Marc DeForest began his presentation with an odd choice of words.

“I’m almost tired of hearing about MOBAs,” the S2 Games chief executive said wryly. “Who isn’t making a MOBA?”

DeForest knows how crowded the genre has become, but that didn’t stop him and the rest of the company from making their next multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, Strife. He was adamant that Strife is the next big thing. He even went as far to say that, in the years to come, Strife will “prove to be one of the most played and most beloved games in all of PC gaming.”

That’s quite a bold claim for something that hasn’t even entered its beta period (which is set for later this fall, with a release some time next year). But this aggressive confidence was a recurring theme last week in Sausalito, Calif., where the developers spent a whole day showing off just how they’re planning to deliver on DeForest’s promise. Armed with the knowledge and lessons gained from their previous game, Heroes of Newerth — one of the top three contenders for the MOBA crown — S2 argued that it’s in a unique position to make the best MOBA yet.

GamesBeat spoke with DeForest just as the day was winding down to find out what makes Strife so special, how S2 Games expect the MOBA audience to react, and where the genre might be heading in the future.


Above: A Strife team about to take down one of the towers.

Image Credit: S2 Games

GamesBeat: Since Heroes of Newerth will still be around when Strife comes out, do you think the audience will split between them? Or does each one cater to a different type of player?

Marc DeForest: Our expectation is there’s going to be people who play HON who are gonna look at Strife, and they’re gonna have a preconceived notion of something and they’re not going to like it. And we’re OK with that. We also feel like there’s a significant portion of the HON player population who’s gonna look at Strife and say, “Wow, I really like this.” Does that mean that they’re just gonna stop playing HON and they’re gonna start playing Strife and [be] all, “Well, if I’m playing that one, I can’t play that one.” No. …

I see a good part of the HON population doing that as well. But I also see that of all the other games in the genre, too. They have to be compelled to take a look at Strife. It’s the only game that exists as the second game of an experienced MOBA studio making another game in the genre. And then I have a feeling it’s gonna grab a hold of them. But [that doesn’t mean] they’re gonna quit playing the other game that they’re playing. They may just add it to their repertoire, and then we just hope we get our claws in deep enough that they just keep wanting to come back to it more and more and more.

GamesBeat: Do you expect a mix of new and veteran players?

DeForest: The question is: Can you make a game where you elegantly design it to the point that it’s approachable? You can look at it. You can look at it from its U.I. [user interface] You can look at it from the number of heroes. You can look at it from its art direction, and you realize, “Wow, this is not so intimidating that I just want to turn around and run away.” Or that it’s information overload analysis paralysis, and you just lock up. And then you realize that while it provides all those things, and I feel like I can sit down and give it a try, it’s not exactly easy to become great at it.

And that’s what really … the ability for you to play a game and end that game and think about all the things you could’ve done differently to improve how you played in that game is what makes you want to come back and get better and come back and get better. It drives all of us. That’s human nature. So it actually keeps the replayability and the addiction aspect of what many of these other games have [and] how they balloon their populations to what they are — Heroes of Newerth included in that.

But sometimes — look at the difficulty that they have in ushering players into them, yet they still manage to reach these huge play numbers. So if you can lower that, you get more people in, and then they don’t leave because they like it, think about how big the player population could become.