If you have been paying attention to the gaming trends over the past few years, you will know for a fact that MOBA games have overtaken MMORPGs in terms of popularity. This is why it’s no surprise how many companies have tried to get into the MOBA industry to develop their own game to compete with the big two titles—Valve’s Dota 2 and Riot’s League of Legends (LoL).
S2 Games is no stranger to this competition with its earlier MOBA game Heroes of Newerth (HoN), which was once part of the big three MOBA titles with LoL and Warcraft III (WC3) DotA, but didn’t quite make the cut when Dota 2 entered the fray. Now, S2 Games is looking at once again entering the MOBA fray with its “second-generation MOBA”, Strife. In a recent visit to the Philippines by S2 Games’ Chief Operating Officer (COO) Scott Valencia, he talked more about the future of Strife and its journey of steering away from the shadows of Dota 2 and LoL.
Strife as a MOBA game: the plan is to be the ball
Valencia made an interesting comparison of the MOBA genre to basketball. For basketball, the level of play is not dependent on the ball, but on who is playing it. Elementary students can play basketball using the same ball as NBA players use, but still play it on their own level and have as much fun as the pros do when they play for a crowd.
For MOBA games, however, Valencia notes that the opposite applies. Gamers are defined by the title they play. According to Valencia, Dota 2 players are mainly considered “hardcore” while LoL players are more “casual”. This is one thing that Strife is not trying to do. Whether gameplay is casual or hardcore is supposed to be decided by the player, not the game. Now of course this sounds nice, but how is Strife planning to do this? Valencia shares that the key is to listen to the playerbase and give them what they want. Instead of telling players how this game is played, give them freedom to play the game however they want.
In line with this, none of Strife’s heroes fit into one role. Instead, players are able to use these heroes according to their desired play style by crafting and enchanting items. Depending on how you customize an item, a hero may play the role of a support to a damage dealer to a tank when you need or want it to be.
You also have to select your hero first before queueing the game. Aside from reducing toxicity by not having to fight with other players over the hero you want to play, it also allows you to be matched with players who are just as skilled. If you’re playing Moxie for the first time, you won’t get matched with a person who has played a hundred games with Ace.
Strife as a competitive game: focusing on the smaller tournaments
ESports is also growing at a very impressive rate. Back then, players used to play for mousepads or bragging rights. Now, we have prize pools as big as $10.9 million in the recently concluded The International 2014 (TI4), which is what S2 Games is doing the opposite of. Instead of giving a giant prize pool to a small group of people, Strife’s tournament prize pools are going to be spread across smaller tournaments to give everyone a chance to be recognized at a game they’re good at.
In fact, S2 Games is planning for two world finals in a year. There will be one short season and one long season with finals held in different locations every year. Aside from this, S2 Games will also be hosting a tournament in the Philippines with a total prize pool of PhP 500,000 ($11,424.66) towards the end of 2014. There will be both online and LAN matches with players being able to “earn prizes as they go” up until the finals where the teams will compete for a grand prize of PhP100,000 ($2,274.54).
Strife venturing outside the shadows of LoL and Dota 2
At the end of the day and with what we know so far, Strife is still far from perfect, but at the same time, it is still a game under development. With that being said, there is still room for change and experiments. The idea of listening to your consumers is not entirely new, as Valve is a company known for the policy of “not competing with your customers” and based on what we’ve seen from the company so far, it works. The key here, however, is to figure out is sorting the good from the bad. After all, you can never satisfy everyone.
Strife’s ideas sound fresh and interesting. I’ve said before that you can’t approach Strife the same way you approach Dota 2 and LoL because you will end up looking for features that aren’t there. With that said, I don’t think Strife should be or is focusing to get Dota 2 and LoL’s audience and instead look at the players that these two games haven’t satisfied yet. This is one big reason why I think most MOBA games fail to make it in the industry: you can’t face Dota 2 and LoL head on by making a clone of it. Instead, you should make something new and different, but still within the genre. Blizzard understands this with Heroes of the Storm, but the question of “will it be enough” has yet to be answered.
With the strong impression that the big two have made in the MOBA industry, S2 Games has its work cut out. These two games have basically defined what people think MOBAs are supposed to be and Strife will be met by resistance to change. News of MOBA games failing to break the trend is nothing new, but should S2 Games succeed, it would be interesting to see what this could spell for the genre as a whole.
S2 Games hints on open beta, touraments, additional features, and a lot of other “exciting things” it has for Strife, but are saving it for a grand announcement sometime at the end of this month so make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news and updates. If you’re curious about Strife, you can create an account here and sign up for closed beta here.
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