Sneaky Games changes MOBA formula for mobile with Arena of Heroes

Arena of Heroes logo

Arena of Heroes logoMobile-social game developer Sneaky Games will be changing up the traditional multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre’s formula with Arena of Heroes, a MOBA game featuring turn-based gameplay and cross-platform play between PC, Mac and iPad.

The MOBA genre originated with the hit game mod Defense of the Ancients (DotA) for Blizzard’s PC real-time strategy (RTS) game Warcraft 3. In MOBAs, players control one “hero” unit and duke it out on a game map which features three “lanes,” where each team is tasked with pushing to the opposite side of the map and destroying an opponent’s base.

As DotA grew in popularity over the years, many MOBA games began sprouting up, including the hugely popular free-to-play League of Legends from Riot Games and DotA 2 from Valve. A typical game in most MOBA titles lasts for about an hour. That’s a fairly long gameplay session for a mobile game, which is why Sneaky Games decided to make Arena of Heroes turn-based, allowing users to pick up and play whenever they want.Arena of Heroes screenshot

“What we were trying to address with going turn-based and asynchronous is still give players that MOBA fix but without having the pressure of committing to an hour-long ,” Sneaky Games CEO David Godwin told us in an interview.

What’s interesting about Arena of Heroes is that the game can also be played in real-time, where gameplay is still turn-based, but a user can play against another user live, with a three-minute timer for each user’s turn. Godwin adds that a game in Arena of Heroes averages about 25 to 45 minutes, but the developer’s goal is to get that number down to around 30 minutes.

Although Arena of Heroes only allows for one-on-one multiplayer, the developer plans to add two-on-two and four-on-four post-launch. Each player in a one-on-one match controls four different heroes, where each hero can make three different actions — movements, attacks, or a combination of both. Minions, AI-controlled units that each team deploys to fight alongside their heroes, move on their own towards an opponent’s base.

A traditional MOBA allows the user to move their hero around freely and emphasizes twitch-based gameplay, meaning a user must have a fast reaction time. This, in part, is what males MOBA games notoriously difficult to learn, and if a user doesn’t know how to play or doesn’t have another user to mentor them, more experienced players will pick on them. Arena of Heroes works around this issue by making the game turn-based, where games play out at a slower pace compared to a traditional real-time, twitch-based MOBA. The game also introduces users to the game by showing them a visual, slide-based tutorial. An interactive tutorial is coming at a later date, Godwin says.Arena of Heroes screenshot

“We weren’t real convinced that twitched-based MOBAs are going to work on iPad or iPhone,” Godwin says. “It’s a hard thing to do.”

Similarly to League of Legends, Arena of Heroes monetizes through selling additional heroes (two heroes come with Arena of Heroes for free) and alternative skins for the heroes. There are also two currencies — gems and coins. Gems are the premium currency and coins are the in-game currency earned through playing the game. Gems or coins can be used to purchase heroes, but only gems can be used to purchase hero skins.

We’ve recently seen more traditional MOBAs coming to mobile, including Gameloft’s Heroes of Order & Chaos for iOS and Android, and Zynga partner Wyrmbyte’s upcoming Dragons and Titans for Facebook and mobile.

Sneaky Games, which was acquired by European developer Zattikka in April 2012, is a Facebook and mobile developer known for titles such as Fantasy Kingdoms and SyFy Monster Island. Now Sneaky Games is pivoting into mobile with its free-to-play title Arena of Heroes.

Sneaky Games plans to launch the game in the next couple of weeks for PC, Mac and iPad. They also plan to launch the game on Android, and they’re looking into Ouya.