I’m supposed to be on holiday, but you know how this stuff goes: between visits yesterday I got into a lively discussion with a game designer over the decision making behind Battle for Azeroth, and why there always needs to be a faction war to keep the money rolling in. The current game marketing as a result is traditional fare, very much playing on the current trend of gaming as a contest: Battle Royale is, after all, the flavour of the Month for everybody. Except, in my corner of Warcraft Fandom, an increasing number of people don’t consider Faction Loyalty as their modus operandi.
There are those for whom both Red AND Blue matter equally, and for them the current story lines have become increasingly uncomfortable to stomach. After an entire Expansion where Horde and Alliance lived under the same Class Order hall roof, celebrating their unity against the Legion, to be pitted against each other is more than galling, it has become genuinely upsetting. They’ve begun to create their own stories as a result, accepting what’s going on as canon but often ignoring it completely to pursue a different, personal tack. I count myself very much amongst that group, and we’re growing.
A lot of this for me is to do with the depressing line that gets trotted out as the simple, thought-free argument winner when someone suggests you can live as a pacifist in a game that’s entire concept remains rooted in conflict: it’s not called World of PEACEcraft, is it? I’m not asking anybody else to stop beating the crap out of their enemies, or to accept my point of view as even relevant, but if your answer to someone being different is to try and shut them up or ignore them, this isn’t going to help. The lack of tolerance in this game’s hardcore population is a lot of what is the problem in wider areas, and not just related to the MMO. ‘If you don’t agree with what you’ve been given then go away’ is what millions of players have already done.
Perhaps the answer might now be to consider accommodating the difference and not just playing up the fighting.
The Red/Blue ‘war’ can continue without an issue, and will, but if cannot be fuelled with enough willing foot soldiers, eventually the game dies. The introduction of a third faction, a meeting of both sides, should not affect in any way, shape or form how the game currently functions. It would allow those who play both Alliance and Horde the means to consolidate their support in a single faction. It would allow Tauren and Humans the ability to raid together, which has been asked for repeatedly. With PvP realms now a distant memory, and War Mode in the players control, who fights who is academic.
The only problem comes with those who choose to PvP who, in the main, are the flag bearers of faction pride to begin with. They are not affected by a third faction’s choice to step away from fighting, because of the better than average chance they’d not be doing PvP in the first place. However, should your third faction desire to do such a thing, I find it hard to believe there’s not the ability to build that into War Mode as well, with the default being where your character originally came from. In Rated battlegrounds, Tauren would always have to pick the Horde option… unless…
A third faction’s existence could become the means by which PvP balance is finally addressed. If you experienced long queues, a buff could be applied to a Tauren (as happens in the Caverns of Time Instances) that transform them to a Human and allows them to fight on the opposing faction. You still get the War, but Peace matters too. It would also allow Role-Players the opportunity to use the new Allied races in new and interesting situations, and open up a vast number of factional story-lines for development. The problem, of course, is that for most people even the accommodation of such a seismic change is enough to throw them into a rage that results in the most depressing of human responses.
Times change. This game has always thrived on conflict, but Legion demonstrated that together, we are stronger. The key moving forward must always be choice, and shouting ‘For the Horde’ now shows a lot more about a person than simply faction loyalty. I’ve advocated a third race since before Warlords and maintain that allowing people to be different works. You need only to look at the success of Allied Races to understand that ActiBlizz grasp the need for at least some measure of ethnic diversity for those who play their game. The question now remains: would they allow a mix of Horde and Alliance players to live together in a joint, third faction?
I look forward to seeing if the events that are currently playing out may have bearing on a new path forwards for all the inhabitants of Azeroth.