Is it time to have less factions in MMOs?

I must admit, I like the two-factions element in WoW. But I partially like it because of all the choices it theoretically offers – the peace movement for those who want to join the two sides, the rogue Night Elf who secretly learns Orcish from his lover, the mercenary who’ll work for whichever side pays the most.

In reality, of course, it doesn’t offer any of those choices – just a stark “you’re on this side and on this side you’ll stay” mentality. It’s so endemic to many MMOs – WoW, SWTOR, RIFT – that we mostly don’t even consider the possibility of being outside the box. But today, Ferrel of Epic Slant has been thinking outside just that, and he’s got some very interesting ideas:

We cannot be who we want to be, only who Big Brother tells us to be. Rift’s elves will kill defiant. That is it and any other view is inappropriate. Of course it doesn’t help that this is a PvE game and the rule set generally makes it impossible to kill the “enemy” (not that I even want to)! We can only kill them if they flag or if we are whisked away to a magical battleground in the sky to play capture the flag or open a special rift. What breaks immersion more? Battlegrounds in the sky or a defiant and guardian hanging out as friends.

Ferrel goes on to talk about the factions system in Everquest, which I must admit sounds like an extremely interesting idea. Essentially, it’s broadly similar to reputations in WoW, but also replaces all factionality – so, if you wanted to be the only elf welcome in the Undercity, you could aim to do that.

As a writer and roleplayer (albeit not in WoW at the moment), this sounds like a great idea – a great opportunity to make meaningful choices and distinguish your character. And yet, with the exception of the ever-promising Guild Wars 2, the really big MMOs still stick to the simplistic two-sides idea. Why?

Do you like the simplicity of the two sides? Or would you prefer a more shades-of-grey game world?

_Quote taken directly from Ferrel’s article.

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