Following the comments of Director and Co-owner of Iron Clad Games, Fraser, our very own Nicholas Greene discussed the current decline in the RTS genre, which lead me to thinking about the relationship between the dying RTS genre and the hugely popular MOBA genre.

Real-time strategy games belong to a genre with roots dating as far back as the early 1980s, but for reasons unknown to many the genre has seen a severe decline in recent years. Many speculate the cause to be a lack of innovation on the developers part, while others consider the explosion of bog standard MMORTS games to be the main factor in the decline. With one genre suffering another explodes; the increasingly popular MOBA genre.

Although the MOBA scene is currently dominated by League of Legends there are a number of other titles fighting for the throne. SMITE recently entered open beta and DOTA 2 is also proving a bit hit with fans of the genre; but why does the increasingly popularity of one genre have to mean a similar decrease in another?

Imagine a developer with the guts and innovation to bridge these two genres. A developer that can capture both the depth and control featured in building and resource management, while also offering the individual accomplishment and praise associated with a dominating MOBA player. There’s a ton of different ways they could approach this new breed of games, a genre I dub the MOBARTS. If only I had the imagination to come up with an abbreviation that would actually stick eh?

Nicholas Greene touched on this idea in the comments on his RTS post, and I think it would be a logical step in the evolution of the RTS genre. Some of you may have played Natural Selection, a game that offers a unique hyrbid of FPS and RTS mechanics. One player takes on the role of a Commander, safely tucked away in a protective pod, the Commander must command troops to investigate certain areas, manage resources and construct various buildings. All the while the troops he is commanding are real players, with real emotions and real reactions.

Bringing that feature to the MOBA genre could have the same unique benefits that it provides to Natural Selection. A single players takes a command role, constructing various outposts and buildings, while also commanding the current minions seen in the majority of MOBA games. The player in command would be able to spawn certain unique minions, those with more HP and power than their weaker counterparts, and they could also choose the lane in which these minions spawn. So a smart commander could inform his Champions that he is going to provide extra pushing power to top lane, leaving the team to react and hopefully take down an enemy tower. This could also be used as a distraction, sending all the powerful units to one lane while friendly Champions secretly push another. The potential and tactics involved in such a basic feature are almost endless.

As well as commanding basic minions the commander could also construct various buildings using currency gained by his fighting Champions; as an example, 2% of total gold earned by the team enters a bank exclusive to the commander. This gold could be used to construct towers that provide visibility in certain areas, other buildings that provide buffs to nearby Champions and minions, maybe even some that slow enemy Champions or reduce their damage.

The MOBA genre is still a baby in MMO terms but if League of Legends proves anything, it proves that MMO gamers are not so set in their ways as to avoid such a unique form of game. What would you like to see in a MOBA/RTS hyrbid? Do you feel any currently released games have done this hyrbid justice or are they just attempts at a quick cash cow? Leave your comments below.

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