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Editorial: Factions

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Garrett Fuller questions the faction system in World of WarCraft

With the upcoming Patch 1.9 for World of Warcraft, Blizzard is offering new faction rewards for the Timbermaw Hold. Reading this update made me think about how much time I’ve spent in the last several weeks grinding through Faction points to get the better rewards. Factions in Warcraft are defined as: Hated, Hostile, Unfriendly, Neutral, Friendly, Honored, Revered, and Exalted. The system has point values for each level of faction. So getting from Friendly to Honored may cost you six thousand faction points. These points are gained through completing quests, killing mobs, or handing in items. Several runs in Zul’Gurub and I find myself into the early stages of Friendly. Over one-hundred runs in Arathi Basin and I am a little less than half way through Honored. Did I get a few blue items, yes, is it worth the work with all the limitations Blizzard puts onto the instanced battlegrounds and dungeons, well that is the question I am trying to answer in this editorial.

Warcraft is such a fun game to level through and quest in when playing from level one to level sixty. Now that many of us have reached level sixty we are all constantly looking for new things to do. I know many players have run what some call the standard blue instances many times. By standard blue instances I am referring to Undead Stratholme, Scarlet Startholme, Upper Blackrock Spire, Lower Blackrock Spire, and Scholomance. If you want you can now add Dire Maul to that list. These instances require small groups of players to run through and gain rewards. However players were not required to repeat the instances fifty times to complete the quests given on the first day they entered the instance. There was never a faction aspect to these dungeons to gain rewards.

Which brings us to Zul’Gurub, and the addition of faction based quests to gain rewards. My guild runs ZG, as it is called, every three days it is available. They even run off days to learn to beat the other bosses we have not defeated yet. The biggest problem with this type of game play is it forces you to repeat the instance over and over again. There is something to be said for learning to beat major bosses in a raid dungeon, but once you have learned is there really a need to go back and do those bosses again twenty more times? The biggest problem is Blizzard only allows players to raise their faction by fighting mobs inside the instance. Certain drops can raise your faction, but those too have to be found inside the instance. To complete the Zul’Gurub quests you not only need to collect the items required to turn in the quest (some of which are purple) but also raise your faction. This seems like an awful lot of work to do simply to get some rewards. Zul’ Gurub was said to have been the casual answer to raid dungeons. Instead it has become a grind for players to finally get the rewards which are dangled in front of them when they sign up to take the quests.

Battleground factions are another grind for players who want to PvP their way to the top. Not only are the PvP ranks difficult and competitive, but the faction rewards are far in the distance of the casual player’s reach. Playing a shaman I am very interested in the rewards given by Arathi Basin’s Defiler Faction. I continue to PvP and work hard with my guild to try and win as many instanced battles as we can. Still, in order to get these rewards you have to win a very high amount of battles. One player who had achieved exalted status in Arathi Basin told me it took him about four hundred victories to reach that point. I am certainly not saying he is accurate, but I think the number is considerably high to gain any of the rewards you may want to strive for. At least in the battlegrounds you are fighting against other players which add the element of change and surprise. In an instanced dungeon you are fighting the same foe over and over again. In Alterac Valley many players were able to gain faction in a reasonable amount of time because the point rewards for winning a battle were much higher. This however does not seem to be the case with Warsong Gulch or Arathi Basin.

Aside from these two areas for players to build faction there are also the capital cities of the various races to gain faction in, the majority of work for this is done through questing for levels so it does not seem like a grind. Blizzard has introduced some new areas to gain faction. In places like Silithus and Timbermaw Hold it still seems like grinding through monsters and quests will get you the rewards you seek, eventually. With the new patch players are also encouraged to unlock a world event to open up the new forty and twenty man raid dungeons. Will these new instances lead to more faction grinding? Is Blizzard handing us more of the same thing a year after release of the game? Only time and the expansion will tell.

In closing, I often ask if players feel like gaining faction points is the grind in World of Warcraft. A good friend of mine recently said that grinding faction is just doing the same thing over and over again, which we do every day of our lives at work or school. Instead of instancing everything why not open the world up more and allow more options to gain faction. Many people play MMORPGs to meet others, accomplish fun quests or events and compete in player vs. player combat. Rewarding your players with loot for grinding inside instanced dungeons or zones sealed off from the rest of the world seems like a poor way to promote your game world. Please understand World of Warcraft has about four million players. For all of its shortfalls it does remain one of the best MMORPGs on the market. Hopefully Blizzard will work to give players more options than the grind for faction in the future. Perhaps the expansion will give players some new chances that may not take forever to complete. Besides, we all have another ten levels to achieve.

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