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Third faction or logistical nightmare?

In the beginning, there was Azeroth and there was Draenor. The two worlds clashed together repeatedly over the course of three RTS games, each with expansions. But it didn't stay Azeroth vs. Draenor -- the orcs of Draenor had made Azeroth their new home, and the feud between the Alliance and Horde was forever etched in Warcraft history. And when World of Warcraft was released, players could choose either side" the native races of Azeroth, united as the Alliance, a group of good guys, or the orcs and other castaway races, thrown together as one motley group of bad guys, the Horde.

Each side has its own justifications for what they view as right, just, and honorable. Yet there are races on either side that seem more neutral than anything, whether it be the peaceful draenei, the equally peaceful tauren, or even the blood elves, who have spent time on both sides of the faction fence. These races participate in the battles and bloodshed as readily as any other, but their motives never seem quite in the right place.

And that's caused more than one person to wonder: Just what exactly would happen if World of Warcraft created a third faction?

CraveOnline brought up the age-old question of a third faction as a possibility for future Warcraft content, as a shot of something new and exciting for the game. After all, WoW is several years old at this point, and new races are old hat by now. There are only so many new races Blizzard can make before we're able to play pretty much everything on Azeroth. A third faction is an interesting idea, particularly the suggestion that Blackrock Mountain be transformed from dungeon destination to capital city for discarded races banded together in a new faction.

The possibility of defection

So ... why not make a third faction? The idea for a third faction is one that's been brought up time and again. I think honestly it evolved from the idea of defecting from Horde to Alliance or vice versa. Defect, you say? Well, back in the days of vanilla, there was no paid faction change service; if you wanted to play the other side of the faction fence, you had to start all over from level 1. If you had a beloved character Alliance-side with tons of amazing epic gear (rare at the time), powerful weapons, and plenty of gold, you had to leave all of that behind if you switched to Horde. So long Ash'kandi, hello Practice Sword. So players wanted to keep their mains and switch to the other faction. The option to defect was a natural conclusion for many to draw.

Except that the lines between sides were firmly drawn in the sand, and crossing over that line wouldn't just bend the lore -- it'd snap it in two. When paid faction changes were introduced, all talk of being able to defect died out, and in its place, the idea of a third faction was brought up. Wouldn't it be great if we could play ogres, and centaurs, and naga, and murlocs, furbolgs -- heck, anything that is currently hostile to both Horde and Alliance?

Common ground?

Or better yet: In the wake of Cataclysm, both sides are struggling. The peaceful draenei don't really fit in with the Alliance; their hostility toward the Horde really can only be justified toward the orcs. And even then, the orcs of Azeroth had nothing to do with the atrocities committed on Draenor. As for the blood elves, they joined the Horde for help because their race was struggling with addiction withdrawal brought about by the destruction of the Sunwell, something the Alliance did nothing to assist with.

But that addiction has been addressed, and the Sunwell has been restored. Not only was it restored, but it was restored by the draenei, of all people. Alliance members. And then we have the trolls of the Darkspear. And the tauren. The gnomes of Gnomeregan. And of course, we have Sylvanas and her Forsaken, who seem to be bent on a task that doesn't quite have the Horde's best interests in mind ... or the Alliance's, for that matter.

A logistical nightmare

The problem with a third faction isn't that there couldn't be a good reason for one to exist -- it's that bringing one into existence brings up huge logistical issues. Sure, it'd be great for some of those faltering races from both sides to come together as one neutral organization, but would they be able to speak to both Horde and Alliance? Would they be opposed to both? How would PvP factor into play? Would that mean all current Battlegrounds would need to be redesigned and balanced around a third team? If people already have existing draenei characters, would they be swept into that third faction regardless of a player's wish? What would that do to servers that already have a severe faction imbalance?

What if, what if, what if ... The problems are endless.

Would it be interesting to see a third faction? You bet it would. But trying to take the idea of a third faction -- whether it be races that are currently playable and at odds with each other, or the villainous races of the world inexplicably united as one -- and merge it with gameplay, design, and simple mechanics is a beast of a task. It dwarfs the amount of time and effort it took to revamp the level 1 to 60 world of Azeroth.

We've got the pandaren coming -- and they are able to choose either side to ally with. This choice is a uniquely pandaren characteristic and fits in the pandaren theme of balance. I have my doubts as to whether this is really a sign of more neutral races coming into play. Still, it's an interesting, wistful thought to play around with, though I think the likelyhood of our ever seeing it in WoW is slim to none.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is the next expansion, raising the level cap to 90, introducing a brand new talent system, and bringing forth the long-lost pandaren race to both Horde and Alliance. Check out the trailer and follow us for all the latest MoP news!