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General Articles: The Faction Switch

By Daniel Growns on July 22, 2009

The Faction Switch

Only announced recently, Blizzard's move to allow players to change the faction of their character is one of the most talked about topics in the game. The forum post where we heard about it is already 250 pages long. World of Warcraft is a game that has seen many large changes in its most recent patch notes, which some believe to be diluting the game for the masses. In this article I wish to find out the motives for Blizzard deciding that a faction change is in order.

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This topic has interested me so much that I was just itching to research it. After a while, I found out that in the past Blizzard had said that faction change was a feature they would not be implementing to the game any time soon. Crygil, one of Blizzard's Blue posters, stated three main points as to why it would not happen soon. These are the following:


That's going to be
one long operation
  1. Critical Mass: People may decided that any given class/race combo is superior to other combination of that same class. Or people may decide that any given race is no longer worth sticking with due to some change we make to some racial abilities. This naturally leads to flavour of the month races. This is something we want to avoid.
  2. Race Restrictions: All races are given a certain set of restrictions for both lore and balance purposes. There would be some serious investment involved in making certain that this system didn't allow any exploitation of that system.
  3. Future Content: Things change, some would say the only thing that stays the same is change and that is certainly true for World of Warcraft. If we allowed race changes it could negatively/adversely impact things we haven't even thought of yet.

-Posted by Crygil: 06/08/2009

I would say it's safe to assume that these are well structured and fair arguments against allowing a faction change. Now, for those of you who don't know, this was posted just 21 days before we found out that a faction change was officially in the works. This begs the question why? What could have possessed Blizzard to make a U-turn on their stance so fast? Well, you could be cynical and just say that it is obvious and they have realised this move would generate high amounts of revenue, you could equally defend Blizzard and say they are doing it for the sake of the player base.

Regardless of their motives it raises many questions about what will happen to certain things in the game after it is implemented, questions such as: "What will happen to faction based items?" and "What will happen to my mounts?" I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't see a Tauren being able to fit onto a mechanostrider comfortably any time soon.


Home, Sweet Home

Cost to the Player

This is probably the most important question as there is always a cost incurred to the player. None of the information that has been given to us through the blue posts states how much it will cost the player. However, if we look at the recent highly popular "Character re-customization" service where a player is allowed to change the look, gender and name of their character, it costs the player £12.. From what we currently know about the faction change, you will only be able to change to a like-minded race. By which I mean that if you are a Night Elf druid you must become a Tauren druid. If a player decides then to change back to Alliance again they would only be able to return to their original race. My estimate on the cost to the player would be around the £15 mark, this is because of the issues involved with moving faction as well as the characters items and converting their faction based items to something that is equivalent for the opposing faction.

Balance

It is not all doom and gloom though! The faction change service could help balance out the population on some of the servers between the two sides. Many people that I have spoken to who play Alliance say they would gladly go to the Horde except for one issue: all of their friends, items, gold, achievements and more are on the Alliance. This service would allow them to move to the opposing faction, keeping many of their items and hopefully solving the balance issue. Although it is not as simple as this as there would have to be a limit on the number of characters moved between the factions to ensure one side does not over populate.

Imagine this: Your entire guild decides to migrate to the opposing faction, 50% of the guild manages to make the transition successfully but due to movement restrictions the other 50% of the guild get stuck on their current faction. Issues like this will be the biggest roadblock for Blizzard to bypass and ensure that the balance in the game remains constant. Large movement from one faction to the other could also have an effect on the economy of many servers. If people who regularly sell certain materials leave the faction then we may see the supply drop whilst the demand stays the same.


Inflation FTW

The only other issue that I can see in the game would be on the basis of quests that the character has completed; will they be able to complete all of the quests that are separate for the opposing side? Or will blizzard make it so all quests are completed on that faction once you have changed. Only time will tell how well this service works in the game.

A Few More Points

  • This is a system I do not think we will be seeing in the game any time soon with all the controversy, Blizzard would do well to take their time with this and ensure that every angle is covered in their system.
  • Could really improve the state of the factional balance on some of the servers and allow players to re-roll a new faction without earning everything all over again.
  • Tight structure will be required to ensure the success of this service.
  • Would you jump off a bridge of someone told you to? I guess Blizzard would because 3 weeks seems like an awfully short time to take a U-turn on their original stance which made very good points on keeping the game balanced.