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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Warhammer Online - The Legolas Factor

Posted by Daedren Friday March 28 2008 at 3:38PM
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The r1ft crew and our future Warhammer Guild has been trying to decide which faction to play in the upcoming and now delayed Warhammer Online. Here are our thoughts on Order - and something we call "The Legolas Factor".

legolas.jpgOne note - though I'm a fan of the books and the films, I've developed a disturbing hatred to all things Orlando Bloom. I'm not sure if it's because of incapability of acting in a role that doesn't require him to either shoot a bow or be a fruity swashbuckler (and usually ruining the movie) or the fact that you can see his 5-oclock shadow in the LOTRO movies - there is something about him that almost personifies the idea of the "Legolas Factor".

The Legolas Factor is defined as follows:

Role Playing Games are more often than not portrayed from a Good vs. Evil point of view, which usually puts the player-character in the shoes of a good-type player fighting against a perceived force of evil. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, throughout gaming history, games have been played from the "good" side and could be considered the industry standard in this regards. This holds true in other forms of media as well such as film, books and television.

In fantasy based games, or in this case - MMORPG's - the good side usually has humans and some sort of Elf or Fairy-like creature that could be said to be inspired from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and associated books. As most players are used to playing the good side in games, the default reaction is to play this good side and combat the forces of evil. Thus, in general, a larger portion of the player base is by default playing the "good side".

The best example of this, of course, is World of Warcraft. Server population statistics shortly after release showed a horrendous population balance on most servers. This can be attributed to the above factor and also the fact of the Horde having much less visually appealing characters. Rough estimates showed that the population was roughly 2:1 - 2 Alliance for every Horde, or roughly 66% of the population drawn to one side. This was mitigated in The Burning Crusade expansion, as the Horde received a visually appealing and quite fruity playable race in Blood Elves while the Alliance received some Space Goats whose females were disturbingly attractive as well.

The most disturbing part of the Legolas Factor and World of Warcraft was the Horde playable race addition of Blood Elves, as mentioned above. This introduced a Legolas/Elf playable race into an already existing faction demographic. The results followed the Legolas Factor reasoning quite well - as any long-time Horde player could tell you - that the influx of immature and otherwise idiotic players to the Horde faction was immense. (see graph below)


Anyway, the fact remains: the majority of people chose to play the good side because they were either good or they looked better.

This, in effect, is the Legolas factor. If the good side contains both humans and an elf-like race (which is usually the case), the majority of people that chose to play the good side for the above reason (visual and they want to play the good guys) - they are inexplicably drawn to this elf-like race by default. The problem is, in most lore, elves are visually appealing, often accompanied with homo-erotic overtones. In most games lore they are considered the "free-spirited" , Chaotic-Good, free-thinking heroes of the world. This induces a magnet like effect for people, mostly idiots, to play this race and faction.

The most famous elf of recent years is indeed Legolas from Middle Earth lore. Ten years ago, in Everquest for example, the Legolas factor was much lower than today. While it's true that Elves and Half-Elves were popular in this game, the amount of people that knew and abused the Middle Earth lore were much smaller. It was hard to find anyone with the name Legolas, and even harder to find people with slightly modified versions of the name. The popularity of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, while completely deserved as this was a great adaptation, is fully to blame for the huge influx of Legolas Factor lameness post 2002.

The Legolas Factor, in a nutshell, is this:

- A majority of people tend to play the good guys, and if given the choice, prefer to play elves. (with humans a close second)

- As this draws the most amount of people, it also draws the biggest number of complete assholes.

- It's the smaller number of unoriginal assholes who then decide that *they* are Legolas, reborn.

- Conclusion: to maximize the amount of time you spend killing inconsiderate assholes in a game, choose the opposite side of the side they are more likely to be on. As Hannibal Lectar would agree, killing and eating rude people is just more fun.

This theory, of course, is not an exact science and can be countered by the "Drizzt Factor" (coming soon!) on the opposing faction.

(end of Legolas Factor)

Why is this important? Because in any game where PVP is important, choosing which side to be on is the first decision you'll make, and the one that will effect future gameplay the most. If Warhammer holds true, the Legolas Factor on the Order side will be high. How high is a matter for discussion - and don't think Chaos is off the hook either - we'll be covering the Drizzt factor when we get to that.

Warhammer is almost too perfect of an environment to put these theories to test. We have a good faction with both Humans and Elves (as usual) - and a bad faction with both Dark Elves (Drizzt Factor) and a goth-like evil race (Chaos - the Goth Factor). World of Warcraft was actually a pretty bad petri-dish for these theories as the good faction had Elves that looked like Dark Elves and the bad faction, though having the Goth Factor high were slightly offset by the inclusion of docile War-Cows.

In conclusion, the Legolas Factor (and others herein) will be looked at and referenced in our upcoming Race and Class previews for Warhammer Online.

This article appeared originally at the r1ft gaming blog at and is mirrored here with permission of the author(s).