Is Your Faction Getting the Short End of the Stick?

Red Shirt Guy… you remember the Red Shirt Guy from BlizzCon, right… he got his own NPC in game… has an editorial up about the perception in World of Warcraft that the Horde is the favored faction and the the dev team prefers to work on things for the Horde to the detriment of the Alliance side of the coin.

Since he is a well established lore hound in addition to being a dedicated player, it was interesting to see his take on what has been a controversial topic from time to time.

Of course, the bias hasn’t always been that perceived the same way.  I recall a time when it was felt that the Horde was neglected because they did not have a “pretty” race.  And so they got blood elves.  And the Alliance got blue space goats.  Making things right or evidence of bias?

Anyway, this got me thinking about other games, and there are certainly times when I felt a faction was being neglected.

For example, when I started off in EverQuest back in 1999, I chose Qeynos as my starting place.  That was a mistake in some respects.  The city was somewhat neglected, was not the place to be if you wanted to craft, and was on the opposite side of a hostile continent from most of the player base.  They were all in Freeport where all the cool stuff happened.  So while I loved the Karanas, I still had to travel to Freeport time and again to by things or meet up with friends.

On the flip side of all of that, when it comes to nostalgia, being from Qeynos is now superior.  Freeport continued to be lavished with attention, getting a graphics revamp a while back.  Meanwhile, Qeynos remains in pretty much its original state, which is fine with me.

And the Freeport bias continued in EverQuest II, where at launch Freeport was a giant, over-wrought city or intricate detail.  And Qeynos was a nice place to live, but not very memorable.

In EVE Online there used to be some irregularities in the factions.  And I am not talking about the ships, which seem to favor one faction or another with each revision.  Long was the rule of the Drake and Hurricane battlecruisers before their nerfing.  But back when I was starting, there was a clear advantage to picking the Caldari faction and specific bloodlines and background, as you ended up with more, and more useful, skill points to start with.  That has since been fixed, but for quite a stretch there was a “right” choice when creating a new character.

And, to beat a nearly dead horse, there was Warhammer Online, where it sure felt like destruction had been given some better options when it came to character classes back when a lot of people actually played it.

You could go on.  the Guardians in Rift clearly got the better character models.  The dwarves and elves in Lord of the Rings Online get kind of crap starting zones in my opinion, while the hobbits just get a version of the human starter zone, then get jumped from Archet to the Shire, breaking the story line.

But you start to get to nit picking and things that are really opinion.  Some people might like the Defiant character models in Rift.

The question comes down to whether or not it really matters.  I think in a lot of cases, it really does not.  I got over the character models, you don’t spend much time in the starter zone, I’ve moved on to flying other ships, and once in a while it works out, as in the case of Qeynos.  Not that I let anybody forget the slight.

Of course, I am in favor of there being a more difficult faction available, something that makes the game more challenging for those willing to accept the assignment.

What about you?  Is there a faction getting a raw deal in your game?

9 thoughts on “Is Your Faction Getting the Short End of the Stick?

  1. Tesh

    I don’t mind some imbalances. I think the intense focus on balance can lead to homogenized play and boring nonvariants. That’s just in design, though. In lore… I kinda don’t care. I tend to play these MMO things to tell my own story, not read the dev story. *shrug*

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  2. Syl (@Gypsy_Syl)

    I always thought it was weird how the Gnomes in WoW didn’t have their own starting zone, nevermind the lore behind it. and I almost gave up on Lotro the first time because the starting zone of the elves was so bad – I’m glad I rerolled human after that.
    so yes, there are definitely quite some crucial side-effects to faction / racial imbalances in MMOs. remember when every alliance priest in vanilla WoW suddenly needed to be a dwarf because fearward and Onyxia? those were fun times….until shammies were introduced, anyway. I’m glad if things like that get patched or addressed in some way, at some point during a game. starting areas on the other hand can be worked around usually (all my WoW toons would transfer to Elwynn forest), although it’s a bit of a shame if some zones get less love like that than others. makes me wonder if the design teams behind them are different too at times.

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  3. bhagpuss

    The Freeport/Qeynos one is a bit of a moot point, I’d say. For one thing, those were only two out of, what, a dozen or so starting areas, all supposedly of equal importance. Qeynos had *huge* advantages over starting in, say, Erudin, which was so awful almost everyone who started there was in Qeynos by level five, or Surefall Glade, which was like starting in Qeynos only right down at the city limits without access to any of the facilities.

    Freeport only gained primacy on servers that adopted the EC Tunnel to run their player-based economy. Some servers chose Greater Faydark for that, which presumably must have moved the center of social gravity to Faydwer. Oasis was a big draw, on the Freeport side of Antonica, of course, but then a few levels later South Karana, with the Treehouse and Splitpaw and the Treant camp was the place to go.

    I spent a hell of a lot of time in both Qeynos and Freeport. I found Qeynos fascinating but I felt more at home in Freeport. The revamp to Freeport was and remains nothing short of cultural vandalism. When I moved to EQ2, though, there was never any comparison. Freeport is a wonderful city both before and after the revamp; Qeynos is like some movie-set version of Fantasyland.

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  4. Whorhay

    I never did get the hang of navigating Freeport, having started in Surefall with my first character. What made a bigger difference to me was your race and alignment. Basically if you picked evil stuff you were stuck using vendors that were hidden away from everyone else and simple things like using the boats became a challenge. That said I always preferred the Qeynos side of the continent because of Permafrost, Black Burrow, and the various Karana’s.

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  5. Another Gamer

    Hey, just found this blog and I like it! Already subbed :)

    About the factions, I think you are equal parts pointing out a problem and nitpicking. There are certain factions in certain games that people like more! Horde is definitely the more popular of the factions, and Blizzard knows it. Chances are they just felt they needed to give the players what they wanted (and I’m sure money had something to do with it).

    Having said that, there are a couple of things that need mentioning: 1. Game balance is really flippin’ hard. As someone who has tried to develop games, the balance between enemy and hero is incredibly delicate and problematic in even the simplest of situations. When you get games as complex as EVE or WoW or EQ, there are innumerable facets to look at, from the race’s appearance (WoW Orc shoulderpads? Anybody?) to their home city, to their quests, to their racial abilities and base stats, to their access to dungeons, quest objectives and raids. It’s impossible to make everything perfectly balanced.

    2. People play these games. If Horde wins PvP more often, people are going to whine about favoritism regardless of whether or not there is any. Inevitably. Inexorably. They just do. You make a game that’s popular? People will moan and groan about it, without any shadow of a doubt. C’est la vie! :|

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  6. HarbingerZero

    How did Chaos get better classes in WAR when the classes were mirror images of each other? Do you just mean in terms of the fluff of say, a RunePriest having a staff and runes while the Zealot got a sweet dagger and creepy chaos marks? If so…yeah, I’m on board with that.

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  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @HZ – It might be the distortion of time, but I think people were pretty convinced that, at launch, Destruction classes such as the Marauder, the Chosen, the Choppa, and perhaps the Squig Herder, were notably superior to their Order counterparts. YMMV relative to my memories. That was about five years ago.

    They also looked better. Aside from the dwarves, Order could be bit milquetoast.

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  8. Attic Lion

    There were many, many factional balance issues in Warhammer. Though I don’t believe any were really intentional nor did any one side ever have the overpowering majority of such issues on their side at any one time. So let’s not speak too much of stat splits, disorient trains, Ruin & Destruction, Plink!, Ravage, Cave-In, or Throwing Arm.

    There was some certain Destrustion favoritism when it came to the lore though. Mythic choose to make several prominent landmarks into Desto PQs that Order really didn’t have access to. Places like the city of Barak Varr, the White Tower of Hoeth, and Karak Kadrin are all places of import in the games lore and all of them are are encountered solely in Destro PvE areas.

    In some ways this was unavoidable, because the Destro races are all invaders and thus don’t really have any lore important places for Order to capture, but it could have been done a whole lot better. For instance, if those places had all been centerpieces for the RvR lakes then everyone could have enjoyed them as being interesting terrain to fight on instead of some bloody PQ that only half of the playerbase even knew existed.

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