MOBA Game General Guide

MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games are a genre of game where players typically control a single character on a team of players (usually 5 players per team) and compete against another team of players to see which team can destroy the other team’s main structure first.

These kinds of games are played on a match-by-match basis and usually don’t allow players to earn anything in the matches that would permanently strengthen the characters they play to keep the gameplay balanced. Instead, these games offer players the chance to buy new characters or purchase cosmetics that don’t affect the gameplay but give players the opportunity to customize their characters. Purchases are often made with an in-game currency earned by playing matches, or with a premium currency acquired through real money purchases.

Players wait in queues when they want to play a match, giving the game time to try to form opposing teams of players with comparable skill levels. Players can also form parties before joining queues to make sure they can play with their friends.

Once the queue is ready to match two teams of players they are brought into a pre-match lobby where players can choose their characters and discuss what roles they want to play to ensure they have a well-rounded team. Ranked versions of matches and esports tournament matches usually have ban phases to give teams a chance to ban the use of a character in a match. Banning is often used to give players the ability to balance the game and prevent opposing teams from having overpowered compositions. The smallest of changes to the game can make particular characters very effective, so ban phases are used to ensure these overly effective characters can’t be used. Picking characters alternates back and forth between teams, giving each team the chance to pick characters they want since the same characters usually aren’t allowed to be picked on opposing teams.

After everyone has selected a character in the pre-match lobby players can usually trade their characters to another teammate that can also play that character. This makes it so teams can pick high priority characters early on and give them to teammates that are better at using them. This also gives teams the ability to hide or save some of their character picks for later, preventing the enemy team from finding out what character is going to be playing what role.

Characters in the MOBA genre are often classified based on the role they fill and the abilities they have. These roles often include, but are not limited to:

  • Tank – In charge of being the frontline for team engagements and protecting allies.
  • Carry – In charge of becoming a late-game powerhouse, but usually has a slow start.
  • DPS – In charge of dealing heavy, consistent damage in team fights.
  • Jungler – In charge of sneak attacking enemy players and clearing neutral camps in the jungle.
  • Pusher – In charge of quickly clearing lanes of enemy minions and being the driving force behind sieging enemy objectives.
  • Support – In charge of making allies even more effective and protecting them in fights. Usually uses buffing skills or heals.

Character abilities usually consist of a set of frequently used abilities with low cooldowns, and an ultimate ability. Ultimate abilities are the strongest abilities a character possesses and can be used to change the tides of any battle.

Once a match begins players will start to implement their strategies to take out the enemy team’s main structure. Game maps in the MOBA genre often consist of lanes, or roads, between the opposing bases with jungles between the lanes. The lanes have other structures in them that need destroyed in a specific order (from the middle of the lane to the enemy base) before players can attack the main structure. The jungles are filled with neutral camps that have monsters or other creatures in them which can be killed for buffs, bonuses, experience, and more.

Minions are a staple of the MOBA genre, being non-player-controlled characters that spawn in waves in the team bases and march towards enemy structures. Minions will fight anything on the enemy team they encounter as they march towards the base, making them crucial to attacking team structures. Team structures often prioritize targeting and attacking minions before they attack players, giving players time periods to key in on and attacking enemy structures without being attacked. If a player attacks an enemy player within the targeting range of an enemy structure the structure will usually change its target to the attacking player.

Players will try to take out different enemy structures as they play, earning as much experience and match-oriented currency as possible (usually represented by gold). Earning experience will level-up players and enable them to unlock higher tiers of their character’s abilities. Match-oriented currency can usually be spent to purchase items back in a player’s respective base or at shops. Items are typically persistent or consumable in nature. Persistent items have a wide variety of effects on players like increasing their damage output, making them more hardy, or offering them extra active abilities they can use. Consumable items usually have charges that dictate a number of uses or are one-time-use items like potions or wards.

Wards are another staple of the MOBA genre and can be placed freely around the map to give a team vision of that area for a set amount of time, but there is often a limit on how many wards a team can be using at once. MOBA games tend to have a minimap that players can look at to see where allies and enemies are positioned, but they don’t give them full vision of it. Player vision is limited by ‘fog of war’, making it so they can’t see areas on the map without units or wards nearby.

As players take out enemy structures, they will eventually reach the deepest structure in a lane before the main structure. When destroyed this last tier structure usually grants the destroying team’s respective lane even stronger minions, making it easier for them to push their minion waves against enemy minion waves in that lane.

Finally comes the main structure in the base. Main structures are often the toughest structures to destroy, both because their stats make them the strongest and because they are harder to take a positional advantage against being so deep in the enemy base. Destroy the main structure and you win the game for your team!

Popular MOBA Terminology

There are many different terms used by MOBA players to abbreviate situations or terms that are persistent throughout the genre. Some of the most commonly shared terms are:

  • Duo Lane – The left or right most lane.
  • Mid Lane – The central lane.
  • Solo Lane – The left or right most lane, usually with the shortest lane distance between the first tier of opposing towers.
  • Creeps – Alternative name for minions or the non-player-controlled characters that march down lanes.
  • Burst/Nuke – Dealing a large amount of damage in a short amount of time.
  • Push – Becoming more aggressive to gain ground.
  • CC – Stands for ‘crowd control’. Typically abilities that inhibit an enemies ability to function like stuns or slows.
  • Peel – Using crowd control to stop a player from attacking another.
  • Lifesteal – A stat that makes it so players gain health back on attacks.
  • DPS – Stands for damage-per-second.
  • Gank – A sneak attack.
  • Glass cannon – Refers to character that is easy to kill, but deals high damage.
  • Squishy – Easy to kill.
  • Harassing/Poking – Aggressing on enemies with attacks to get them to play more defensively or retreat.
  • Juke – Using an ability or making any sort of move to intentionally avoid something.
  • AoE – Stands for ‘area-of-effect’. Used to refer to abilities or anything that effects a specific area.
  • Ult – Stands for ultimate. Refers to ultimate abilities.
  • CDR – Stands for ‘cooldown reduction’. Gaining cooldown reduction lowers the timer between uses of the same ability.
  • Snowball/Snowballing – Term used to refer to a situation where a player or team is getting stronger in a rapid, exponential fashion.
  • Missing/SS/Mia – Used to refer to when an enemy player goes missing from lane and the team member doesn’t know where they went.
  • “B”/Backing/Recalling – Used to tell team members someone is going back to the base to heal up or buy items.
  • Fog of War – The limited visibility of your units that prevents you from seeing things that aren’t nearby.
  • Minimap – A small representation of the game map, usually directly placed on the HUD.
  • Protections – The defensive stats of a unit.
  • Stealth – The concept of a unit turning invisible.
  • Ping – A visual and audible stimulus, usually displayed on a minimap, that players can make to alert teammates.