Heroes of Newerth (HoN)

Heroes of Newerth is a computer game that fosters anger and constant team/opponent flaming, yet manages to continue to attract players (including myself). It’s not really a game where you get rewarded for doing things well so much as punished for doing something wrong – and to make things worse, it’s not just you who gets punished, it’s your entire team. As one can probably imagine, this is not a “noob-friendly” game.

When you’re not very good, it’s like playing make-it-take-it basketball against Kobe Bryant

The format of the game is 5 vs 5 where each player selects from an available pool of heroes, each with 4 skills (one of which is more powerful than the rest – known as the “ultimate”) that you can level as the game goes on. Each time you level a skill, your hero gets more powerful in a specific way. Players are allowed to choose the path in which they level their hero’s abilities, which is known as customizing a hero’s “build”. The map is set up as two divided camps in opposite corners, split by a river in the middle. The camps are connected by three lanes, which are protected by towers for each team. Based on a timer, each side spawns uncontrollable units (3 melee, 1 ranged, and sometimes 1 siege) that walk towards the opposite camp and fights the opposing team. Players can kill these units (ie. “creep”) as well as destroy towers for gold to buy items to further strengthen their hero. Some items give heroes passive abilities such as faster movement speed, faster attack speed, more damage output, some are consumable to regenerate health/mana, and others can be activated to produce an additional skill-like effect. The game is won when one team destroys the other team’s “throne”.

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 The generally accepted way to play is to put two heroes in the top lane, two in the bottom lane and one in the middle lane. Your hero gets experience by killing creep/heroes and levels up when he/she gets enough experience. When there are other allies within experience range when experience is distributed, that experience is divided equally (so the solo mid lane will level up faster than the double side lanes). There is a unique meta-game that players must learn in HoN that improves their chances of winning against the other team.

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Generally, the game starts of in the “laning phase” where players generally remain equal in level and gold. The game then usually moves into the “ganking phase” where a hero or two leave their lane and help another lane kill their hero, giving the ganking team a gold/level advantage, which in turn gives item advantage (this is where the make-it-take-it basketball reference comes into play – when you’re winning, you get rewarded with more gold for doing well, which you use to buy items that make you stronger, while the team that made the mistake of getting ganked loses gold and remains weak without items) Games usually snowball once a team starts to get kills against the opposing team, making it harder and harder for the losing team to come back. This tends to lead to finger pointing and team raging. If a game doesn’t get to a point where one team clearly needs to concede, the game moves into the “farming/pushing phase”. Characters that scale well in damage output farm gold and get items to help them annihilate the other team, while characters that can bring down towers easily try to end the game before other heroes get too strong. From my experience playing HoN, I’ve found that 90% of cases, the winning team tends to win. This makes the 10% chance for a comeback all that more satisfying.

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