Not So Massively: Behind the scenes of MOBA development

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Diablo III's patch 1.0.5 launched this week, bringing in a brand-new Monster Power system and the Infernal machine endgame event. Upcoming action RPG Path of Exile announced that it will begin open beta in December, complete with a full three acts of content and a PvP arena system.

In MOBA news, League of Legends announced details of its massive Halloween update with new icons, ward skins, and brand-new transforming champion Elise, the Spider Queen. Heroes of Newerth's new competitive league was delayed this week due to technical difficulties, and SMITE revealed its newest God Freya, Queen of the Valkyries.

Dota 2 players came up with some surprising results on the most effective team compositions by analysing the details of 39,626 matches, and Wrath of Heroes released its new Garden of Morr scenario. Upcoming MOBA Prime World revealed details of its Outpost game mode in which two teams escort huge battle robots toward each other. And Monolith Studios gave us our second peek behind the scenes of development on upcoming console MOBA Guardians of Middle-earth.

Diablo III title image
Diablo III's Patch 1.05 is now live, bringing with it a brand-new Monster Power system and the Infernal Machine endgame event. Monster Power lets players scale the game's difficulty up in exchange for better rewards, ensuring players never reach a point at which the game loses its challenge. Following last week's Monster Power reveal, this week Blizzard announced full details of the Infernal Machine event.

The Infernal Machine is a device that opens a portal to one of three Realms of Pure Evil, where you can fight powerful new Uber versions of six of the game's bosses. King Leoric and Magdha have joined forces to defend the Royal Crypts; Ghom and Rakanoth guard the Larder; and Zoltun Kulle joins the Siege Breaker at the Edge of the Abyss. To build the Infernal Machine, players must first collect keys from three Keywarden elite monsters located in Acts 1, 2, and 3.

The new bosses drop body parts that can be used to build a new Hellfire Ring with some impressive stats, but players were surprised this week to learn that it's not possible to trade the ring. Since the ring has four random stats and can roll any primary attribute, you'll have to spend a lot of time farming to get one appropriate for your build.

Path of Exile title image
Upcoming action RPG Path of Exile announced this week that it will begin open beta this December before transitioning into full release as a free-to-play game. Open beta will include the release of the game's third act packed full of content, a full PvP arena system, and regular beta events like competitive weekend ladders.

League of Legends title image
As the $2,000,000 US World Championship tournament draws to a close this week, Riot Games suddenly stepped up its game with the announcement of a ton of new content due for release this Halloween. The upcoming Shadow Isles patch will introduce not just a new champion but also four new Halloween-themed skins, spooky new summoner icons, and skins for your wards.

The new champion is Elise, the Spider Queen, a character first developed as a concept over three years ago. Developers really wanted to do justice to the Spider Queen persona and found her to be too challenging to build. With recent game updates, Riot has finally managed to build Elise the way it wanted: as a nightmarish mage who can transform into a huge, terrifying spider.

Elise is a capable mage in human form, able to deal consistent damage and readying a spiderling with each spell cast. When she transforms into spider form, Elise becomes a deadly assassin able to chase down and kill lone champions with ease. Spider form grants Elise bonus movement speed, armour, and magic resistance and releases the prepared spiderlings to fight with her.

Heroes of Newerth title image
Heroes of Newerth's all-inclusive HoN Tour tournament aimed at getting everyone from newbies to professional gamers involved was delayed this week due to server difficulties. Some matches had already taken place and will have their results discounted when the tournament goes live again on Saturday, October 27th.

Dota 2 title image
The debate over what makes an effective MOBA team composition has been raging since the original DotA was released, and with new MOBAs being released every year, it's not going to be over any time soon. This week Reddit user KjellJagland turned the power of statistical analysis onto the problem as he examined the win to loss ratios of different team compositions in Dota 2. He draws some interesting conclusions that fly in the face of convention, such as Agility heroes performing badly and teams with fewer carries actually winning more matches.

The results have been called into question, however, as there are no error bars on the statistics and only 39,626 matches were sampled. The team compositions with the highest win percentages represent only a fraction of a percent of the matches sampled. With as few as 50-100 matches in the most impressive categories, a single professional team practising a particular team composition could easily throw off the results. It's unlikely that most of these results are statistically significant, but they may cast doubts on the relative power of Strength, Agility and Intelligence heroes in Dota 2.

Smite title image
Upcoming MOBA SMITE revealed its newest god this week, the deadly Freya, Queen of the Valkyries. Freya is a melee fighter whose physical power scales up with increased magical power, increasing the damage of her basic attacks throughout the game. She can also irradiate her sword to deal additional magic damage on each basic attack and add a percentage of her magical power as damage.

Using her Pulse ability, Freya can even convert her basic attacks into ranged attacks with an area-effect slow, making her great at sniping fleeing heroes. When chasing enemies, she can use Banish to knock them up into the air for a few seconds while she closes the gap. Freya's ultimate ability, Valkyrie's Discretion, lets her fly into the air and become immune to all attacks for a few seconds while firing huge area-effect blasts at enemies on the ground.

Prime World title image
Upcoming MOBA Prime World has seen success in its Russian beta and plans to move into European and North American beta soon. This week developers released details on the Outpost game mode that takes only 10-15 minutes per match. Outpost takes place on a map with a single lane and only two towers per side, but the towers are so powerful that even a full team of players can't take them down on its own.

To destroy the enemy's towers, you have to escort huge war machines down the lane. The battle machines are very weak alone, but their shields gain strength for every allied player nearby. The machine will also take 30% of its hitpoints in damage every time a nearby allied player dies, so you have to escort it down the lane but at the same time avoid death. The other team is doing the exact same, and both teams know the shortest route through that giant war machine is to kill the enemy players.

Guardians of Middle-Earth title image
Most games are developed behind closed doors and don't let fans see what the development process looks like. Upcoming MOBA Guardians of Middle-earth is doing things a little bit differently by getting professional MOBA players into the studio for play-testing sessions and showing the gritty details of what happened. In the first Behind the Scenes developer diary, professional players had their first hands-on experience with the console MOBA and delivered some brutally honest feedback.

In response to the feedback, the developers at Monolith Studios worked throughout the night to iterate on the game and fix the issues raised. This week Monolith released its second Behind the Scenes video to show the results on the second day of testing. In this first iteration, developers tweaked everything from respawn timers and capture point mechanics to creep strength and tower hitpoints. The changes were a big hit, and the testers went on to give additional feedback after a second round of testing.

Wrath of Heroes title image
This week's Wrath of Heroes update added the new Garden of Morr scenario in which players fight over a cursed skull. The first player to touch the skull collects it and is transformed into a skeletal standard-bearer with a whole host of new abilities. The standard-bearer earns eight points for every kill made instead of the usual three, so the rest of the team should try to help him get as many kills as possible. Teams have to protect the standard-bearer from death, as his killer will steal the skull and become the new standard-bearer.

Join us every Monday for Not So Massively, our roundup of the top news from popular online games that aren't quite MMOs. If you think there's a game we should be covering in Not So Massively or you've found some interesting news you think deserves attention in the next roundup, please mail the details to
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