The Great Divide II

Orcs vs Humans
Pick a side, forever.

Last week I wrote about levels dividing players.  This week I’d like to look at another thing that divides players: Lore.

Now, Lore itself doesn’t really divide players, but design decisions made to support Lore does.  In World of Warcraft, you have two sides, the Alliance and the Horde, and every race in the game belongs to one side and not the other.  If you want to play an orc, you are Horde.  If you want to play a human, you are Alliance.  Now, if you want to play a human and your best friend wants to play an orc, you are screwed.  One of you is going to have to cave and play another race.

WoW isn’t the only game that does this.  In almost every game on the market that decides to define “sides” to enable a Realm vs Realm style of PvP play, they draw arbitrary lines in the sand and toss races on one side or the other.  This needs to stop.

Now, when I say Lore is the problem, I’m being a tad flippant.  In truth, from a database and coding viewpoint, it’s probably far easier to assign races to sides than to flag individual characters and then check the flag for any action for which side matters.  But if we assume the problem isn’t technical, that a human could be on either Horde or Alliance, then the only thing holding us back is Lore.  Humans and Orcs are on different sides because the Lore says so.

Of course, the solution to Lore problems is… Lore!

Why not have the majority of humans be Alliance, but a splinter faction have gone to the Horde?  Apply to same logic to each and every race in each and every game.  Even if you don’t want the Lore of your game to support a race being on both sides, you should allow your players to “betray” their side and go to the other.

Some people will say that dividing people into sides by race it to make finding enemies easier during those PvP/RvR interaction.  And yes, spotting an orc and knowing he’s a friend or foe at a glance is easy.  Know what else is easy to spot?  The same thing FPS games have been using for a long time: colors.  When a player enters an area of contention, just slap a colored tabard on them, red for one side and blue for the other.

Dividing players into sides is a perfectly valid design decision, but there really isn’t any good reason, in my opinion, to divide them along other lines as well.


  1. Having never played WoW, I find it interesting that you can do exactly this is Everquest II, a game I did play heavily for years.

    In EQII, some races default to a certain faction (in EQII it was originally 2 cities the defined which ‘faction’ you belonged to; Freeport or Qeynos).

    Very early on in the game’s lifespan they added the ability for your character to betray their city allegiance and eventually move to the other city.

    The quest itself was quite involved, a little on the difficult side, and for a period of time once you’d betrayed you were without a place to call home – you lived in a limbo.

    It does come down to a Lore decision though, but who knows if Blizzard would ever want to allow for these changes. It can be done though. 🙂

    1. Does EQII have a Realm vs Realm server? What about battlegrounds type stuff? I knew you could betray and switch factions, but when I was playing the two sides didn’t really matter much except for which town you spent the most time in. If they do have a decent level of team based PvP, that would be very interesting to me since the game allows for side switching.

      1. There are PvP servers with Guilds/Clans – I used to partake in some very tasty PvP adventure – but this is PvP world-wide, not just specific zones. It was insane fun, very stressful when you got isolated, and it promoted (when I was playing) playing in groups with guildies – protection in numbers!

        So, Realm vs. Realm or Battlegrounds? Not specifically – the PvP server, as mentioned, was across all zones. Sometimes ppl played nice between factions, but you never really felt safe when the enemy was near.

  2. Speaking of WoW in particular, the divide is rather… arbitrary. Apparently, Horde and Alliance characters actually can’t speak to each other unless they are in a cutscene, then they are sufficiently multilingual. Plenty of characters “cross the aisle” in the actual storytelling lore, but in-game, players are out of luck. Consequently, what could be nuanced storytelling becomes rather blunted and incoherent.

    …but then, maybe I’m just bitter that the Tauren are still in the Horde. I’m a Tauren fan, and they just don’t fit the Horde (or the Alliance, really), especially under the new leadership. I’d like the option to go totally off the faction rails and just be a free agent. Y’know, go hang out with some Wildhammer Dwarves and beat up some Orcs and Humans.

    1. To some degree, I can completely understand not having the sides be able to talk to each other, because, frankly, without heavy GM presence you’d wind up with lots of trash talk between them. Especially given the size of the population of the game. PvP in WoW is not surprisingly devoid of a lot of the e-peen, corpse humping, foul mouthedness that some games have almost entirely because you can’t communicate with the other team.

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