Examining the Gate Part 6: Early Lane
As we all know, one of the most vital features of the MOBA genre is the map. Unlike FPS or RTS games, maps in a MOBA are very few in number, as they are designed to handle a wide variety of characters who brings all sorts of tools to the game. It’s a very daunting task since not only do the developers have to balance the map for the current cast of characters, but future developments as well.
Dawngate’s map turns the tides on the genre by introducing concepts that has not been practiced elsewhere. Instead of three lanes, we have two. The jungle is large, and covers both sides of the lane instead of merely one side. Finally, it is completely symmetrical, much like a soccer field or a hockey arena.
With all this being said, there has been views within the Dawngate community on whether or not this is a good thing. Many players who are against the current map design often mention perceived flaws like the large number of Tall Grass segments and the small lanes.
For example, many people praise DOTA2’s and Heroes of Newerth laning phase because of the depth it offers. With the use of creep blocking, creep pulling, and creep denial are used to manipulate the creep traffic and it becomes a huge tug of war where the two sides of the lane constantly fight on the most favorable spot for ganks/farming. Throw in the L-shaped lane and one side that “favorable” to a specific team, and that’s where the discussion of team strategies comes in. It’s an interesting mechanic, but it’s not what Dawngate is aiming for.
If you look at Dawngate’s map as a whole, you’ll realize that this game has a lot of objectives the players need to worry about, yet not enough resources to do so. You have four spirit wells, eight buff camps, sixteen creep camps, six bindings, and one evolving parasite. With these many objectives, the only tools you have are your team of 5 Shapers and only 5 Wards. Because of the limited resources, making a decision to attack a certain objective has a large weight to it and it promotes a far more aggressive and pro-active approach then one expects from the MOBA genre.
The evidence to support this notion can be seen from the first very lane between the first two towers. Unlike the L-shaped DOTA or the C-shaped lanes in LoL, Dawngate’s is a simple straight line. There are two bindings, bushes in the middle on side of the lane, and each binding has a bush nearby so an enemy shaper can harass shapers using a binding a safe spot. Sounds unfair? Not if you understand their intentions.
As mentioned before, Dawngate is about objectives and aggression. This includes the lane layout. The lane layout isn’t designed for farming, but designed for pushing and rewarding proper aggressive tactics. In other words, it’s less about lane control and more focused on area control. Your job in the lane is to constantly push the enemy towards their binding to not only deny their farm but position them in a way that is favourable to your team to harass them further. It punishes them for being put into a corner.
In other words, laning phase is more like this:
Yes, it’s a very strange comparison, but just think about it for a moment. In fighting games, each character has a variety of moves that gives them the tools to win. Besides the different basic attacks, which have their own damage, range, and speed, they can also use special moves. These special moves don’t have a resource attached to them, except for the labelled “Ultra move” that does often accompanied by a resource meter built throughout the fight. If you look at Dawngate, it’s somewhat the same thing where Shapers use their special moves to control the conflict and much like fighting games, they will use these “special moves” often without any resources attached.
As for the lane layout, there is a general unspoken rule you must follow in Fighting Games: Avoid corners. At the highest level of play in any fighting game, you want to avoid being pushed into the corner. Being put into that position has a great disadvantage because your opponent can pull off nasty high damage combos that can only be used in the corner. It isn’t a guaranteed win scenario, but it does give the opponent a scary advantage.
Looking at Dawngate’s first lane layout again, you’ll realize the same rules apply. Being pushed to your binding allows your opponent to harass you even further, much like the corner combos in a fighting game. The binding isn’t there to protect you, rather it is there to stop the minion traffic.
Besides the binding positions, what about the lane length and width of the lane? Comparing to other MOBAs, the length of the lane is short and it isn’t very wide. However, there are key differences that many players do not grasp yet.
First, let’s take a look at the width of the lane. It’s very tight, but MOBA players must realize that they can now escape from both sides of the lane instead of just one. Because there are more paths to choose, players have numerous options to escape the lane instead of doing the typical “flee to the nearest tower” mentality that they are used to. This gives them more room to be unpredictable and can even force undesirable chases to gank attempts. But this reduce width also makes it far easier for ganks to successful hit their spells. It’s an interesting drawback.
As for the length of the lane, while very short, it does serve a purpose. In DOTA2 or LoL, players often hold back on pushing a lane because they might be ganked from behind. In Dawngate, the moment to push towers is as soon as the game starts. These short lanes are proof of that since, while a gank is still desirable, it isn’t an “escape out of jail free” card like in other MOBAs. At high levels of play, assuming the wards are placed properly, the threat of an incoming gank would force the “winning” team of the lane to simply move back and let the lane reset on its own. The purpose behind the short lanes is to make it far easier for the victims of gank to escape, since they shouldn’t be heavily punished for simply being aggressive. Remember, Dawngate rewards aggression.
It’s quite clear that Waystone Games have definitely put a lot of thought into the lane layout. While I doubt that they wanted make a “fighting game” of MOBAs, there are some odd similarities to the genre than what most people realize. While at first it might look like a map problem, by looking the lane design with another mindset, you’ll see why Waystone Games decided to follow this design. Play with the system, not against it, and that’s how you’ll win your games in Dawngate.