MLBB: Why Positioning Matters

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Positioning in Video GamesAs a first in our blog, we will delve into more advanced concepts to give you guys more inclusive and progressive guides. After all, where do we go after beginning our journey into, say, Mobile Legends Bang Bang? In this article, the first of two parts, we will look at one of the core concepts of gaming: positioning. We will also look at some play-by-play analysis where I dissect my games at low-mid rank and differentiate them from games from higher ranks and professional games taken from the recently-concluded M4 World Championship. So, without further ado, here is our first advanced guide. We hope you enjoy reading.

Why Does Positioning Matter, Anyway?

Positioning in video games dates back to tactical games like chess, where players must think at least five steps ahead of their opponent. This is further solidified with “tactics” games released in consoles and handhelds, not to mention the numerous iterations of chess installed on personal computers and mobile phones.

Being a core mechanic, positioning matters in video games regardless of genre. It opens up or closes down a given space and shows how your movement dictates the game’s pace. Whether you’re an aggressive player or a passive one, knowing where to position yourself will be a key component in deciding the match.

For example, in fighting games, executing a projectile move greatly affects the spacing of the players, especially if the opponent is using a close-quarter character like a grappler. However, using movements like jumping or dashing (among other more advanced techniques) can close down the gap between the players. Before you know it, they’re already face-to-face. This makes for epic moments and comebacks. Just search in Google what “Evo Moment #37” is, and you’ll understand how positioning affects match outcomes.

Let’s go back to why it matters in MLBB.

Tactical games involve a lot of positioning and re-positioning to take space. For example, in MLBB, the chance of claiming spaces for attack and defense depends on each player’s role. A Marksman may take the Gold Lane to fulfill their role as someone who earns as much gold to farm better items.

However, marksmen rarely take the jungle, which is the space occupied mostly by a dedicated jungler like an Assassin. It will be a mismatch if the Marksman takes a duel against an Assassin because the Marksman may not have the necessary abilities to re-position, which the Assassin has. Similarly, playing in their respective spaces could give them a 50% chance of putting themselves in danger. This means that encounters have no guarantee of elimination.

Going back to the Assassin vs. Marksman duel. Let’s say that they are both in their respective spaces and a duel is imminent, we can assume two things: that the position of the Assassin will be very close to the Marksman, that there is very little time for the Marksman to make a counter-attack, or the Marksman has already positioned themselves to bait out the Assassin. In these situations, those who initiate will take calculated risks to outmatch their opponents. I will explain this further in the next section.

Mechanics for Good Positioning – Low to Mid Rank Guide

It is understood that low (beginner) and middle (intermediate) level players often play to understand the basics of the game and incorporate different playstyles derived from high (advanced – pro) level players. One of the things they overlook early in the game is how positioning creates plays. This is because positioning involves some degree of game sense where players understand the fundamentals of the match-ups. This guided “sixth sense” uses the player’s knowledge of their and their opponent’s roles, how the map works, and what their teammates are doing, which reads into the positioning of everyone on the map. Equally important for game sense is the process of elimination, where players should be able to discern, based on their positioning, where opponents might be. In MLBB, staying in one position may have four possible options: front, back, left side, and right side. This is limited by what you can see on your screen and the mechanic called “fog of war.” Fog of war is an old video game concept derived from real-world military operations where gathering information precedes combat engagement. 

We can see this being practiced in MLBB through poking abilities and space creation using the normal skill. The videoes provided in this section exemplify how situational awareness works both ways. One is that my teammate knew I was at a disadvantage when he saw that I was outnumbered (2-vs-1) in the Gold Lane. When he took care of that, I assisted the Mid Lane and saw some value in my abilities and Ultimate. It was a good intuition for me to make that move since the tank that helped me told the team to watch the Mid Lane. Secondly, there was also some value when I racked up assists as I dealt some damage to enemies.

You can also note how I poked the enemy Bruno in the early stage of the match, dealing damage while also keeping my distance. This is the mismatch I mentioned. The situation favored me because I positioned myself within my range to deal damage. This is also why Bruno needed backup from his ally, Zilong; at this point, I was at a disadvantage not only because I was outnumbered but also had a few options for escape. If Bruno had been closer to me initially, I would’ve lost the 1-vs-1 duel.

The second video shows how “smart” aggression wins the game. I started with my usual gold farming and helped the team push later. To show why positioning matters in this match, I only died five times and racked up assists. You can also see some movement-based intel gathering during the later part of the match as I tried to see whether I can get eliminations on my own or wait for a teammate to arrive. All of those are determined because I am positioned close enough to think of viable options.

High Rank to Pros: The Main Difference

[Warning: Contains spoilers]

There is an obvious gap between low and mid-rank players to high-rank players. This difference is using positioning and spatial awareness to the next level. Sure, mid-rank players can go up the ranks but will experience hiccups in the long run if they do not adjust their gameplay. The same principle applies to low-rank players who want to go higher. So, to compare the clip of my game, we can compare this side by side with the recently-concluded M4 World Championship Grand Finals.

The greater the skill gap is, the better we see the mistakes of lower ranks.

In the opening moments of the first match between Blacklist International (BLCK) and ECHO, we see that ECHO was trying to play safe. That’s because they know that BLCK will try to be aggressive. However, ECHO was patient enough to launch its space creation. Despite the Turtle being slain by BLCK, ECHO still had an advantage. Even the commentators knew about this.

Strikingly, one of the commentators in the English stream said that ECHO’s playbook is to “take lanes” by using crowd control skills. This has become the theme of the Grand Finals, and we can see this as ECHO dominated the whole set and won the M4 Championship. The video of the whole set is provided below.

Their lane-taking and, consequently, space creation opened up many offensive options for ECHO as they farmed their equipment and gold. Of course, other external factors aside (pick bans being one), the clean playbook of ECHO deserves some praise.

Conclusion

As we take our game to the next level, we should not forget our fundamentals because understanding them is the path to mastery. I came from Tactical First-Person Shooters and fighting games, so my understanding of how positioning works in those games gave me spots at local tournaments, often with Top 10 finishes. This guide is a culmination of how I used what I know in a game I don’t usually play. But while I was writing this, I used what I know, and written here, to climb up the ranks. I hope this will further accelerate your game and see every game you play differently.

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