Whether or not having a surrender option in a MOBA is a good thing is an open debate, largely because the two biggest games in the genre disagree. League of Legends lets you surrender after 20 minutes. Dota 2 has no such option. Heroes of the Storm has sided with team Dota, and that’s not good.
Blizzard’s nascent but much-hyped MOBA hasn’t had any type of surrender option since its earliest days in alpha. Since the game has started giving its beta players a heads up in-game that it’s gearing up for an official release, I reached out to Blizzard recently to ask why they had chosen to omit the feature, and whether they had any plans to change that once the game goes live for the general public.
The developer responded: nope, no surrender option is incoming. As a further explanation, they offered this sneak peek at a statement they’d prepared for a post on the game’s blog that should be coming out sometime today:
As a final note, we wanted to address the issue of a Surrender option. For now, we do not believe the addition of a Surrender option is needed in Heroes of the Storm.
Heroes of the Storm matches are designed to be fast-paced, action packed, and played in under twenty minutes. In our experience, the community’s feedback, and internal data has shown that there are ample opportunities to mount a comeback.
We believe the game is never officially over until the core is destroyed. Adding a Surrender option could tempt players to bail out at the slightest setback, removing focus from the game and potentially introduce even more toxic behavior. As Heroes of the Storm matures, it could be something we’ll add in the future. But, for now, we love to see awesome games where teams mount a comeback and win. For example, check out this match:
Mounting a comeback, and whether or not one is truly realistic (or even possible) is what makes the value of a surrender option so dicey. Comebacks are possible in League of Legends, as they are in Dota 2, through a number of different means and in a number of different scenarios. They can be exceedingly difficult to pull off in either because of the way a game snowballs over time to give the team that’s ahead a more and more formidable advantage.
Players who got a bunch of kills in the first 10 or 15 minutes of a game will have a lot more experience and gold than their opponents (i.e., the ones they killed), which means they’ll have a much easier time killing their opponents again, which will give them even more gold and experience, and so forth. Working your way back from a position of weakness can be very tough because of the MOBA snowball effect. That makes defeat uniquely frustrating. But it also makes successful comebacks feels all the more awesome when you and your team do pull them off.
Blizzard designed Heroes to be an incredibly pared-down MOBA compared to League and Dota 2, and one effect this has on the game is the snowballing process during a given match is much less intense than in the other two. Experience is doled out globally rather than on a character-by-character basis, so if one or two players are the ones doing the most damage they won’t turn into unstoppable juggernauts the way they do in so many League games. Heroes also doesn’t have any in-game shop for customizing and beefing up heroes with special armor, weapons, and items, so there isn’t a gold deficit either.
These two factors do indeed make comebacks a lot easier. I’ll give Blizzard credit for that.
I also agree with their logic in saying: “Adding a Surrender option could tempt players to bail out at the slightest setback, removing focus from the game and potentially introduce even more toxic behavior.” In my experience playing League of Legends so far, the game does indeed work out this way an unfortunate number of times. Teammates start to give up—often annoyingly early—and resign themselves to defeat when the game is clearly still up in the air. Rather than renewing their focus and determination to turn the game around, many respond to this by blaming one another for what they think went wrong. The ensuing fights can easily become super toxic. Regardless of how salty they get, they always end up distracting the team even further, which only makes the losing process even worse.
Why do I think not having a surrender option is a bad idea for Heroes, then? Because in spite of a surrender’s many shortcomings, and the ways it may be abused or mismanaged in a game like League of Legends, it’s still the lesser of two evils. Games like League, Dota 2, and yes, even Heroes, all have clearly defined meta-games. Certain matches just can’t be won. Oftentimes this isn’t as much a matter of who messed up and how as how one team’s champions measure up to the opposition. Sitting through a match when defeat is certain is usually embarrassing, degrading, and not at all fun.
Heroes might make defeat a tad less painful or arduous given the ways it softens its meta compared to Dota 2 and League. But there still is a metagame. If you’re on a team with 3 or 4 support characters (think healers, clerics, etc.) and you’re going against 5 assassins, you simply don’t have the attack damage necessary to stand your ground against them.
For the moment, at least, Heroes of the Storm’s matchmaking system is so crappy that players end up in matches like this far too often. The game doesn’t provide for any pre-game team-building process during character selection unless you’re already playing with a party (usually your Battle.net friends) until you enter the competitive “Hero League” mode, meanwhile, which means that you aren’t given as much of an ability to avoid the ill effects of the game’s shoddy matchmaking as you should.
Separate from any of the nuanced questions of game design or player behavior about whether or not 20 minutes is the right amount of a time for an average game (or a surrender option) and whether or not forfeiting sparks toxicity, the lack of a surrender option in Heroes currently makes the game much less fun than it could otherwise be. It’s really as simple as that. I’ve spent way too many games grouped in the exact shitty position I just described—running around a map as my favorite healer character with another two or three supports as we all do our best to prop up our team’s single fighter against five huge bruisers.
It’s sorta silly to see fights like these for a minute or two. But then we all realize that there’s just gonna be another 15, 20, maybe even 30 minutes to the game where we’re just gonna be stomped into the ground over and over again. If the enemy team feels like being a bunch of jerks, they’ll prolong this process as much as they can.
But it’s not just a matter of Heroes of the Storm’s matchmaking in regards to the balance of its game. There’s also a problem that comes up in any big multiplayer game played by tons of people with dramatically different levels of skill, experience, and sociability. Yes, in the ideal world, a whole team should truly to work together and fight for every last fucking inch of a game. Doing so pushes people to their limits in incredible, often rewarding ways. But if you’re just stuck with someone who starts mercilessly bullying a teammate, a toxic troll, or a team that isn’t courteous enough to let the game end? Heroes should at the very least afford people the option to excuse themselves, rather than keep them stuck in a metaphorical elevator that’s full to bursting with people who want nothing more than to start punching each other in the face.
I appreciate the many neat and ambitious ways that Blizzard is trying to change up the standard MOBA template that League of Legends and Dota 2 have established. But omitting a surrender option is not on their best ideas for Heroes so far.