Last-hitting in a MOBA is like XP in an RPG; don’t leave home without it

Much like when the MMO genre was king and we broke down ‘core systems’ like daily quests, breaking down a core system like last hitting in a MOBA is today’s topic, and much like with daily quests, people tend to have fairly strong opinions around the topic.

As the title states, to me last hitting is like XP in an RPG; without it I’m questioning if you are even the type of game you say you are, and more often than not the removal of the system is more of a mistake than a streamlining or benefit.

Last hitting is a very simple mechanic; if you deal the final blow to something, you get the reward. Generally this relates to minions in a lane, but it also covers killing the enemy hero. Systems like assists or gains-by-proxy (XP or gold) factor in as well, either making last-hitting more important (support champion only gains their bonus gold if their laning partner last hit successfully) or less so (assists reduce the one-character power spike of a kill).

In a standard MOBA setup with laning, last-hitting is a competition and gameplay driver during the laning phase. You need to not only watch the health of your own minions and correctly time your attack, but at higher levels of play you also watch the health of your opponent’s minions to better predict their actions and to make laning life for them more difficult.

One reason people don’t like last hitting is due to the fact that it’s a living scoreboard. If you are in a lane and have half the creep score of your opponent, even if the lane is 0-0 in terms of kills, everyone can see you are being crushed. Sadly we now live in a time when pointing out that someone is losing is a bad thing, and many are quick to get offended or defensive when their failure is put on display. Without last-hitting, someone who is 0-0 k/d is doing ‘fine’, and can’t be directly blamed for the game going south.

Last hitting is also something that, on paper, sounds so simple, yet in reality is extremely difficult to truly master. As you increase in skill level, your mentality goes from trying to get the last hit to ensure you don’t miss a minion in wave. The very act of scoring the last hit on every minion in wave is difficult on its own, but when you also factor in a laning opponent who knows what they are doing, and suddenly things go from difficult to seemingly impossible, or you find yourself on the wrong end of laning exchanges more often than you are comfortable with. Factor in overall map awareness and jungle pressure, and it’s almost a requirement for the actual timing and prediction of a last-hit to be second nature to a player at higher levels of play.

Removing this level of complexity, and the near-endless decision points it introduces in every game, is a massive change to the base game, and unless its replaced by something equally solid (which it is not in HotS), you end up with a simpler game that is easier to master and shallower at the deep ends. Worse still, you end up creating other problems. In HotS, since last-hitting isn’t a thing, ‘laning’ isn’t nearly as important, and specifically keeping an eye on any one minion is completely pointless. A ‘minion wave’ is less of a factor, and when standing in a lane far more focus is placed on the enemy hero since you don’t care about the minions. That might sound like a good thing initially (more direct hero fighting), but constant fighting the other champion, especially if the result is 0-0 (more likely in HotS than LoL due to damage/health scales), gets boring very quickly, and doesn’t create interesting gameplay or player decisions.

To me someone not liking the actual gameplay of last-hitting is like someone not liking questing in an RPG; at some point it’s not so much the game as it is the player needing to find something that better fits them. Just like an RPG doesn’t need ‘fixing’ by removing quests, the MOBA genre doesn’t move forward by removing last-hitting, at least not without a suitable gameplay replacement.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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36 Responses to Last-hitting in a MOBA is like XP in an RPG; don’t leave home without it

  1. zubonganai says:

    That is almost a word-for-word argument for creep denial as a core MOBA mechanic. If your argument about creep score is true, it should also apply to creep denial; it sounds like you’re arguing that LOL is a newbie MOBA for people who don’t like real MOBAs but want to pretend they’re good at them.

    • A concerned Minmatar says:

      LoL left out denying, but introduced dragon as an alternative reward for early game control and dominance.

    • JJ Robinson says:

      Got to agree with zubo here. If you’re all about laning and creep wave importance, then denials should be equally important.

      And if you think daily quests and theme park questing makes a good MMORPG, then I could not disagree more.

    • Dril says:

      Agreed, but is anyone going to realistically argue that LoL is actually as complex and deep as DotA? (Spoiler: you can’t). The game is in virtually every mechanical way more static, easier to understand, less open to alternative ideas and bereft of real consequence for your actions apart from in the ultra late game where the removal of aegis and buyback means that most league games can realiably end in about 30-40 minutes if someone is out of position.

      Of course it’s funny watching Syncaine rail against HotS when literally every single argument is applicable when comparing DotA and LoL, but the differences between HotS and LoL are actually cripplingly bad, whereas League’s dumbing down is still recognisably an AoS, albeit a more basic one.

      • Trego says:

        If what you claim is true, and dumbing down DOTA to make LoL led to more commercial success, then the idea of dumbing down LoL to make HotS is actually quite defensible. Of course this is new Blizzard, so the execution is lacking.

        • Dril says:

          Not really, because LoL is about as basic an AoS as you can get without disrupting the core gameplay to the point where you aren’t playing an AoS, you’re playing an isometric hero brawl thing without any real win or victory conditions.

          I mean I’d also argue that LoL had fairly lucky circumstances in terms of launching at the right time to capture a large exodus of former WoW players who wanted a new core game, but that’s besides the point. LoL certainly appeals to more people than DotA because it’s easier to get into, but just making an endlessly more casual variant of a game isn’t a guarantee of success.

        • Trego says:

          “Not really, because LoL is about as basic an AoS as you can get without disrupting the core gameplay to the point where you aren’t playing an AoS”

          That sounds like a personal judgement, and other people might have different personal judgements on the matter. However, I don’t wish to debate this particular point any further, because nothing I said has to do with whether a particular game should qualify to have a certain name or genre attached to it, but I was only concerned with reasonable expectations for commercial success. If you want to call it an isometric hero brawl thing, go right ahead.

          To be clear, my position here is that it would be reasonable that a version of LoL, only slightly dumbed down, with improved polish and graphics, could have a reasonable expectation, not a guarantee, of commercial success. Apparently HotS doesn’t have that polish, and is more than just slightly dumbed down, but those are errors of execution on New Blizzard’s part, not errors of strategy.

          “but just making an endlessly more casual variant of a game isn’t a guarantee of success.”

          No one is trying to argue that making an endlessly more casual variant of a game is a guarantee of success, so there is no need for you to argue against that position.

        • SynCaine says:

          And just to add to the above, I’ve made this point before about how Blizzard taking EQ1 and making it more accessibly is a lot different than taking LoL and trying to do that.

          For the average gamer, EQ1 needed to be more accessibly to get them to play.

          The average gamer is already playing LoL, so giving them something easier/shallow isn’t going to get you more people, its going to get you far less. And not only is it going to get you less overall, but you are left with a game that doesn’t retain people. Bit of a problem when you expect to keep selling people skins and heroes.

        • Rynnik says:

          Riot pulled a Blizzard and, with LoL, made WoW based on DOTA’s EQ1.

          So I guess that means Blizzard made SWTOR the MOBA?

        • SynCaine says:

          HotS being the SW:TOR of the MOBA genre is perfect, yes.

      • SynCaine says:

        Calling it AoS is like that kid who brings up M59 when talking about UO as the first MMO. Don’t be that kid.

    • carson63000 says:

      I’m not a MOBA player at all, but even I could see that this was exactly what the DOTA people said to bash LOL, except with “DOTA” replaced by “LOL”, and “LOL” replaced by “HotS”.

      If it had been posted on any other blog, I would have actually have read it as a subtle jab at the ignorance of people bashing HotS.

    • SynCaine says:

      Some major differences:

      Removing deny didn’t fundamental change the game. Laning still happens, and you still pay attention to the enemy creep wave. Yes, it removes one skill check (did you hit the enemy creep before your opponent), but that’s miles apart from outright removing core elements of the genre (laning, gold gain, etc) and basically cutting out a huge portion of what makes the game work. If LoL added deny tomorrow, the game would be worse-off, but it wouldn’t play all that differently.

      LoL removed deny as part of an effort to curb snowballing and to remove the concept of the hyper-carry that dominated DOTA1 (because, obviously, 1 person being far more important than 9 others in the same 30min game isn’t good game design long-term). DOTA2 launched with massive snowballing and hyper-carries, but has since release scaled back heavily on both (so DOTA2 players have said, I haven’t played it in years). The history here is already written; Riot was right in that design decision, and DoTA2, while initially repeating the mistake of DOTA1, has followed suit.

      Creep deny isn’t needed, as LoL has shown, to retain the core gameplay that makes a MOBA work. Removing last-hitting and the related systems around it entirely and not really replacing it with anything solid, as HotS shows, is a major mistake.

      • everblue650 says:

        How do you maintain creep equilibrium in LoL without denials and hitting your own creeps? Is the motion of the lane quite erratic?

        • SynCaine says:

          Its controllable, just takes knowing the situation and acting accordingly.

          So say I just sent my laning opponent back to heal, I can either push the wave into his tower to have it kill some of my creeps, or I can freeze it if I want to return to fighting him near the middle when he returns.

          Later in the game with a tower down, if I see a wave is naturally making its way towards me, I can either clear it to change the direction, or only last-hit (and only last-hit a split second before the minion would die) to keep the wave moving towards me if map control isn’t in our favor.

          Just two examples out of a million.

  2. saucelah says:

    I can agree that it certainly functions that way in current games. It certainly is a feedback mechanic as the Minmatar called it in his response to me. From what I remember, it involves wiggling back and forth while ceasing movement at the right moment to get the hit out at the right time. That seems a really twitchy, almost platformer skill to me. It doesn’t seem ultimately necessary to games about tactics or strategy. I don’t mean it doesn’t belong at all — it’s very fitting with games as they stand. For me personally, it’s just not any fun. Once the only skill I was learning in LoL was last hitting, I moved on to other games. There was never a conscious decision, but inertia feeds inertia in skill based games, and eventually it had been so long since I played that I uninstalled the game.

    MOBAs are a young genre, at least in iterations if not in years, and I hope we’ve barely seen a fraction of what is possible. I’d love to see games rethink, replace, or eliminate all the basic concepts of the games as they stand. Last hits, minions, lanes: all of these should be up for changes. Otherwise there will just be more clones.

    Again, broad disclaimer, no idea if Blizzard is the one to do it. I hate Warcraft and Starcraft multiplayer for the same reason I’m not a fan of last hits. They’re very twitchy games. There is always some twitch in RTS, but I spent a lot of time in Dawn of War’s multiplayer — the mechanics there were more what I find interesting: less twitch, more positioning and cover.

  3. CF says:

    What if MOBAs adopted the rules from some MMORPGs? What if first hitting is what mattered and then doing more damage to your targets than anyone else gets you the kill credit otherwise no one gets the credit?

    That sounds ridiculous right? But that exists in many games.

    Last hitting and (first hitting) shouldn’t be a mechanic in a team game. They promote selfish single mindedness not teamwork. If you get mad or frustrated at a teammate because they did damage to something you are both supposed to be killing then that is a flawed game mechanic.

    if you want to play a single player game that rewards timing then go play 100 balls, its free on the app store.

    All that said, last hitting matters in HotS (which i know prompted this post) there are talents that specifically say if you kill a mob (last hit) your damage permanently goes up for the rest of the game. in a random game this doesn’t matter but in competitive team play if you know your team mate took a talent like that you go out of your way to make sure (s)he gets the last hit, and it doesn’t hurt your progression in the slightest. THAT is last hitting done right.

    • Ranamar says:

      Interestingly, there are only a very few that say “if you kill…” (Off the top of my head, Raynor’s old trait / Putting On A Clinic and Azmodan’s stacking damage upgrade, but those are only the ones I’ve played with.) Many of them say something more like “if you recently damaged…” Seasoned Marksman doesn’t require actually getting the kill: you just need to be damaging it. I’m pretty sure this is true of Bribe as well. Similarly, Nazeebo’s trait is somewhere in the middle: he applies a DOT on all his abilities, and you get a bonus if things die before the DOT runs out. It’s simple, easy-to-understand, and doesn’t require anything as fiddly as last hits.

      As someone who *hates* twitch games, this is great. (For example, I have found basically every iteration of Unreal Tournament that I tried playing to be completely unplayable. I think the scout in TF2 goes fast enough that I will pick any other class first.) I can avoid last-hitting altogether by not picking those talents or playing those heroes or talents. And, even if I’m playing one of them, most of the talents let you more or less maximize damage output while still getting a similar bonus, instead of wiggling around trying to optimize wasting your attacks.

      Finally, the soaking mechanic has a limited range, which I don’t know of Syncaine has noticed. It is apparently doable to push and/or body-block an enemy hero out of being able to get exp for the lane, although I haven’t tried much to achieve this. (From what I hear, the soak range is about 1.5 times the range of a ranged hero, and you’re probably relying on a teammate to get their soak on in the lane in the process.) I think a positioning game is significantly more interesting than some sort of twitch execution game, because getting better at it requires thinking, rather than simply improving my reflexes.

  4. It’s easy to see what’s wrong with last hitting: let me introduce the “lasthit bot”: when you control your character or attacking an enemy player, the bot is inactive. However when you aren’t attacking anything and in range of minions, the bot automatically lands one hit if the HP of the minion is lower than one hit would cause.

    Equipped with this very simple bot, the player would “perform” top level, revealing that lasthitting isn’t about being “skilled”, but simply being good in a split-second clicking task.

    • SynCaine says:

      That bot would get you destroyed in a game; I’d watch your minion, when it got close to the HP threshold, I’d auto-attack your champ. You’d either let the bot hit for you and take damage, or stop the bot and miss the last-hit.

      Once you were damage enough to be forced back and out of creep range, you’d continue to miss last hits as you get zoned due to the above plays.

      That’s why last hitting is important; it’s not a simple mechanic you can bot and get the same result.

  5. Anti-Stupidity League says:

    Huh. Daily quests and the quest grinding are some of the most stupidest things in modern mmos. Rpgs don’t need fixing by removing “core systems like daily quests”, they need fixing by not including those atrocities in the first place.

  6. Matt says:

    It was a good try, but in reality last-hitting is a relic of the Warcraft 3 engine that no one would ever consider adding to a game otherwise. Tradition is a powerful force.

  7. Frosth says:

    I get your point that it is a core element of what makes a moba a moba.
    It’s afterall 90% of the gameplay.

    However, it comes down to the notions of depth and complexity. Last hits are non decisions. There is only one way of doing things and just like headshots are more execution skills rather than valuation skills. If the rest of moba games offered meaningful gameplay choices, then doing away with last hitting would be entirely fine.

    As it stands, mobas are about complexity with nearly no depth. They are as much “hidden gems of gaming” than tic tac toe is an hidden gem of board games.

    They serve a purpose to shut your brain off and unwind, but they are the fast food of gaming and that’s why Blizzard, the designers of the perfect MacMMO, are trying the concept. This doesn’t deserve so much virtual ink.

    • SynCaine says:

      Agree to disagree on the last-hit decision thing. Deciding when to push a wave and when not to is pretty huge in LoL, and that has little to nothing to do with twitch skill.

      • Frosth says:

        But the notion of pushing or not the lane could be done in numerous ways as long as the higher level decision is the same, the low level implementation can be meaningful gameplay too.

        But then again, what people associate dota likes with laning, creep death management and item purchases. Remove any of those and you get something unrecognisable as a moba for the masses, yet still is in the initial meaning. (multiplayer online battle arena)

        Unfortunately, those “necessary” markers are also contributing to the flaws of those games. By design they all have cripling snowballing(last hiting/deny and gold/xp), stale and repetitive early games(laning) and unecesary clutter and complexity(players rarely change their “builds” from game to game)

        A good example of a moba that worked on fixing all those flaws is Magicka: Wizzard wars. It doesn’t have creep waves, doesn’t have lanning, no gold nor xp gains and you set your build out of game. It also cuts down a lot of the “by heart” knowledge necessary with dozens of heroes by replacing it with a form of linear rock paper scizzors.

        And it works. Games go straight to the fun gameplay, there is no mechanic enforced snowballing, you spend less time in frustrating/boring matches and more in balanced ones and you have a meaningful low level decision making process.

        The only crucial flaw in that game is that it is 4v4 rather than odd numbers like 5 or 7.
        I strongly recommend you try it out.

        Back on subject, I haven’t played hots yet, I have never liked blizzard games, but it seems that if they manage to correct their implementation, they could “fix” the genre.

        • SynCaine says:

          “Unfortunately, those “necessary” markers are also contributing to the flaws of those games. By design they all have cripling snowballing(last hiting/deny and gold/xp), stale and repetitive early games(laning) and unecesary clutter and complexity(players rarely change their “builds” from game to game)”

          The above isn’t true IMO of LoL at a certain level.

          Snowballing is extreme tame, in that one great player can’t 1v5 the other team 99% of the time (challenger smurf in bronze, sure, maybe). Plus some degree of individual power increase must exist or you get something like… well HotS, which is pretty bad.

          Early game is rarely stale. Games don’t go 0-0 until 15min, and with the number of viable champions, seeing the same matchup even if you only play a few champs isn’t common. Right now I only play Malz mid, and I can’t even think of the most common champ I face, let alone saying it feels stale.

          Builds change all the time too, and players who just build what they would always build don’t make it very far. Now sure, every champ has a few core items that fit most games, but that’s not a flaw IMO, and certainly not something I’d outright remove to ‘fix it’.

          Ultimately what I get is you don’t like the MOBA genre, but that dislike is different from design flaws. LoL isn’t perfect, but the core is far from flawed, and I think games that fall into that trap, like HotS, are going to greatly suffer in the long term.

        • Ranamar says:


          So… HotS is a MOBA for people who hate the superficial gameplay in existing MOBAs? Either this is a brilliant move because there are people out there playing MOBAs who hate the gameplay in the existing ones, or this is a terrible move because not enough of those players exist.

          Given the number of people coming out of the woodwork to complain about the superficial gameplay in existing MOBAs when you claim it’s central to a MOBA being a MOBA, it seems at least worth a shot.

        • SynCaine says:

          Fair enough, time will tell with HotS. My money is on it failing though, and at best being a footnote title behind even SMITE, let alone being in the same sentence as LoL or DOTA2.

  8. Frosth says:

    I do not dislike mobas, I dislike their current implementation.

    The core concept is solid. 5v5 with game mechanics enforced through map design with clear win conditions. The notion of creep waves and semi asymetric gameplay through hero selection. Picks and counterpicks are also great mechanics. It’s also simplistic enough to be a great competitive game.

    But it was made a decade(?) ago by a modder with no gamedesign experience. Not all systems from the original need to be kept. Some are actualy flaws.

    Lol is the most succesful yet is the one that is the least “dota like”. As others here have said, we haven’t had enough iterations yet on the concept and we shouldn’t be against trying out new things.

    Hots will fail because it is new blizzard, not because the concept is bad.

    Sincerely, give magicka wizard wars a couple hours of your time. It is a well made game and shows the potential for mobas that break the mold. It isn’t lol, but that would be like expecting every mmo to be wow.

    • SynCaine says:

      Does Wizard Wars play like the original Magicka? Wasn’t a huge fan of that game, never clicked with me.

      • Frosth says:

        They altered it to be smoother.

        First, you click once on a spot and your char goes there.
        The spell combos are mostly the same but balanced better.
        Shields and aura system is very important now.
        There is gear that helps you specialise in an element (+10 earth power/resist, -10 air) which creates a dynamic rock paper scissors.(or remain neutral)
        For rituals, you have 4 slots going from t1 to t4. You have a gauge that charges over time that once fully charged lets you use 4 time your t1, 2 times your t2 or 1 time t3 with a spare t1 or use your t4 once.

        The unlocking of gear and rituals is very f2p like but pretty fair. You could pay to specialise with the drawbacks that come with it. I haven’t felt the need to pay but I consider supporting the game.

        If you didn’t like the combo system, though, you may dislike this too, but they really polished the gameplay compared to the noemal magicka.

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