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.