End of Nations
From the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the genre, multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) all look the same. The isometric view, the march of mindless minions, the active and passive abilities, and the turrets all look identical to the untrained eye.
The challenge of entering the genre with a new title is enormous, as new players often don't know where to begin amidst a sea of sameness. Differentiation is half the battle, and Trion Worlds' Scot Lane explained to us what makes End of Nations stand out.
As you might recall, End of Nations began its life as an ambitious massively multiplayer online real-time strategy title. When Game Informer editor Adam Biessener previewed it two years ago, he found a lot of the ideas interesting.
Since then, the title has undergone a metamorphosis. It's become a full-fledged MOBA, but End of Nations is set to take the genre in exciting new directions. "One of the things that makes us different is that you control your minions," executive producer Scot Lane told me. "They're not on a set release schedule, but they are on a respawn schedule. The idea of controlling them is an evolution of the genre, because it allows you to bring more tactics into your game play."
In addition to the direct control of the minions (called "units" in End of Nations) is a broadening of the map and game types. "We'll have a three-lane map, and we'll be testing that in our alpha," Lane assured. "But we've changed the gameplay as well. We have maps that are more open, but still symmetrical, which is key to a MOBA. We're introducing what we call 'victory points.' These are places on a map that you can occupy and accrue victory points."
This introduces elements of first-person shooter "king of the hill" and capture point modes. The idea of a major victory obtained through base destruction isn't gone, but it is portioned off into its own type. Even then, Trion is putting its own spin on it. "You have to hold two points to take down the enemy shield, and while it's down, you can destroy their base," Lane explained.
As far as heroes go, Trion is in a tricky position. The core player characters in End of Nations are machines. Tanks, mechs, air units, and jeeps cover the range of DPS, speed, and damage variants. I asked Lane how this might affect how players connect with their in-game avatars, as MOBA players tend to have bonds with their champions of choice.
"Every machine will also have a piece of human art alongside," Lane assured me. "They all have their own voice over, and they're talking throughout the battle. You're hearing their voice and giving you that tie-in. If you look at our mechs, they look very human. When you put it next to League or DotA, it's very similar. They are bipeds, two arms, some of them actually have capes."
The units are also important for creating the personalized connection. Each hero class can usenine different unit types that each have their own unique ability. As players level up outside the game, they'll earn more slots, which means more units in the fight. This adds a new layer of strategy. Creating these companies in the armory between matches helps to create the sense of customization and connection to which MOBA players are accustomed.
It's not the biggest change to the hero formula, though. "One other big differentiating factor between us and the other MOBAs is that we allow you to change heroes and companies in the middle of battle," Lane tells me. Learning when to switch and combat your opponents' tactics is going to be a big part of End of Nations, and Trion is going to make sure that players have a way to practice at their own pace.
"One of the problems when I first got into MOBA gaming is that the crowd is notoriously hard on new gamers," Lane admitted. "We are going to have bot matches, but we are going to have co-op, team-based mission based maps against AI."
These modes are going to offer a variety of objectives, including base defense, base destruction, point capture, and even boss fights. "These are the options for people who want to get into the genre, but don't want the pressure of being in a PvP, high competitive arena," Lane explained. "It'll give you a break from that or ease in, without playing the same bot map repeatedly."
End of Nations' new incarnation is currently in alpha testing, with a beta coming before the end of 2013. As someone who has always been curious (but intimidated) by MOBAs, I'm eager to give End of Nations a try for myself.