Thanks to some convincing from Meghan over at MeghanPlaysGames I recently spent some time delving into Pokémon Unite. The target audience for this game is very clearly MOBA newcomers as many of its systems and the general design have been catered toward approachability. As someone who has played other MOBAs it has been interesting seeing what systems have been changed relative to other games on the market. I won’t say that it’s the most compelling thing I’ve ever played, but it has certainly been interesting to experience.
I think one of the single biggest changes about Unite from the standard MOBA comes from how match length is handled. Instead of allowing the match to naturally play out and complete once the primary objective has been finished by either team, every single game is boxed into a set time. You have ten minutes to score as many points as possible and then whichever team scored better is awarded the win. It’s a neat approach and keeps matches from become too stagnant when either team starts to have a runaway victory.
Despite matches having a fairly short runtime I’ve noticed an odd trend across my playtime with Unite: players keep quitting prematurely. I played Heroes of the Storm for over five hundred hours and can count the number of players who went AFK on one hand. In my first five hours of Pokémon Unite I ran out of fingers and I gotta say I really don’t understand why this is happening.
To start let’s look at the Unite specific reasons for why I’m baffled by the high number of early quitters.
First off, the matches time boxed. In something like League of Legends, or the aforementioned Heroes of the Storm by not playing you allow the enemy team to win faster. Obvious if they’re playing against a smaller team it will naturally be easier for them to complete their map objective and end the game faster, thus you can move onto the next game. As a player you’re given an incentive to give up when you think you’ve lost because it allows you to move onto the next game faster. The same isn’t true of Pokémon Unite unless your team surrenders prematurely. You’re still stuck there for ten minutes before you can move onto the next game.
Secondly, Unite features some of the most absurd comeback mechanics I’ve ever seen in the final two minutes of a match. There is no short supply of matches where my team was getting their ass kicked for the majority of the match and we should have lost. However the comeback mechanics in Unite are so strong that a losing team can reasonably win off of a strong final showing. In fact, I’d argue the final two minutes are so swingy that they single-handedly decide every single match. As a result there is absolutely no reason to stop playing early as the real game only starts once the final two minutes are hit.
I guess part of my own attitude toward this sort of thing is born out of how I approach competitive games. I’m sure it won’t come as a huge surprise given a subset of the games I’ve covered on here, but I enjoy playing games where I can compete against others. There is a certain joy that comes from really getting into someone’s head and outplaying them, or otherwise finding yourself in your opponent’s spider’s web and realizing they’ve bested you. Evidently I’m not the only person who enjoys this sort of thing either given the rise in popularity of various e-sports related events and games.
There’s also one very important factor that people need to remain mindful of when it comes to human opponents: they make mistakes. AI will do whatever it is programmed to do, but humans can and will make mistakes. It’s for this reason that no one should ever give up when they’re playing a human opponent. All it takes is one critical mistake and you can potentially claw back a victory from the jaws of defeat. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve had a sliver of health in fighting games against an opponent who was almost at full health, but I ended up scraping out a win off of the back of a single mistake my opponent made. What’s even better is these sorts of upsets always feel fantastic.
That’s really all I wanted to say here. When you’re playing against other people you can never be exactly certain of the outcome. It’s important to go down fighting because there’s always a chance you could still win. This is doubly true in Pokémon Unite as it has no sense of competitive integrity, so I don’t want to see any of you throwing in the towel early in my Unite matches.