Faction Warfare

written by Alastrom

 

Have you ever seen someone with a Horde or Alliance sticker on the back of their vehicle? Once upon a time, players of World of Warcraft took great pride in their faction of choice. Choosing Horde or Alliance had serious consequences and it has caused no short amount of strife among friends that chose to support the opposite faction. I feel like that’s what has always made Warcraft great. It was the sort of decision that transcended the game world and broke the barrier to the real. It’s no wonder we had this mentality. Early Warcraft locked you to a single faction and if you wanted to change you had to delete all of your characters or move to another server. Effectively speaking, choosing one side meant abandoning the other. But in recent years we’ve seen players switch factions for any number of reasons. In the case of raiding guilds, they’ve jumped just based on what racials are available to either side for that raid season. Blizzard is all too happy to facilitate this exchange, for a moderate fee of course. That’s if you don’t simply decide to “roll” the opposite faction on your current server, as nothing is stopping you from doing so. All in all, this has lead to a degradation of faction pride and I think the World of Warcraft is worse off for it.

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Some considered Battle for Azeroth to be an attempt to bring balance back to the factions. In Legion, the previous expansion, players found themselves working side by side with the opposing faction to face off against a much larger threat – the demon invasion. This worked from a story telling perspective but skirmishes were still frequent with key members of the cast often pursuing their own faction related goals. It was a mixed bag of emotion that didn’t give players a clear understanding of what the relationship status was for the both the Horde and the Alliance. This eventually returned with Battle for Azeroth, with players once again knowing full well who the enemy was. Sadly, the damage has already been done. Many players have characters on both the Horde and Alliance and many draw the battle lines not based upon the established lore but instead external decisions like which faction offers has more players or the viability of raiding. These seem like reasonable reason to pick a faction but I’ve always felt the decision should be an expression of you who are as a player. I for one have always sided with the Alliance and giving that up for a chance to raid seems like a sacrifice of everything I’ve ever done in Warcraft.

 

Players need a strong return to the faction conflict in Warcraft. During Wrath of the Lich King, we had an open world battleground called Wintergrasp. The Horde and the Alliance would face off against one another in an attack or defend scenario that determined who held the region until the next skirmish began. Holding Wintergrasp brought a number of benefits but losing it meant your faction had lost the battle. It was a matter of pride that under-geared players were willing to step up to take part in the defense. This sort of interaction is why people stood up tall and gave their factions battle cry. In stark contrast, losing Wintergrasp now wouldn’t matter much. Sure the Horde won, but you’re raiding tonight on your Horde toon anyway so it’s not like you “really” lost it did you? And as for battlegrounds? Well those don’t factor into anything. It’s just a way to get loot or complete the weekly quest. Losing just means you need to spend some more time in player versus player. A minor inconvenience at best. Faction conflict fueled early Warcraft gameplay. Winning Warsong Gulch was a clear flex to the opposing faction on your server and a clear signal to those around you that you deserved to wear your factions banner. We’ve replaced the server community with megalithic battlegroups where your allies are ambiguous at best.  You may see the same faces from time to time but there’s no promise that person is actually fighting for your faction and not just taking the shorter queue time.

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The Horde burned Teldrassil and the Alliance laid siege to the Undercity. Every Night Elf should want revenge and every Forsaken should want justice. I get it, that’s all “RP” stuff and you’ve just been playing the past few years for the gear. You don’t care about the story and it doesn’t really matter which faction you pick because you’re just going to play whichever one has the better raiders. I’m not saying everyone needs to get involved in the lore of Warcraft but if you’ve ever taken part in a world event where your faction wins, the slightest cheer from you means you care about this stuff too and you may as well act like it. Warcraft might be a game about shared experience but I think it’s always been about the conflict between two factions, battling for dominance. It’s no different from people that support one sports team over another.

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I’ve made this argument in the past and it always comes down to the same mentality. We name our characters, we choose their class. We decide their gender and how they dress. As gamers, many of us already act as if we’re inserting ourselves into our digital worlds and yet we like to pretend that we’re not a part of them. That’s a duality that gets in the way of the experience. We’re defined by our choices and in the case of World of Warcraft, choosing the Horde or the Alliance was once the biggest choice a player can make. The importance of that decision has been diminished and as a result, players simply don’t care which faction they end up in. I would argue that if you don’t care about the basic foundation of your character, you are unlikely to be someone that cares about what happens to them. It may seem black or white, but we’re either a part of this world or we’re apart from it. I truly believe it’s impossible to spend as much time in these games as we do and claim otherwise. If there’s any truth to that statement, then players should be willing to choose their faction and cheer it to victory. Anything short of that is relegating it to non-existence and I fully believe that’s a loss we’d deeply regret.

 

For the Alliance!

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