One of the defining characteristics of World of Warcraft has been its faction divide. Horde and Alliance players separate, competing against each other for the most part throughout the life of the MMO. However, in a new blog post, Blizzard is starting to do away with that, bringing cross-faction instances to the MMORPG.
The feature is set to give Alliance and Horde players the ability to form "premade parties" for activities such as dungeons, raids and even PvP. The idea here is to give players of either faction a way to get into groups, regardless of faction, should you choose to do so.
The team, according to a blog post on the WoW website, states that the team had some guidelines in mind when crafting the experience, one of them being that this is very much an "opt-in" experience.
"Make this an opt-in feature as much as possible. In terms of in-world fiction and player preferences, there are decades of animosity to overcome. While we are excited to offer players the choice to reach across the faction divide and cooperate to overcome common foes, we know that there are many who will react warily to this change, and we don’t want to override those preferences. This is about increasing options for players."
The feature itself is still in testing, and because of the legacy code of World of Warcraft being crafted with the mindset that players belong to a single faction themselves, Blizzard states that this won't be ready in time for Eternity's End. Instead, players can expect to see testing and iterating leading up to the release of the 9.2.5 update.
"I am pleased to announce that we are working on adding the ability for Alliance and Horde players to form premade parties together for dungeons, raids, and rated PvP. There have been two decades’ worth of code and content crafted with the assumption that parties can only have players of a single faction, and while we want to make this feature available as soon as possible, the extent of the change means that it couldn’t be ready in time for the upcoming Eternity’s End content update. Instead, we are planning to test and release it as part of a subsequent 9.2.5 update. We’re eager to hear your feedback about the details we’re sharing today and on the details of our implementation when this feature becomes available to the Public Test Realm following the release of Eternity’s End."
While cross-faction instances will give players across World of Warcraft a way to group together in ways never seen before, it won't be permeating the whole experience. Guilds themselves will still belong to a single-faction, and activities like Random Battlegrounds, Heroric Dungeons and Skirmishes will also retain their single-faction status.
One of the defining features of World of Warcraft has long been the faction system, with players representing the Horde or Alliance even outside of the game (My PC case even has Alliance artwork on it!). Some might be worried that a change like this could start to change Warcraft itself, something that the team does touch on in the blog post.
The team even touched on their post, stating that it's not the faction divide that defines WoW, but rather faction identity.
"There are likely those who have read this far with some unease, worried that this is chipping away at a foundational principle of Warcraft. At BlizzCon in 2019, when an attendee asked about cross-faction play, we responded at the time that “Alliance and Horde separation … is a pillar of what makes Warcraft, Warcraft.” But upon reflection, that’s an oversimplification: Alliance and Horde identity is what is fundamental to Warcraft. And while at times that identity has been one of division and open conflict, we’ve seen Alliance and Horde finding common ground and working together ever since Warcraft III (notably including the last time a Warcraft chapter was named “Eternity’s End” …), and the instances of cooperation in World of Warcraft itself are too numerous to count.
We’re hopeful that these changes will serve to actually strengthen faction identity by allowing more players to play the faction whose values, aesthetic, and characters they find more compelling, rather than feeling forced to choose between their personal preference and the ability to play with friends. "
You can check out the full blog post on the Blizzard website.