Workshop Feedback Loops in MOBA’s

For students of our major Game Design at CMD, Hanze Applied University, I held a extra-curricular workshop on feedback loops. We even had a guest from a local other education (MBO) who was interested.

Split into 2 groups we discussed what positive and negative feedback loops are and how the can be used to steer the player experience in games. Then we started sketching out what happens in MOBA games such as League of Legends (LoL), Defenders of the Ancients 2 (DOTA2) and Heroes of the Storm (HotS). These are real-time team versus team competitive games with a lot of tactical and strategical layers. Plus they offer a lot of depth to explore due to the large amount of different heroes they offer. And in case of HotS also a very diverse set of maps, each with their own extra events and map challenges.

It was very interesting to see how many potential loops there are in the game and how they raise the stakes the longer the match lasts and create spikes of opportunities at certain moments. These are not so much guaranteed counterbalances or reinforcements of success and failure, rather they offer leverage but they leave it up to the players to

A team needs to play well together to capitalize on them, by offering more platforms for skillful play and leaving it fully in hands of the players. This seems to link really really well to the the 3 core aspects of intrinsic motivation: relatedness, mastery and autonomy!

We also discussed how many heroes, abilities and items seemed to have stronger links to feedback loops, or related to it the progression of the match. So which abilities do better if you do well, or have diminishing returns depending on your relative progress compared to the other team. This led to a lively debate on the pro’s and con’s of of certain items and heroes (of wich I knew nothing, as I only play HotS).

For now, the group playing HotS was the minority. But that was ok. Seen from this lens, it is interesting and no surprise that HotS only has 1 hero now, Abathur, that has an ability (talent) that lets you repair buildings: reducing the progress in some form of the opponents. And the other games did not to have such an ability.

The reality of these games is even more complex than we discussed, yet this was insightful and inspiring!

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