Most MMOs have at least 2 Factions that fight against each other for one reason or another – be it an ancient enmity, war, a struggle for survival or the orders of their god(s). As humans we like to put things into easy compartments of “good” and “bad”. Developers know this about us and so they like to give us the “obvious” choices, even if, when you look a little closer, these Factions are filled with shades of gray. When the Factions are created one is usually the “misunderstood good guy”, and the other is the “obvious good guy”, at least until you read the story very closely.
When World of Warcraft was released, the Alliance was the “good guys”, at least in most people’s minds. The Horde was “bad guys”, at least until you looked at the story line, and saw they were just not as pretty and very misunderstood.
The developers though help people choose their side. I use to play Horde. I like the races and classes, and the story was cool. This was back in vanilla WoW. What I did find was that certain things were developed to make the alliance player have some advantages. The positioning of the flight points and design of some of the cities seemed to lean the benefits towards the Alliance. It also seemed that the pleasant look of the races was one of the advantages of the Alliance. Really, what young player wants to be ugly? They want to be sexy and good-looking. This drew in the younger players to Alliance, and people who wanted a certain “look”. Over time they added some expansions’, and they added some cuteness to Horde. And interestingly, from what I saw, a lot of Alliance players played those Blood Elves.
So, in my opinion, Blizzard favored one faction over the other. The developers liked the Alliance side more than the Horde and unconsciously favored them with game development. I do think they strived to equalize it. But as I no longer play I can not tell you if they succeeded.
Another game with 2 Factions is Rift. This game is very obvious in favoring one Faction over another. There are the Defiant and the Guardians. The names alone generate a perception of good and bad. Guardians bring the thought of guarding, protection, and many feel those are good qualities. Defiant brings the thoughts of rebellion and conflict, and those qualities are not generally seen as positive.
The developers compound this by making the capital city of the Guardians protected and unable to be entered without a lot of deaths on the side of the Defiant. Yet the capital city of the Defiant is easy to walk right into. And many Guardians do so, picking off low-level characters. I have seen Guardians pull Quest Givers and kill them just to make it difficult to do Dailies. They kill Merchants and anyone not paying attention to what is going on. Now this being said, when tickets go in about the imbalance, the reply you get is a form letter that makes me feel that this is working as intended. This was reinforced with the last World Event Patch. They actually made ramp that brought people to the back of Meridian, taking away the small challenge it was to jump the hill.
Now there are also games that have no Factions. LotRO is one of those games that really have only one side. If you level up high enough, or pay for the privilege, you can do the Monster races. But they are limited in the area they can be, and what they can do. This game was designed specifically to be a Role-Playing Game, and the PvP aspect was really not addressed until it had been around for awhile. This produces a few races that all fight on the same side. You can not choose to be one of the humans from Mordor, that tries to catch the ring bearer.
EVE Online is another game that has no defined “sides”. It is a pure PvP environment. You build your character, train them and send them out into the world, to be killed by someone else. Then you basically start again. If you are not set up right you can lose everything you trained, as well as all your stuff. It is also not an easy game to get use to when it comes to controls and interface. But the developers of EVE did make it so there was no one favored. They seem to hate everyone equally… 🙂
Now I get to really the point of this conversation – Bioware. Will there be fair and balanced Faction handling? What I have been able to discover reading various Fan Sites, and Bioware’s own site, is that it seems that both sides are basically identical. There are four Base Classes, and each Class has a mirror Class that corresponds on the other Faction. Names are changed for the Class, and for skills available, but it looks like they are very close to the same abilities with a few cosmetic changes.
I am a great supporter of this approach. After so many games giving an advantage to the “favorite Faction”, and some times to the “favorite Class”, I am excited to try something that may give me equality. I mean after all I don’t have “fair and equitable” in real life, but it would be so nice to have it in my MMO.
You can follow me on Twitter @dawnsrose and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. I write articles for swtor-life.com. Most of what you will find posted here is what i have published on that site.