could go into greater detail, but it would take time if you don't already know the game.

There's not much more to say about this one. The LoL engine from what I know is less powerful, but Dota is in Source (soon to be remade in Source 2).


I think it's fairly objective that in terms of complexity Dota 2 blows LoL out of the water. Whether this is a good or bad thing can depend on the player.

The drawbacks of Dota 2 is that it is hard to learn, unforgiving, has a horrible community (imo), worthless tutorial system, basically unplayable unless you're willing to invest aeons of time.

The drawbacks of LoL I'd say is that is a much shallower game and gets to the point of pandering to new players and making the game easier for their benefit. I also think it panders with fanservicey character models, but maybe I'm just a prude.

If you don't lack fortitude, have friends to play with, and are willing to put up with the swirling maelstrom of horror that is the Dota 2 experience then you will probably end up enjoying it more than LoL.

If you want fan service and cool skins (cuz dota doesnt have them) and a game where you can feel like a badass pulling off a combo then play LoL.

If you just want to relax in your hobbit hole after a hard day's work then I suggest you play Heroes of the Storm or Smite Very Happy!

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3 Re: Comparing MOBAs on Wed Jun 24, 2015 3:03 pm

Why does this exist? For like seven years people have been saying what you just said. Why does it matter what game people enjoy? I have never played lol,  but still, why the hell can't people just play their own game and enjoy it? Why did you just, out in open air, with no conversational precedence, bring this up at all?

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4 Re: Comparing MOBAs on Wed Jun 24, 2015 3:46 pm

Conversational precedence? There was some conversational precedence on the stream. People saying things for years isn't relevant. Many of the games people talk about here have been played and discussed and over-discussed for decades.

I read a thread by Zgoten where he talked about his experiences playing the GBA metroid games.

There's little discussion of MOBAs on this forum. I may not have been in a conversation with you, but did I need to be in order to have "conversational precedence" to post this?

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5 Re: Comparing MOBAs on Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:33 pm

Why does almost any thread get started if thats the case fearsome? I personally find this useful if I ever play one of the games and find it interesting to know a bit more about one of my hobbies. As for actual players may think, I can't say, but I'm sure a back and forth about the points would be interesting and maybe beneficial to throse involved. I take anything like this as an opportunity to enthuse about gaming, I wouldn't take it as an attack in any way. As for your other point; critique might make people see fault in their prefered game, but it also might help them see why they like it in the first place.

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