Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why not offer true faction changes?

"If only there were true faction changes!”

The exclamation came from a guildie of mine as we were discussing the upcoming possibility to transform your character into an equivalent one on the horde side.

His suggestion was that a forsaken who didn’t like what the apothecaries did at Wrathgate should be able to jump to the Alliance side, as well as an orc “sick and tired of Garrosh whining and nerd raging like a lil kid”. For his own part he wouldn’t mind joining the horde as a human, since he really hated Wrynn.

What I had expected
I’m not quite as dedicated to lore as my guild mate is, so it’s not a huge motivator for me to play either on the alliance or the horde side. But still I find his idea attractive.

As a matter of fact, I had actually expected the faction changes to work exactly this way when I first heard about the concept. In my world, I would be able to join the horde as Larísa, the gnome.

Soon enough I realized the truth. The faction change isn’t about changing faction of your toon at all. It’s about killing your character, letting it crumble in front of your eyes, and then bring over the leftovers – the gear, the reputations and the achievements to a newly created character which starts at the max level. If I did this, the new character wouldn’t have anything to do with Larísa (apart from the name, if I managed to keep it). I couldn’t possibly think of it as a Larísa in disguise, who had transformed from a larvae to a butterfly. I would rather imagine it to be similar to buying a character at e-bay. They’re geared well enough, but there’s something missing: a solid background history, a lifetime of experiences, all those things which bring a character into life.

What I would suggest
Without considering the possible problems in programming and game design conflicts that may occur, I would like to see another design of faction changes: the possibility to keep your character as it is when it comes to race and looks, and only switching faction.

This shouldn’t be available to anyone who randomly gets the idea that this would be a fun thing to do. There is a point in keeping a certain distinction between the Horde and Alliance factions; if it messes up too much it will end up everything looking about the same, which is not what I desire. Because of this I would like to see it restricted, making it something you definitely would think about twice before trying.

You shouldn’t be able to buy it, not for 30$, not for 300$. The only way to get it would be to put in an insane amount of effort in game, something that made “insane in the membrane” look like a piece of cake.

Think about how you could switch between Aldor and Scryer once upon a time. A pink pigtail gnome who died to join the ranks of the Horde for whatever reason should be able to do so, but of course she would have to proof her reliability to gain the trust of the former enemies. Preferably it would take more than just turning in items (if you mention basilisk eyes to someone who’s switched faction in Shattrath they get something wild in their eyes). No, ideally, the faction transfer would contain a ton of questing, equivalent of the effort you make when you bring up a character from 1 to 80. This would make sense from a RP perspective, and it would also make you acquainted to the areas and lore of the opposite faction.

Pros and cons
I'm pretty certain there are some problems that would follow with my suggested faction change mechanism. Apart from the risk that it would become too popular, erasing the character and atmosphere of Horde vs Alliance, I can imagine that it especially would cause some trouble in PvP.

If you're a horde player who is used to look out for those annoying little pigtailed gnomes bouncing around in the battleground, I imagine it will be somewhat hard to get used to the idea that this little rat actually is a friend that you should heal rather than tear into pieces and stomping into the ground.. And the other way around: if I see a tauren going my way, my first idea is to try to kill him, my second is to flee the field, if he seems to be too much to me to fight. I would have to look twice - at a minimum - to realize that we're on the same side.

But there's also much to win from it. As mentioned before, it would allow us to keep our beloved characters, who we have invested so much time and effort and emotions into, even if we'd like to see "the other side". It would also give an interesting addition to the role playing, storytelling side of WoW. The story of the "traitor" who dares to cross traditional borders out of passion or personal believes is an old one and it presents a lot of potential conflicts that could be interesting to explore. Think of Mr Worf in Star Trek TNG and his struggles to deal with his klingon heritage!

Another good thing about a true faction change that it would offer players who've "been everywhere and done everything" a new challenge, a worthy achievement with a really cool reward. Who wouldn't want to be the first pink pigtailed gnome to become a Horde soldier, making everyone turn their heads in Orgrimmar? It would certainly be worth a reputation grind in a scale we've never seen before.


Cap'n John said...

I find the Death Knights are sort of something like this. I assume it's just the first time a Death Knight enters their capital city (probably on a quest to trip the NPC's switches) because several times I've seen DKs enter a city to a very unwelcome greeting from guards & other NPCs, with insults and rotten fruit being tossed around.

Your character should have to first turn against their own faction, perhaps by Declaring War then killing enough NPCs to grind their Rep back down from Exalted to Hated (much like I read what a bored Raider once did to the Plaguelands' Scarlet Crusade).

After getting yourself to Hated with your own Faction you could then enter the opposing Faction's capital city, make your way to their Leader and get a quest from them which would perhaps send you back to your own Capital City's entrance where you need to plant a banner to demonstrate your new true colors. Planting the Banner flags you PvP (and now you can be attacked by your former faction) while simultaneously alerting the entire zone that a traitor is among them.

Return from your quest, hand it in to your new faction's leader, and that just starts everything for you all over again, perhaps as a lowly level 1 character, with your Uber Epix gear Banked & waiting for you to grind your way back up and hit Cap.

Now THAT would be an Epic (& Grindy) way to change Factions.

Svenn said...

Why not a third party option? Sometimes I get fed up with the Alliance, but certainly not enough to make me want to jump ship to the Horde. If there were a 3rd option somewhat similar to what I wrote about here, that one could transfer into while still keeping the same race, that would get my attention. If faction changes are about providing more variety for players to choose from, why not give them more options?

Rohan said...

There is a difference between problems that should be handled "in-game" and problems that should be handled "out-of-game".

Faction/race/gender changes are out-of-game changes. They are changes made because the player outside the game is unhappy, and so we choose to turn a blind eye to the impact that the change has on roleplaying or character history.

It is a mistake to try and handle everything within the rules. Sometimes, you have to step outside the rules and the gameworld, and talk directly to the player.

You see this a lot in regular table-top roleplaying forums. The DM will say that Player A's character is being disruptive and constantly working at cross-purposes to the group. Some DMs try and force the character to work with the group using in-game mechanics such as threats or magical coercion. But the proper response is to talk to the player outside the game, tell the player that he is hurting the game and remove him from the group if necessary.

Similarly, faction change is an out-of-game problem. A player wants to play with friends who are on the other faction. So they can now switch, and everyone in-game pretends that they've been Horde all along. It is an out-of-game solution for an out-of-game problem.

Elnia said...

@Rohan. An interesting point. But why does it have to be either/or. If you think about the game as a story, why can't the player tell a story of betrayal?

Personally, I like the neutral faction idea the best. But I fear that it might become so popular that the main faction would fade away.

Flex said...

I remember suggesting this, and seeing it suggested, years ago on the official forums. The possible reasons it's not been implemented are many.

For example, I can understand them not doing this due to 'lore', but then again alliance players can talk to some tauren npcs and vice versa, so even that doesn't make much sense.

I can also understand this (particularly in vanilla) due to race-specific abilities, such as alliance paladins, horde shamans, or fear ward, which tended to divide the factions and their abilities significantly in old-wow. But then, that's hardly relevant in today's wow either.

Another reason might be so that pvp players are not confused - say the alliance being confused by a gnome running into their encampment. But - oh wait - there's already an Orb of Deception in the game, so even that's ridiculous.

Perhaps it's because it'd be confusing for new players, who just created a gnome/dwarf/NE/human/draino, thinking themselves pinnacles of justice and all that's good and holy, and then log in and find themselves hanging out with a bunch of skeletal weirdos.

More than likely though, it's simply money related. Blizzard doesn't have to add any new content in the form of huge quests for this feature (which costs them $) and can instead charge the playerbase (which earns them $).

But maybe not having this features is a bad thing for other reasons.

Having played at end-game raid levels on both factions in the last few years, I find player attitudes about the opposite faction to be perpetually disappointing.

WoW's adherence to race-based factions seems simply an in-game tutorial in cartoon-softened prejudice and racism. If there were ever a reason to add faction 'change' to the game it would be to reduce this aspect somewhat.

But perhaps this would just anger the hardcore bigots, er, pvpers.

Or maybe I'm just a hopeless carebear.

Klepsacovic said...

I like the idea, except for the grind.

Buboe said...

I like the idea (although it would make BG's hell)
But I don't like the mechanic.
A different idea might be to put in once only faction changing quest lines. So, if you get pissed off at Varian or the Horde during Wrathgate, then you can switch in that (unrepeatable) quest chain.
You could then start in with Friendly Stormwind (or Org) rep, unfriendly (or worse)to the other faction citys and start grinding Stormwind rep until the exodar guards will let you in.
This would satisfy the lore requirements, be suitably one way, have a penalty(faction grinds) and some drama to it. It would also only require the changing of one questline.
Although I love the idea of having to plant an Alliance Banner outside of Orgrimmar gates. Can you imagine how long you'd last? There are around 20-40 PVP geared toons duelling there any time I ride through there....

Anti said...

i would be very happy to allow a gnome to leave the alliance. make them hostile to all alliance. and make them only neutral to horde players. any horde player could chose to attack them or aid them as they saw fit.

i can imagine the raid leader already..."ok which of you blood elves killed the gnome again?"

pambuk said...

Why not have both? Paid faction change as it is now for the lazy ;p And in-game faction change, the true one as you call it. True faction change would be a quest chain, very demanding, so only for the willing - this would assure not too many switches overall.

I wrote it somewhere already that I'd love to see taurens in Stormwind from time to time :)

Dàchéng said...

Change faction? I don't think so.

KIll all horde!

*vlad* said...

Humans can be converted to Forsaken quite easily, and you would not lose any 'Lore' by doing so.

Considering that Silvanas is an Elf, I wonder why there is an absence of undead Elves in the Forsaken. Presumably when Silvermoon was overrun by the Scourge, plenty of Elves joined their ranks, so where are they?

Yes,a different type of Elf than the Night Elves, but still.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there would be a tonne of problems associated with such a change but, feh, who cares - I *love* this idea, it would be brilliant. But then I'm probably just thinking of it from a perspective of purely selfish utility - I can probably bring myself to change server but to change *faction* and *race*! Shudder.

Larísa said...

@Can’n John: Yep, it was something like that I had in mind, although I’m not sure you’d have to be tossed back at level 1. Maybe. Anyway: it sounds like great fun to me! As long as you’re questing and not just collecting items, it isn’t too grindy imo.

@Svenn: I speculated for a while if they wouldn’t make the goblins a third party. Would make much more sense than going horde imo.

But third party option is something else, if you’re making a new race to enable it. What I’m looking for is a way to keep playing your toon under a new flag.

@Rohan: as I commented at your blog, I think that a faction change isn’t only about out-of-game issues. I for one would think that the process of actually changing, the challenge and the reward would be really cool. I don’t know any people on the horde side. But it would surely be interesting to play a “traitor”, someone who switched sides, not by a paid transfer, pretending it never happened, but for real.

@Elnia: yeah, that’s the problem with making it too easy to switch sides. It will dilute the built in conflict, which I think serves a purpose for the story and game experience.

@Flex: Probably you’re right in the rather cynical conclusion: it’s all about money. If you can make players pay extra for a change, without having to add any new content in the game, it’s a much better way to go from a Blizzard perspective.

@Klepsacovic: I think you have to make some sort of barrier not to make it too popular, thus taking away the distinct difference between alliance and horde. Maybe not a “grind”, if you can make people quest in stead of turning in items. But you should really have to make an effort.

@Buboe: Hm… unrepeatable… why? If you’re completely nuts and want to switch borders once again, why shouldn’t you be able to? Come back to the gates of Stormwind, begging for mercy…

@anti: oh you gnome hater… :(

@Pambuk: Well, I don’t mind the paid changes as they are now. But I think real changes should only be done by hard work in game. Someone who has done it would signal “this player is dedicated” rather than: “this player had a lot of rl money to spend”.

@Vlad: Hm… not being that good at lore I can’t comment on it. But it sounds good if it isn’t a hopeless thing to justify from a lore perspective.

@Tamarind: I’m glad you liked the idea! I don’t expect it to happen, but you can always dream, can’t you?

Claes said...

I think this is how it works in EQ2. You can change faction after a certain level by betraying your faction and becoming a faction-less pariah. Then you can build up rep with the other faction by doing insane amounts of work.
This gives the possibility to have "evil" races on the good side and v.v.
Don't remember if you get to keep faction-specific classes.

Gevlon said...

I've had a similar idea, allow players to start some long questline to be friendly with BOTH faction. Of course it would bar them from PvP as it would decrease their other faction rep.

Some kind of storyline with lot of effort that the character found the war stupid and wrong and tries to prove that not all Hordies are hating the Alliance. By doing quests you could get Alliance rep and lose some horde rep that you should gain back (in a non-pvp fashion) to prove that you are not leaving the Horde, you just want to be at peace with the Alliance at the same time.

Firespirit said...

I agree wholeheartedly larisa. Faction change should mean something. There is no faction pride these days. If you truly want to be horde, you need to forsake everything alliance.

Anonymous said...


This used to be the case in vanilla EQ2. You had to start the betrayal quest after Lvl 17 and finish it before lvl 20 (i think). Because at lvl 20 you could decide on the final subclass (eg. Shadowknight or Paladin). I took some pride out of being a dark elf templar (good cleric) in Qeynos, showing everyone that I suffered throught the betrayal quest.

This changed sometime 2006. Since then you can betray back and forth at any level. The only downside is that your subclass-relevant spells will be set to the lowest level (Apprentice 1) and you cannot use subclass-specific armor or weapons. Payment of ingame currency is also included.

So technically it can be done easily. Therefore I really don't understand why a change of faction should necessarily include a change of race. There is as little logic to it as including a change of sex as well.


Anonymous said...


(Props, props and more props!)

Now that the props are out of the way, I think that it's a very inconsistent view that Blizzard is taking with what it means to be part of either faction at this point in time.

When World PvP was at its heyday, to the Battlegrounds being released, the need to keep the factions from communicating made sense. One didn't want someone in the raid serving as a rat to the other faction. (Granted, it still happens, it just requires the 'spy' to have a character of the opposite faction and a means of communicating to the other side outside of the game.)

From a lore point of view, however, there is no longer any real need to keep the races separated and factions unable to communicate with one another. All races have the ability to communicate with one another, as can be attested in many of the shared cities, such as Dalaran and Shattrath, and with NPCs in many areas such as Storm Peaks. Humans and Dwarves can speak to Orcs and Tauren. The restriction seems to only apply to PLAYERS, making them seem a bit slow, given that there are child NPCs that can communicate on both sides.

I believe that Blizzard has left it this way in order to not muck up the factions themselves by completely intermixing the races. It being a paid service makes Blizzard money, but by forcing the racial change, they maintain the split that they have preserved since Day One.

In other words, race right now comes with a team jersey.

What bothers me, though, is the fact that in some cases, we, as members of our respective factions, are supposed to work with members of the other faction in order to defeat a common enemy, but we, as players of WoW, cannot do this with the actual assistance from the other faction. And yet, times are supposed to be desparate enough that our faction leaders are setting aside their differences in order to achieve common goals. (Why is it that the Argent Crusade and Ebon Blade NPCs, for example, are able to do make hated enemies come together? What are they doing that other factions/leaders/players cannot?)

It's a double-standard, for sure. It's kind of disturbing to see my lv 80 Death Knight wandering around unable to communicate with the other side, but to see various NPCs from all ages and walks of life being able to communicate with whatever faction that they have to deal with.

But then again, Int is a dump stat for DKs. =D

(Larisa, don't do it! What would become of the PINK PIGTAIL Inn?)

My 2 yen,


Larísa said...

@Claes & Kyff: Interesting! I've never played another MMO so I had no idea bout that. But considering that it could exist there, maybe I'm not completely out of the blue when I suggest it for WoW.

@Gevlon: wouldn't that be a very goblin way? I see you just like the ferengi. I just can't accept that goblins should be horde-only.

@Firespirit: Yeah, it's a huge change and if you did an amount of work that was equivalent of it, it would feel much more appropriate, give a bigger sence if immersion, of accomplishment, of connection to your toon.

Larísa said...

@Akiosama: more arguments that support my suggestion, thank you!
It really makes sense to me.

I don't know what you don't want me to do? Switch to horde? Mind you, I asked for the possibility to do it in a manner that I could KEEP my pink pigtails. With the current faction change service, which isn't about changing, but about trading your toon for someone else, I have no plans to do that whatsoever. Hey, there's power in those magic pigtails! I wouldn't let the hair dresser touch Larísa.

Anonymous said...


Yeah, don't lose the Pigtails - I've had to set my anti-Gnomish tendencies aside just for you. =D

My 2 yen,


G-Rebel said...

I love the idea! I think if your toon becomes a traitor, maybe their appearance could change slightly, not a complete race change but enough so that it would show a departure from your naturally born way of life. You are, after all, a traitor. Eyes get darker if you change to horde or shine if you come to the light.

Do you really expect to stay looking the same when everything inside of you has changed? Nay, I say. A hunched-back gnome with darkend eyes and tainted hair (red and black streaks among the pretty-pink you now know).

I don't know much lore, but from what I've read things have been mixed so much lately with horde helping alliance, etc, it doesn't seem to be too much of a strech to allow this type of faction change.

But it's a business and Blizzard just found a way to make a bunch more money the easy way.

P.S. I too love the idea of having to plant a PvP flag, dang that would be awesome!

We Fly Spitfires said...

EQ2 has a similar system in which you can betray between Qeynos (good) and Freeport (evil) and keep your race and character. I'd love to see something similar in WoW. Why not be able to complete a quest and betray to the Horde and yet remain a Human or Draenei?

I never really understood the lore behind WoW anyway. The Horde and Alliance work together yet we can't communicate in game. So strange.

Anonymous said...

I know I have toyed with the notion of switching factions at some point... the idea of becoming Thrall's adviser...

In fact after a recent post, there was a little bit of me that wanted the Gnomes to rise up and overturn their Alliance oppressors and move to the Horde...

I am surprised that we still can't do mixed raids... I think the Argent Tournament is the perfect vehicle for this, maybe we will see something in IceCrown, but I doubt it.

Surely the Mages of Dalaran can create a device that allows the Horde and Alliance to communicate long enough to join forces for 10 or 25 man content?

Larísa said...

@G-Rebel: sounds like a DK look to me! Actually wouldn't that have been a better way to use the DK looks? The traitor version of characters who have crossed the border...

@We Fly spitfires: yeah, the language barrier IS kind of strange. We try to overcome it by emotes sometimes. Still I think there may be a point abuot it. It raises your curiousity... What ARE those hordish people talking about? Apart from "kek" it's kind of hard to figure out. So I'm not sure I want to take that away. But I'd definitely like to see the possibilty to cross the borders with your character kept the way it was.

@Gnomeaggedon: hm... as a temporary thing, maybe. Imagine a joined guild venture, a 25 man raid, half from an Alliance guild, half from a Horde one, helping each other with a monster that is SO terrible that you're simply forced to cooperate or you'll face the end of the world...

But I think I want to keep Alliance and Horde apart as the normal state of the world. I just want to be able to betray the Alliance, if I really want to.