MOBA is the acronym for: “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena”. It's a subcategory of strategic games, especially RTS (Real Time strategy).


Back in the days (2003) the very first MOBA ever created was a custom map (mod) for Warcraft 3 called DOTA (Defense of the Ancients).

Game mechanisms

It's a map with two bases cornered on the upper right and lower left. Three main lanes and a jungle cover the map between them. The map is almost symmetrical, divided by a river (you can step in). On each lane creeps controlled by AI spawns from bases and then meet on the center of the map. The objective of creeps is to destroy the enemy's nexus, fighting whatever hostile is on their way.

There are two advanced towers for each lane to defend each of them then 1 tower inside the base to defend the first respawning point and finally 2 towers to defend the final objective. A total of eleven towers per camp or five towers per lane. The final two towers protecting the nexus can be counted as being a part of every lane. The towers hit the creeps by default unless you attack an enemy hero under their range of effect. Then they will switch, hitting you.

The goal of each side is to destroy the final objective; the nexus, the heart of the base.

In this war each player incarnates a hero to help the creeps pushing their (and your) way to victory. So unlike strategic games like RTS where you control an army in a MOBA you control only one hero most of the time (with few exceptions). The game is originally meant to be played 5v5 with this standard distribution: 1 player to the upper lane, 1 player at the middle, 1 in the jungle and 2 guys on the bot lane. Different roles fill each lane. Jungle is more specific as it's not a lane, neutral monsters spawn in it with a static position (neutral camps). To win you don't have to destroy every towers to the nexus on the whole map but you at least need to destroy every towers to the nexus on a specific lane. There is a minor spawn point after the third tower, in the base. Once you destroyed it your own creeps will spawn as super creeps with better stats. Once this spawn point is destroyed creeps from this base are now directly spawned from the nexus with the same stats. The first spawn points are called inhibitors and unlike the towers and nexus they can respawn cancelling the stat advantage of your own creeps when they do (only for the next spawning waves not for the creeps that are already crawling the map).

The Hero you control gains experience to become stronger and also wield objects to enhance his stats. You obtain the objects through gold which is automatically generated on a regular basis during the game. The other and most profitable way to obtain gold is to kill some creeps, heroes, neutrals and by destroying structures.


The structure of the overall map in League of Legends remains the same for most MOBAs.

MOBA today

MOBAs are now stand alone games developed and marketed by professional teams. They can be sold as retail but the dominant economic model is Free to play (F2P). You download the game and you can play it for free but without its whole content. You can unlock it by playing or purchasing it with real money. MOBAs have their own mods. You can usually play on a 3v3 map, a capture the flag map or a simplified map with only one lane etc… The original 5v5 map is still the most played.

Popular MOBAs

League of Legends (lol): A standalone free 2 play.

DOTA 2: A standalone available on Steam.

Heroes of Newerth (HON): A standalone free 2 play (was a retail game before).


MOBAs, especially lol and DOTA2 are now played on a professional level. The Prizes are as high as 1 million $ for the winning team on the major events. The number of watchers on live streams for the big events (usually season final) now exceed the number of watchers for StarCraft2; the most popular RTS.

Games | Strategy Game | Multiplayer Online Battle Arena

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