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WoW’s Faction Change Service

When Blizzard recently announced the big changes it has planned for World of Warcraft, many fans were unsure what to think of the idea. Some were cynical of the motives behind the radical change in policy, claiming that the paid service to swap a character’s faction will be just another way for Blizzard to get more money from us.  But Blizzard claims it is introducing the option due to demand from players, and the ability will enable people to play with friends who had picked the other faction.

At first glance, being able to swap from Horde to Alliance or vice versa sounds useful. It will allow more flexibility with characters in addition to the earlier name change feature and ‘character recustomisation’, which permits us to completely re-design the appearance of a toon, including a change of gender.

However, many WoW players are unhappy with the idea of being able to change something so fundamental in a character. Has Blizzard gone too far with this idea, or is it just another handy utility for players? Worldofwar.net writer Semiiramiis gives her thoughts on the upcoming change.

I started off as a pen and paper gamer, and stayed away from PC games because quite simply they did not offer the level of immersion I was looking for. I successfully remained PC game free, in spite of the best efforts of one husband, one best friend, and two children all doing their best to get me involved. All of that changed in the very end of 2005, when my best friend told me he had found the game for me. It had, in his words, everything I was looking for and very little that I wasn’t. Dubious, I watched the husband and children attack it, and finally decided to give it a try.

I started World of Warcraft on the 20th of January, 2006. I didn’t just start a game; I started a relationship that has now lasted longer than a lot of marriages, with my alter ego, a seven foot female anthropomorphic bovine named Damaris. I was warned well ahead of time that my decision to roll Horde meant that I was not going to be getting any help from my husband or my best friend, who are both Alliance on my server. I understood then that I was not going to be playing with them, and I made a choice.

Not everyone then was always happy with the decisions they made, but we all understood that to make changes required a reroll, and it was just something we dealt with. It made us consider our choices carefully, and when we finally gave up, it made us work hard to build a new character. We were put through the same rigours as any starting toon, with the iconic baby quests, the starting zones (I have survived Barrens chat, and yes, I know where Mankrik’s wife is!). If you rerolled, then at least you put in your time to share the same experiences as your other faction mates.

I moved my way through the Barrens, and came to the great capital city of the Horde, Orgrimmar. I was so moved by this that I toggled walk to absorb it all, and at the end, I came to Thrall. For those of you who speed clicked your way through this encounter, and never bothered to pay attention, he asks when he greets you… “Have you come to serve the Horde?” And surely, I did. I am a dyed in the wool horde player. My t-shirt even says it. My factional identity is almost as strong as my racial identity, or my steadfast belief in my own class. For the Horde. Strength and honour. Lok’tar ogar.

Patches came, and patches went. The game changed, which I do believe is a good thing. Leveling eased, which I feel is a fair offset to the fact that the low zones on many servers are desolate wastelands. I greeted the chance to discover new content with my old time friend eagerly. The basic truths remained self evident, it was still my game, and she was still my cow.
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The barbershop was introduced, and I was thrilled. If you pay attention to the flow of the game, your toon at 80 is an appreciable number of years older than they were at 1. They have been put through great hardships. What was cute on my little level one shaman (those dangly wrapped braid things) no longer seemed to suit my older and wiser veteran. The dangly braids went away, a move shadowed in just about every immersion player I talked to. We all decided that our toons should change and mature. It is a reflection of reality, a nod to mortality. I dream of a perfect Damaris, as I see her in my mind’s eye… a mix of Oblivion’s amazing character creation and Fable’s utterly fascinating in game character morphing based on in game decisions, but I am willing to let that go, willing to overlook my rather childish avatar.

Then I was hit by a change that even my happy-go-lucky refusal to let Blizzard’s patch notes , buffs and nerfs get me down could not swallow. Paid character changes, beyond the barber shop, beyond scars and tattoos, basic, fundamental changes to an existing toon without any rationalisation. I am not against the idea, per se, but it needs some sort of in game reason. A deranged, morph happy mage with an intense chain quest at his disposal, anything IN game to explain this. Not merely, here’s my money, change my toon. But, at least they weren’t going to allow faction changes, the great them versus us which has powered so much of this game was going to remain inviolate. Our factional identity, sacred still.

Oh. Yes, that. It seems to me like everything that required a certain amount of commitment and focus has fallen prey to a “Let’s give the players everything they ask for!” mentality. While, on the surface, this looks good… I mean, who doesn’t want to get what they ask for in a game that they pay for, how easy is it supposed to get? How fickle and indecisive is Blizzard going to let us be? I’ve always defended WoW as a great game for teenagers on the grounds that it does require focus and commitment to succeed. A great deal of that argument , making decisions and sticking with them, or having to do more work again, now can be solved by the quick application of yet another fee on Mum and Dad’s credit card. I can hear the whine already….

Yes, I see the other side of the argument, in fact, I live with it. My husband’s reaction to the news, instead of my incredulity, was all positive. He looked up at me, the unyieldingly Horde wife, grinned, and said “Great, now we can play together. The Horde races for priests are what, again?” Unlike myself, who views such an action as a betrayal, he’s more than willing to do so. I seem to mourn the passing of his aged, balding human priest more than he does. It may be reborn as…uh….a blood elf?!? But it will not be the same. It’s like losing a friend. We even had online Christmas cards, screenshots from Winter Veil on Shattrath… his priest in his winter clothes, my shaman in hers… our Winter Veil pets at our feet.

Although I do not play on a roleplaying server, that has never stopped the fact that the RP in MMORPG is ‘roleplaying’. The facet of this game which is supposed to make it more than just a movie, that act of identification with your online self, makes this a difficult idea for me to swallow. It’s like telling a friend, a loved one you’ve had for years, that they’re simply not good enough anymore. If you aren’t invested in a toon enough to look at this idea warily, then you’re missing out on a lot of the wonder in this game.

Lok’tar ogar!

You can join in the discussion and find out more about the planned upcoming faction change feature at Worldofwar.net.

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