MOBAs: Why New Champions Always Feel Overpowered

Posted by on November 14, 2012 - 5 Comments »

“OP!” It’s a call every MOBA player is familiar with. Often levied on new champions, gods, avatars, what have you, the fist-shaking declaration is nothing new to gaming. Certain weapons in FPS games, rush strategies in RTS titles or pixel-perfect combo links in fighters, the cries of “overpowered” have been with gaming since Lawrence Taylor crushed quarterbacks in Super Tecmo Bowl. Likely before. The derisive comment is simultaneously a cry of agony and complaint against imbalance. Yet, in the case of today’s popular massive online battle arena titles, it’s often misplaced, misdirected and inaccurate.

Be it League of Legends, SMITE, DotA 2 or Heroes of Newerth, champions aren’t natively OP at release. Once the rage subsides, think on the points after the jump. A combination of them is likely the cause of your avatar’s recent demise, not a game designers inability to get things right. They may feel OP, but they aren’t.

  • Lack of Combative Experience – Fire up the latest first-person shooter. Are you an instant expert knowing every map, ammo/health pickup, blind corner or sniper nest? No, you’ve no idea. You bring skill to the table but you lack experience in the new setting. The same inexperience against a new character put you at a disadvantage. What’s the exact range of the disable? Does the character posses a DoT? How devastating is the ultimate? What’s the dangerous ability/build to watch out for? All the research in the world won’t make your reactions perfect. The only way to get a hold of these intricacies is to fight against the character. Repeatedly.
  • Experience players select the champion at launch – When a new champion is launched the middle- to top-tier players will be the most apt to investigate. They’re the group willing to lay down money for a first crack at a champion complete with a unique skin or two. They’re the ones with gobs of extra Influence lying around. New champions in the hands of players that, you know, play a lot, are going to be more deadly than the run of the mill gamer.
  • They very well may be – Okay, fine. You’ve got me. Some characters truly are overpowered at launch. Cynics will scream that it was done on purpose so the developer can reap financial rewards often tagged to new characters. That’s an easy dump, but only dastardly companies would do such a thing repeatedly. It’s more likely that there simply wasn’t enough play testing between the combination of items, builds, opponent champions and skill level. Anecdotal evidence to shoot down the money grab claim is that most characters aren’t instantly nerfed the next patch.

The long and short of it is that you’re simply having to adjust to new gameplay elements and combinations. And if you still think every new character is imbalanced, I submit Exhibit A from LoL, Yorick.