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WRUP: On the question of faction balance


There are few tumultuous subjects with the power of faction balance. Whether you satirically point out that Orgrimmar can't be destroyed, or whether you think the cinematics simply need rewritten, addressing the subject of which faction is on top... well, it goes poorly.

So this week, we asked your intrepid WoW Insider staff what they think of the current balance. Is one faction better off than the other? And more importantly, what could be done to even out the story? Some of the answers might surprise you.

Alex Ziebart (@AlexZiebart) This weekend, I probably won't be playing anything. I have to get back into a serious groove with my non-WoW Insider writing projects. Spending a solid weekend on all of that seems like a good idea.

As for the Horde/Alliance story balance, no, I don't think they're balanced at all. After a lengthy discussion in our staff chatroom here at WoW Insider, however, I've come to the conclusion that it's impossible to fix it if Blizzard keeps any focus on the faction war. The Alliance has spent many years feeling like they've been nothing but pushed around by the Horde and there's really nothing that can fix it at the pace of Warcraft story development. Throw the Alliance a bone, let us reclaim some of our lost territory, then never focus on the faction war ever again. Vol'jin and Varian shake hands, everyone gets along, let's hug and beat up demons.

Anne Stickney (@Shadesogrey) I'm honestly not sure what I'll be doing this weekend - probably just doing more Timeless Isle stuff, and maybe trying to get in on a rep farming group. I want that cloud serpent mount! I've also been told I really ought to try Scribblenauts, so maybe I'll look into that, too.

Bonus answer: The inherent problem with writing a story about a war is that one side invariably has to be the "winner," and one side has to "lose." I don't know if either side really came out on top this expansion -- yes, the Horde managed to dispose of a Warchief that has done horrible things, but it's also managed to lose countless lives and absolutely ruin whatever good reputation it may have had prior to Hellscream's promotion to Warchief. But the Alliance, despite deposing the leader of the Horde, doesn't really have anything else to show for it. Rossi's right, they can't just randomly give the Alliance zones back, when the leveling zones were so lopsided for much of the early game. It's one of those things where game balance trumps story. Regardless -- story balance. I think, if there is going to be story balance, the story can not be framed around a war between two sides. Each side needs something specific to be doing next expansion, and those things don't necessarily have to relate to each other, nor do I think they should. But they both need to be written with an equal amount of care and attention to detail. You should really get the feeling, regardless of whether you're playing Alliance or Horde, that you're getting a good, detailed, interesting story out of the experience. Let's face it -- you're always going to have the "grass is greener" effect, but if both sides have some equally amazing highlights and super cool moments to play through, it should lessen that feeling -- or make a player feel like maybe they'd like to experience both stories. And that was way longer than two sentences but this is a topic I feel strongly about so deal with it. :D

Allison Robert (@AllisonRobert)
Chase Hasbrouck (@alarondruid, @alaronmonk) Move 1 of 2 is complete, yay. I'll be working on finishing up Proving Grounds gold on my feral (keep getting stuck at wave 9 - having trouble bursting the Illusionary Sha down) and leveling some Magic/Undead/Dragonkin pets, since I've only got a couple 25's of each. Couldn't make it through the Celestial Tournament on my first go.

Bonus: Since neither side can "win" a war, it makes sense to simmer down the conflict. I'd like to see some intrafaction squabbling: less Horde vs. Alliance and more orcs vs. trolls or humans vs. dwarves, as invidiual leaders push for more power. Until, of course, BigBad 6.0 hits and we go back to pretending to be friends again.

Dan Desmond (@Antigen_) Well, if Matt Walsh were available I'd likely pester him into continuing our exploration of the Borderlands 2 DLC, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep. The game itself is great, but the DLC has made me into a blubbering Gearbox fanboy. Since he won't be around, however, I'll likely try to play a bit more Starpoint Gemini 2, a space sim I found on Steam that shows some promise.

There have been times when I care about the story in WoW. Sadly, Mists of Pandaria hasn't been one of those times.

Elizabeth Harper (@Faience) Oh, uhm, WRUP, I am still recovering from a computer disaster and also being out of town and also having a cold. I have the worst vacation karma ever, but maybe I can trade this disaster parade in for good WoW fortune in the future...

And I honestly have lost track of WoW's story when I took a couple year break from the game. I've yet to entirely wrap my brain around what's happening in lore these days and this latest twist has not helped.

Elizabeth Wachowski (@leeatwaterlives) I'm working days this weekend, we're down trucks, and the local football teams both have home games, so I assume my time for gaming will be non-existent. If I happen to catch a break, I'll probably just mess around with Saints Row IV some more.

I agree with Alex. Focus on something other than the war for a while and let everyone get their bearings.

Joe Perez (@lodurzj) Participating in a painting competition and putting together the final touches on my Trollbloods Kriel Warriors unit before submitting them to be judged. Also looking for some decent Mega Man clones and seeing what I can dig up in that area.

As far as story balance, the amount of content is about even but the quality is shaky in parts. Focus on the rebuilding after Pandaria and develop both faction stories up evenly now.

Lisa Poisso (@lisapoisso) Installing a new OS on my desktop system (not iOS 7, whew), so I'll be too busy cleaning up detritus and reorganizing files to game.

Bonus question: I really don't have a strong opinion about the balance between the two, but unlike many players, I enjoy active conflict. Rock on.

Matthew Rossi (@MatthewWRossi) Normal raiding on Sunday. Aside from that, no idea. Might TI, might not. Might do old content, might read a book, might play an old Xbox game (I'm eyeing Fallout New Vegas) or even consider a newer game.

As for Horde/Alliance bias, it's like this - Cataclysm made necessary changes because the Alliance just plain had more zones than the Horde did for leveling. Unfortunately, by making those changes with in-game story, it created in Alliance players a feeling that they were losing things (which they were, but again, it was necessary) that over time has festered into a wholly unreasonable need for a story resolution that isn't possible. The Alliance can't take back any of those zones, because it's necessary for game balance that they be Horde zones now.

At this point, the Alliance got to storm Org and smack down Garrosh and kill most of his loyal forces, and that will have to do.

Matt Walsh (@Rhidach) Have a lot of IRL stuff this weekend, so not much gaming. I'll probably do some Timeless Isle on my alt, and then I have my regularly scheduled challenge modes on Sunday, but that's likely it.

Bonus: No, I don't think they are story balanced. To balance them, the Alliance needs to start racking up serious military victories that result in strategic, material gains like taking complete control of a zone/settlement that the Horde overran.

Olivia Grace (@oliviadgrace) This weekend I will be playing the wooo I'm on holiday game! It's awesome, you should all try it. But there may well be arenas, new season and all that, and possibly some D3 console, depending on whether my hosts pick up GTAV over the weekend.

Robin Torres (@cosmiclaurel) I'll be hanging out on the Timeless Isle and playing some Scurvy Scalliwags on my phone. Bonus: Yes, the story is imbalanced, but I don't think having the Alliance become more aggressive is necessarily the answer. Give some long overdue story love to the worgen, draenei and gnomes in order to beef up the Alliance lore without necessarily affecting the conflict with the Horde.

Sarah Pine (@ilaniel) I'll be continuing to replay Final Fantasy Tactics on Ye Olde PS1. I'm into the part of the game where I've unlocked most of the jobs and now am paralyzed by choice, endlessly leveling and obsessively completing every side quest. Herein lies my demise.

Bonus question: Urk. Can o' worms, Gray! Abort, abort! Are the stories balanced? It doesn't FEEL like it, but that doesn't necessarily mean the right answer is no. Here's the thing: I agree with what others are saying that making Horde vs Alliance the story's focus was exactly the wrong way to make players happy with the story, but I say that knowing that a huge portion of the playerbase was clamoring to put the "war" back in "Warcraft" for years. The people got what the people wanted, and hopefully we've learned our lesson: that the Horde vs Alliance aspect of the game works best as a framework on which to hang the rest of the narrative, not as the narrative focus.

The weekend is the perfect time to kick back, relax and enjoy some game time. Are you an achievement junkie? Can't get enough raiding? Rolling a new alt? Considering taking the leap into roleplaying? Whatever your favorite way to play World of Warcraft, let us know in the comments what you're playing this weekend!

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