Heroes of Newerth is not my MOBA of choice. I think its visuals are unconducive to clearly providing players with information about their surroundings, the item shop is not superbly organized, and the controls aren’t always as responsive as they could be. What HoN does have though, is some of the best design philosophies, coupled with a highly competent Hero Design Team.
This last weekend I got the chance to play around with their latest hero: Rally. Rally is a strength hero that you could classify a few different ways. He’s definitely carry-ish in that he relies a lot on his auto-attacks. A lot of his core items are based around durability though. With Helm of the Black Legion and Shaman’s Headdress as his recommended items after laning, it’s definitely clear that he ought to become a bit more durable before focusing on damage items. He is, after all, a hero that has to dive into the thick of battle before he can do much of anything.
And I do mean “thick of battle.” Almost all of his abilities are very short melee-range effects, or auto-attack passives, that require he be very close to his opponents. His “E” ignores armor and increases base damage. His “W” is a “close burst” (to use D&D terminology– an AoE emanating from himself) movement speed debuff, and his “R” is a pretty brutal single hit (that is really hard to land actually, given the windup. I had to rely on allies root or stun abilities in order to secure a hit).
These however, all feel very straightforward and rather bland. Steroids and Snares are par for the course for melee carries (but more on his actual role in a bit). I want to talk about Rally’s “Q”, because it’s the hallmark of this Hero. Rally’s “Q” allows him to select an ally and using a vector targeting system, drag and aim that Hero (including himself) and launch them in that direction. The launched hero will knock down trees, pass through barriers, as well as damage and stun any enemies they pass through.
That’s a completely new mechanics that I’ve never seen in a MOBA before, and it’s actually a really important one.
It’s no surprise to anyone that follows MOBAs at the moment that League of Legends kinda gets the most attention in the genre. They’ve got different design philosophies, and different ideas (from S2) on how a MOBA should flow. Rally is a champion that you will never see ported to LoL, and I think that’s a point in S2’s favor.
Other MOBAs can be very conservative about hero design. There is a constant debate in multiplayer game design about “making things fun for the player, while not making things unfun for the other players”. This is why you don’t see nukes that do no damage but have a 10% chance to instant kill. Sure saving the day with an instant kill would feel pretty cool for you, but it would be enraging for the enemy that you killed. He did everything right, and there was nothing he could do about that. That makes things unfun for him.
S2 is much more open to these types of mechanics than their competitors. I’m sure you can imagine how this applies to Rally, but to give you a quick example: I was laning with Myrmidon against a Shadowblade. After a stun from Myrmidon, and my ultimate, Shadowblade was hurting and retreated back past his tower, out of range of a safe kill. What I decided to do, was throw a low health Myrmidon at him, pick up the kill for myself, as Myrmidon died to the tower.
To be clear, I deliberately killed my ally to selfishly pick up more gold for myself. This is a situation that most MOBA hero designers would gasp in horror at. I trolled the hell out of my lane partner, and I’m sure he was furious. Rally is definitely ripe for griefing your allies. Maybe I don’t even do it for a kill. Maybe Geomancer crawls up a cliff to avoid a gank and I just throw him right back down into a pack of enemies. Just to be a jerk. That’s a thing that can happen. However, maybe I throw him up a cliff to save him? Maybe I push him after an enemy that’s escaping?
The real point is that YES, Rally’s hallmark ability allows for trolling, but it also allows for some AWESOME dynamic play. S2 apparently thinks that the opportunity for awesome dynamic play is worth taking the trolling risk. Something other MOBA design studios don’t have the stones to do. They’re basically saying that they don’t negotiate with terrorists. They’re not going to compromise, disclude interesting and effective abilities from their game (and thus make it worse), because some small portion of the player base will inevitably use that power for evil.
Rally, when used appropriately, makes HoN a better game.