Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Horde vs. Alliance

You can't just create a leveling zone about Horde vs. Alliance and then declare that this expansion focuses on that conflict. I see this leveling zone maybe once and then never again the way WoW is designed. If there is no frequent Horde vs. Alliance conflict during endgame, there is no frequent Horde vs. Alliance conflict.

One of the selling points of MoP is the conflict between Horde and Alliance. I'm skeptical about this. One reason is that this has already been promised for Cataclysm, and as far as I could see, the only Horde vs. Alliance conflict that happened was PvE. But a quick brainstorming on the topic of Horde vs. Alliance conflict would result in me writing down things like: Tarren Mill, Southshore, Nightelven hunters killing my mage, Ashkandi killing my mage, High Warlord, Crossroads, Ashenville, Alterac!

These things emblematize the Horde vs. Alliance conflict for me. It is a subject that is very tightly connected with PvP and faction pride. And I am not the only one. In spite of his usual habits Adam has written a looking-forward post on WoW.
And he, too, feels that more Horde vs. Alliance conflict means more PvP. But the problem is that this is very unlikely and it would not even be a smart idea - unfortunately.

For once we have resilience in WoW. Resilience reduces damage taken from players. It is mandatory for PvP in World of Warcraft and it was deliberately designed to be mandatory. Even though it is gained with levels in MoP - which I welcome a lot - you will still need to stack resilience items, as far as I know.
Just for the record: I'd prefer a balanced game without resilience.

Now, many WoW players don't PvP much. As a consequence they have no equipment with resilience. And as a consequence of that, they don't stand a chance in open-world PvP. Now, open-world PvP was always a huge problem for a level-based game like WoW. But resilience, which was introduced with TBC, stopped even the little that was going on. Add flying mounts and instanced battlegrounds to that and, yeah, open-world PvP is as dead as anything can be in WoW. It is not coming back, because, for three expansions now, the game was deliberately designed in a way that makes it impossible for open-world PvP to be enjoyable.

So where is the Horde vs. Alliance feel supposed to come from? From cross-server battlegrounds? Admittedly, they add four of them. That is more than in any other expansion. But, really, these are arcade games. They don't have no influence on any lore. Even for someone like me, who apparently sees a bit of lore and style where other people see only a vacuum, battlegrounds nowadays are devoid of any lore and feeling of this conflict. It's an instanced, isolated, 15-minutes distraction that can be a lot of fun, but has nothing to do with what is happening on the outside.
It's probably not necessary to mention arenas at this point.

This leaves us with the PvE game. Are we going to kill our leaders in large raids? Well, I guess the usual “Let's go to Stormwind and zerg for the bear mount - the allies don't care anyway” attitude will survive. But otherwise I consider dungeons or instanced raids in which we kill Thrall, or any Alliance King very unlikely.

And this, finally, leaves us with questing while we level. Apparently the players are not only going to kill Pandas, but also Alliance-Pandas .. *gulp* .. or some dwarfs. This is better than nothing I guess. But we already have that in Cataclysm. Did Cataclysm feel like focusing on the Horde vs. Alliance conflict? At least I don't think so. I understand that the story line during questing is partly about that conflict. But that story is stale. There is no drama, no pacing. I jump on a boat to invade some Alliance Island. But I end up killing Naga. ok...

To be fair, there was at least one endgame zone in Cataclysm that was about this conflict. But being a PvE zone and only visited once during leveling, it was fast forgotten. You can't just create a leveling zone about the Horde vs. Alliance conflict and then declare that this expansion focuses more on that conflict. I see this leveling zone maybe once and then never again the way WoW is designed. If there is no frequent Horde vs. Alliance conflict during endgame, there is no frequent Horde vs. Alliance conflict.

In earlier versions of this post I had forgotten about Tol Barad. Now, that should be the first hint that TB isn't exactly the holy grail. While I did participate quite a lot in TB and absolutely want to congratulate Blizzard for the highly interesting (and smart!) design and the extreme stubbornness that allowed them to mostly keep it, it doesn't really made me feel fighting Horde vs. Alliance.

I can only speculate why. Maybe because this was the only place in whole WoW where I actually met my server community? I liked that, but it didn't seem enough to create sufficient faction pride or identity. Maybe the problem was that you did TB for purely external rewards. And as soon as these external rewards were gained you (most players) stopped participating? While not owning TB was quite an issue in the long term, it didn't seem to be the kind of issue that made my faction socialize and organize itself. Maybe that would have worked in other games that didn't re-educate its playerbase with the help of an anonymous LFD? Maybe the problem was that TB didn't allow enough emergent gameplay. It was a very controlled environment that felt quite gamey and for all practical purposes was instanced.

I honestly don't know why TB didn't really make me feel like fighting the evil Alliance. I can only conclude that consequences of losing these battles weren't severe enough. But I know what kind of flames the forums would spawn if Blizzard made such a feature even more consequential.

Concluding, WoW has iterated itself away from the original possibility of a Horde vs. Alliance conflict. At this point I would quite welcome merging the two factions and having us fight the evils of the universe together. Outside of instanced 15-minutes battelgrounds, WoW's gameplay mechanics forbid any Horde vs. Alliance conflict during endgame. And these 15-minutes battlegrounds have become devoid of any lore.


  1. 4a) There are scenarios. I can imagine scenarios like "taking Tarrens Mill" or "taking Southshore".

    4b) Who said that raid must stay the pinnacle of lore development? Maybe raids will be turned into a "2 hour arcade game" like battlegrounds. Maybe we kill leaders in a raid, but it's not canonical.

    Take a step back and ask yourself: why should raids primarily drive the lore when the majority of player don't raid?

    4c) They could change the zones with every patch showing progress like "exchanging" outposts.

  2. I agree, Kring. My post on PvE Scenarios will have this as a main point: They said so little about them that everybody seems to project his hopes onto them :)

  3. By the way, while everyone seems to be betting on the pet battles, my money would be on the new battlegrounds as the feature that they end up scrapping in the final release. They've repeatedly said in the past that designing new battlegrounds is a lot of work and actually undesirable from their point of view because the more people get spread out, the longer the queues for specific bgs get. I think "more new battlegrounds" was just something that's easy to promise and fits the idea of more faction conflict. (Meanwhile, they actually showed some pictures of the pet battle system, so I think they've already committed themselves to that one.)

  4. You missed the biggest horde vs alliance battle that happened at least 2 or 3 times a day. Crossroads over in the Barens.

    Wasn't a day that went by that the alliance weren't attacking that place. Had at least twice the activity that Tarren Mills or Southshore had at least on the servers I played on.

  5. I don't believe in a focus on open world PVP. Too many realms have a strong population imbalance. According to WoWProgress, on 2/3 of the realms, the population of the smaller faction represents less than 60% of the population of the larger one.

  6. That's another good point, Blimp. Two-faction MMOs have a tendency to fail at faction vs. faction PvP.

  7. Reigniting the war between Horde & Alliance ended up as a rejuggle of quest hubs.

    The most 'war-like' Cataclysm got was the occasional ganking on the bridge to TB.

    On PvE realms, old world flying seems to have killed all Black Bear raids.

    Let's not forget that in MoP, Blizzard has abandoned its 'silhouette' design philosophy, so both Horde and Alliance will look the same, populated by pandas...