By regularly releasing new characters, MOBAs like League of Legends reshape expectations about how a character class must look and play.
I respect subtle design. In general, videogames are not subtle in storytelling—which often enough works for them—but I appreciate the visual and sound work that goes into communicating a game’s systems and themes. For instance, if you were to look at the character design of a mage and a tank, it’s easy to tell which is which. Even those without much gaming experience can probably rely on cultural shorthands for “mage” (aged, slender person in robes) or “tank” (massively built person dressed in as much metal as an actual tank), provided they come from a culture with the background to make the association. This is important because many games require different strategic behavior to navigate as or against either a mage or a tank, and subtly indicating which is which without relying on direct communication is a tricky bit of design that (like most things that only work when they aren’t noticed_ often goes unappreciated. That said, once a pattern is made, it doesn’t take long before it gets stale.
It’s easy to fall into old habits. The support class rarely changes between RPGs or shooters, functionally or aesthetically. Again, most players know what a support does, and they know how they act just by looking. It’s a problem if they don’t. However, by regularly releasing new characters, MOBAs like League of Legends reshape expectations about how a class must look and play. There are just five roles split between two five member teams in a game of League of Legends and over a hundred characters to fill them. Naturally, with so many characters and plans to continue releasing them, characters blur lines and deviate from expectations in unique ways. Janna is a slim, elf-eared nudist with shielding and healing powers, but she’s equally viable as the AP carry, a team’s central source of magic damage. Meanwhile, Morgana, a witch shrouded in a dark purple aura and Annie, a prodigal pyromancer, have been popular support characters among professional teams. Even though their designs seem to imply certain roles for them, they’re able to cross barriers into different territories.