What League of Legends taught me about MMORPGs

In a word, simplicity. There’s something to be said about a game where the characters have only five abilities, one being passive, yet still provide layers of complexity and strategy.

The reason League of Legends is able to accomplish this is through their skill trees, rune system and item store, which allow players to completely customize each character without adding additional abilities. While players can spend hours tweaking their stats, when they get into the actual game it becomes very simple.

When comparing it to my character in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I have two hot bars filled with 24 abilities, then an additional two side bars with another 18 or so abilities, buffs, items and skills. I can’t remember the last time I played a MMORPG  where I had so many abilities as SWTOR. Full disclosure the only other two MMORPGs I played to the level cap were LoTRO and Warhammer Online, neither of which, from what I remember, came anywhere near SWTOR.

However I have played dozens of other MMO games to mid level and I can’t recall  filling up my hotbars by mid game in any of them. In comparison I had filled my two bottom bars and nearly another full side bar before I hit level 25. Then let’s not forget a fifth hotbar for companions.

However there’s a certain complexity that is expected when playing a MMORPG, much more than a MOBA game like League of Legends, but when is enough enough? Do we really need 40 abilities and items to select from while in combat?  Seems like overkill to me and while I don’t expect or even want a MMORPG with only 5 abilities, it wouldn’t hurt for MMO developers to take a look at what RiotGames is doing with League of Legends and perhaps simplify some things.

What do you think? Are MMO games going to far with the amount of skills and abilities players have access to or do you enjoy the complexity of it?


  1. I like the idea of having lots of abilities to chose from, make a selection from the huge number then use them to create and refine your own play style. In theory what you should be able to have is lots of people playing the same profession in lots of different ways.

    Never ends up like that tho – everyone ends up going for the same tried and proven builds, using the same tactics and the same skills – if you dont you end up hampering your chances of participating fully in group endgame encounters.

    MMORPGs are good but i think we still have so far to go before we reach anything near what I imagine my perfect MMORPG to be.

  2. I agree with you completely.
    Playing SWTOR also fills me with a sense of “ability overload”. There is really something to the old saying “less is more”.

    I’d be happier with 10 very different and interesting skills doled out across 50 levels instead of having 30 different skills, 15 of which are small variations of each other and 10 of which I use once every 10 hours of gameplay.

  3. It’s why I like the way guild wars did it.

    You have access to many skills but when it boils down to a fight you only have 8 of them, so as much care has to be taken into choice of skills as well as the actual fights themselves.

  4. You cannot compare the two. Maybe that is why it seems like an “interesting” thing to write about. 1.) MoBA does not = MMORPG.
    This is like saying “How can I take rugby rules and make them into football”.
    YOU CAN’T. Lane driven gameplay means all those little tweaks in LoL are nothing more than enhancements, like in armor slots, to push your class forward. Damage, life, or gold collecting boosts are the only thing all those skill bars do in LoL. You chose a character you like to do, for example, push, juggle, defend, etc.. All those skills do is enhance a little. There is no learned SKILL!!! YOu cannot put a skill point in a LoL tree and then suddenly have a spell to USE ON THE MAP!

  5. Do You play one of DPS Jedi classes? It is really out of hand with them. More so than any other class. The massive amount of skills is really a reflection of Bioware’s new comer status in the MMO world and rushed attempts at class balance. A more seasoned team would have not have been worried about less is more approach. Being able to maintain that view point is really the mark of a company that knows its market and it’s product.

    The big problem is they’ve tried to give every class a bit of everything, DPS’s have CC’s, heals, ranged attacks, Melee attacks, dots, and camouflage. Rather than either taking the more is less approach or having skills which have multiple effects you end up with a huge menagerie of skills. In Most other MMO’s I’ve played you end up with 6-8 skills that you use and those skills tend to simply upgrade with levels. In TOR u add like 12 skills over 6 levels in mid game and it can be very hard to wrap your head around all the new skills at once,while trying to find effective combos.

    Take my DPS Jedi, he’s level 43 Currently I use about 18 or more separate moves in combat. More if I’m fighting elite mobs, and I have at least another 5 more skills to get. I’m literally out of room on my ui panes. Not to mention the lack of total UI panes, I would very much like to have a sperarte PVP UI setup, but cannont as the game limits u to 4 ui Panes, but gives you over 50 click able items.

    When u have that many skills your not really focused on the coolness of combat, your really just managing the massive amount of inputs, like a chimp frantically pushing buttons for a food pellet.

  6. If you think about it though, if you added up all the abilities in SWTOR and abilities in WoW, I’m sure it’d be approximately the sa3me.

    LoL has something like what… 90 Champions now? And each one has 4 abilities. Whereas a game like SWTOR has (factions aside) 8 classes with a ballpark 25-30 abilities.

    Both games do have a crapload of skills and ranks for them. But in LoL, the depth of champions are shallow because they’re used for specific roles or thrive under select situations. In SWTOR, the depth of the classes are much deeper because your character has much more customization and can switch between roles (or at least, different styles of play of the same role).

  7. What LOL does so well is give you variety in picking different champions. Yes each champion has specific or multiple roles, and they are all very niche, but the important thing is they have only 4 skills and a passive, and yet are complex to learn since each enemy champion will be able to react to you in a number of different ways. What so many classes do in MMO is give you a little of everything and make most classes feel so similar, e.g. a melee dps and a tank do the same thing, the only difference is one absorbs damage and kills things slower.

    I think my perfect MMO would meet GW2 and LOL somewhere in the middle, having just one character to roleplay with so much skill choice at any one moment fails when you can choose a character who can fit a specific role, and on death choose a different one to aid a team to victory in whatever the task is.

    What LOL lacks most is variety in what to actually do in game. Yes PVE mechanics would have to be slightly different to PVP mechanics, but i think there really is a wide open market to bring out an MMO where upon death you could re-role a character in a completely different role to suit the needs of your team which tbh i think GW2 will fail at, everyone will be trying to fill the same roles.

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