The Daily Grind: Should MMOs with PvP-focused factions allow cross-faction interaction?

I’m on-board for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth focusing on the factional conflict, but there’s a side of the factions in WoW that has always bugged me: the lack of cross-faction interaction. I can’t group with Horde characters while I’m playing an Alliance character, cannot meaningfully help them advance quests, can’t even talk to them. In terms of interaction, they wind up feeling like very smart NPC characters with no options beyond “hit it” or “ignore it.”

By contrast, Star Wars: The Old Republic has two factions that literally cannot coexist in the same galaxy peacefully, and it has actually done a better job of giving both factions chances to interact. At least Sith players can still talk to Republic characters.

The justification of keeping the faction conflict rolling has always struck me as fake; it drives the point home more effectively if your Night Elf isn’t just shooting at random Tauren characters but at people she knows, has grouped with, and even considers friends. But perhaps I’m in the minority here. What do you think, readers? Should MMOs with PvP-focused factions allow players to interact cross-faction, or is it better to keep them separated in gameplay as well as in lore?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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43 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Should MMOs with PvP-focused factions allow cross-faction interaction?"

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Rolan Storm

Yes, please.

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Arcanum Zero

I’m just tired of game designers crippling their game’s features to justify an unwillingness to manage their community.

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Zora

They could have a justification not to if the focus is constant and world-defining. They should not if the level of hostility swings back and forth between “we are enemies” and “let’s be best captain-planet-level buddies and join forces to defeat the big baddie of the month” every other expansion…if not every other patch as I suspect the upcoming Bubble-For-Azeroth will end up as.

No, it was not a typo. Insular, island-sized segregation act II, here we come…

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Paragon Lost

Yes. One of the silliest, immersion breaking things that Blizzard did was not allow cross faction communication in WoW.

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Sally Bowls

Theoretically, I think the inviolate silos of faction pride are superior. Thus, a lot of early games with faction did it that way.

In practice, chasing the ephemeral group of peripatic eFriends around realms and factions is a pain or expensive.

Unless you selling one of the “Kickstart me!” games selling inconvenience as immersion, I think you should be able to play with as many people as possible (the exceptions being perhaps language and lag(server location) – e.g. Russia, Brazil, AUSNZ)

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Robert Mann

Depends on the game, and the reasons for conflict. At the same time, the horde vs. alliance thing was old before WCIII ended… so that’s a terrible spot to focus.

Honestly, if there’s actually strong conflict going on I’d rather keep the communication to nonverbal, given the tendencies of people to say things that are not only of no benefit but of actively negative benefit.

Yocraig
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Yocraig

The Horde/Alliance thing has gotten old. We should be able to speak to each other and play together. We are almost always beating on the same enemies anyway, why not be able to speak and coordinate the attacks.

I’m hoping that BfA is the beginning of the end of the fake conflict.

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Zora

We are almost always beating on the same enemies anyway, why not be able to speak and coordinate the attacks.

Almost like you see horde and alliance NPCs work together for those oh-so-cool custscenes where the “armies of azeroth united” attack as one while the flavour of the month promoter of neutrality panders to us (because we players clearly are the warmongers there) how we are unstoppble when together yadda yadda…

Fast-forward a year… damn you heroes, what are you doing…sodalizing with the enemy, are you crazy? We -always- have been at war with Eastasia!

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

Nah. Isolate them. It serves the narrative better.

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Paragon Lost

No it doesn’t. It breaks the narrative because all of their lore supports communication between the two factions all the damn time. It’s immersion breaking that they write about it all the time and yet players themselves can’t communicate between each other.

One of the refreshing things about Rift when it first came out was that you could communicate between the factions, surprised me when someone from the other side actually said something to me one day on the pvp server I played on.

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Ben Stone

Nah, I liked the faction conflict. WoW just watered it down for a whole bunch of expansions by having this ‘lets work together and be BFFs, but then fight 5 mins later for no real reason’ storyline.

They should have kept them as competing, even if they had the same ultimate goal.

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Dread Quixadhal

The benefits of being able to taunt your enemies probably outweighs the risk of cheating. People intent on cheating will do so via voice chat or other out-of-game systems anyways.

If you had a magic wand that could prevent anyone from talking outside the game, or make all information websites go away, then putting up blocks would make sense. But since the internet exists, it’s stupid to push a game design that doesn’t work with it.

Personally, I’d rather factions be something you join by choice, not by creating a character that “belongs” to one of them. Star Wars Galaxies had a nice system where you could remain covert and play both sides, or declare your allegiance for one side or the other and get better rewards, for greater risk.

If you allow factions to be non-permanent choices, it also makes the game easier to balance since if one side is weaker on your server (cluster), you can add incentives to join it.

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A Dad Supreme

The justification of keeping the faction conflict rolling has always struck me as fake; it drives the point home more effectively if your Night Elf isn’t just shooting at random Tauren characters but at people she knows, has grouped with, and even considers friends.

Possibly, but it also stops the chance that your Night elf who has grouped with people she knows and even considers friends the opportunity to game the PvP system by putting up tons of fake victories, which leads to higher leaderboard scores and gear rewards that are actually unearned by cheating.

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Schmidt.Capela

This never stopped kill-trading in WoW, even before Battle.net chat allowed players to talk across faction lines. Halaa, in particular, was infamous for how groups of Horde and Alliance players would meet there, line up, and start taking turns in killing each other, so they could farm PvP tokes faster than by actually engaging in PvP; back then there was no Battle.net chat, no faction transfer, and players on PvP realms were restricted to a single faction, but this kind of kill trading was still rampant.

So, no, it doesn’t “stop” the chance. It merely makes it a bit harder, but not enough to hinder a motivated player.

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A Dad Supreme

This never stopped kill-trading in WoW, even before Battle.net chat allowed players to talk across faction lines.

Agreed. Although it does stop the chances that more people can do it.

Of course some folks are more determined to cheat and will make up or circumvent any number of attempts a company puts in to stop cheating in gaming.

One method isn’t intended to stop ALL cheating; it takes several safeguards, and eliminating cross-chat is a low brow way to do it effectively to most low-tech players.

Any methods that can eliminate a few more or a few thousand more cheaters is always welcome, and it certainly eliminates the ‘laziest’ way of cheating in PvP.

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Schmidt.Capela

The problem here is that this “fix” comes with extensive disadvantages.

But then I’m kinda biased. I don’t care for open world PvP and find the whole concept of faction pride to be silly, so from my point of view preventing players in opposite factions from working together brings only disadvantages, without a single upside to show for it.

styopa
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styopa

Meh, I don’t really like hard-coded factions? Give us a reason to hate each other, and people cheerfully will.

To answer your question maybe let cross-factions work together, but don’t turn off friendly fire when they do? (evilgrin)

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Bryan Correll

Give us a reason to hate each other, and people cheerfully will.

threeknee
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threeknee

I’m not sure… I think there is some charm to a hard faction split that fosters a sense of belonging and identity, and maybe a competitive drive. There are negatives too. But as long as faction population is high and game systems are working properly, I can take it or leave it.

You should probably consider allowing factions to play together if population is low and the game is suffering as a result. It’s kinda just like a server merge. That might be a major overhaul that you can’t really afford to make, but you gotta do what it takes so you don’t end up as “other” on your parent company’s financial statement. ;-)

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Utakata

There’s cross-faction interaction all the time. That is, they hit me and I hit the ground. Interaction! :(

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Alex Malone

Its not something that has ever bothered me so I don’t really care one way or the other.

But, I think it makes sense to have cross-faction interaction. In fact, I think it makes sense to only have a very small amount of zones/content that is actually faction-restricted, I think most things should be shared.

This would cut down development costs, increase the pool of players to interact with and also make more sense lore wise in a lot of games. In a PvP focused game…..meh. If you’re spending most of your time pvping, you wouldn’t be able to group with the other side anyway, so I imagine cross-faction interaction would mostly boil down to insults, so its just easier to prevent it to begin with.

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Melissa McDonald

EverQuest 2 got it right. 2 factions, 2 main cities, but outside of them, you were free to interact with members of the other faction.

Nick
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Nick

Aion wouldn’t be the same at all. There was something scary / exciting about seeing an Asmo as an Elyos with their names in red, speaking a foreign language, and most likely ready to kill you on sight.

I didn’t think I would enjoy this dynamic as I’m not one for PVP but it actually opened up RP opportunities and created a different world feeling than say EQ where if my high elf say a dark elf player, nothing would really happen except maybe an argument where the characters just lifelessly stared at each other.

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Veldan

This. I remember my first Aion encounters with the enemy like it was yesterday. It wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable if they’d went “hi lol ima wreck u bai”. In fact, I may have quit Aion in my first week if that had happened. No (or scrambled) communication is the way to go imo, in any game that takes faction vs faction PvP seriously.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

Of course they should. Not everyone is a racist, warmonger in whatever setting you are playing in. In every MMO I’ve played, faction conflict was focused around a handful of NPCs and everything else felt extremely forced. “We’re fighting them because, well, just because.” Stomps foot and crosses arms, “Don’t ask stupid questions like that.”

WoW has always been the worst with this. All of the factions work together so often throughout lore to face a greater evil, but then they immediately forget about that and go right back to war because Blizzard made the game with two factions and can’t figure out what to do with them. Even the newest expansion is going back to war because…whatever, nobody cares.

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Armsbend

I really think Blizzard has a bigger thing up their sleeve with the next expansion. WoW has a large Twitch following but nothing that is as viewable as a MOBA or PUBG for instance. I think they are going to attempt to tool something to capture a wider, more competitive focused pvp audience beyond those just playing.

The factions might not matter imho.

My 2 gold.

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rafael12104

Really? You are in the minority, Eliot? Then, I’m right there with you.

The advantages of having cross faction interaction are many and varied. But I think it can be summed up as having a large cross faction pool of players to do non faction specific things is best for the entire game. This includes content, crafting, the market place, everything.

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Zen Dadaist

The enforced separation of garbling languages and disabling the ability to chat to the other side(s) has always felt so artificial and bullshit. I say let there be full interaction, so that it’s left to the in game consequences. It’s something Anarchy Online (eventually) got right – Clan, Omni and Neutral can talk, trade and group up freely but you have to be careful in a mixed side team because someone killing the wrong mob can play absolute merry hell with faction rep, xp gain, PvP flags and so on ;)

Theryl
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Theryl

Factions are something that MMOs don’t do well. Except for the Republic/Empire split in SWTOR faction conflict in most games boils down to either “those guys drop loot” or “we have always been at war with EastAsia.” Even SWTOR ended up dumping most of the reasons for faction conflict with KotFE.

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Ben Stone

I felt like that was just in response to low / imbalanced pops and desire not to create more content than the bare minimum. Rather than because the faction system doesn’t work.

Game populations need to be healthy enough for the split, and there needs to be enough funds to basically make individual content for both sides. Not many games out there at the moment have either.

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Armsbend

For sure. The last two MMOs I have been deeply involved in TSW and WoW – would have been dumb without cross faction interaction.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

TSW is especially silly in it’s limited cross faction interactions in that the source material which it’s (very obviously and clearly derived from) is based on teh old spy novel concept of the double bind and betrayal and double agent type stuff, except even deeper and more complex in terms of allegiances loyalties motives and agendas.

a few of us tried to argue this way back in the original beta giving examples from teh source materials the game’s lore/settings are derived from and were wholly rebuffed without question just because we should be grateful that we could do anything cross faction at all.

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Armsbend

If TSW would have had a million players a year after launch deep interaction confrontation would have been awesome. That didn’t come to pass though…so being able to rib each other’s faction choices was fun in our cabal. Oh look Armsbend is an edgey Dragon…so chaotic. That kind of stuff. :)

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

as i recall you couldn’t be in different factions in the same guild? i remember this pretty clearly because i was campaigning for it to be any faction (much like grouping in the game in general) based on the source material as stated above.

as it was the guild system was introduced last minute barely before beta ended into launch as it was, and the counter argument that it was rote and already decided that ofc it would be single faction guilds without a doubt just because that was how it would be so why would you even ask for otherwise?

i literally quoted passages out of the illumintus trilogy of which the game’s lore is heavily based on as to why that should not be the case but they seemed to care more that the gratutitous demon pancake nipples on teh succubi had landed the game an M rating (you know forgetting the drug usage and references in numerous cutscenes and quests) when responding the the beta forums. XD

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Armsbend

You couldn’t but ours (which was large) had three separate factions of our guild and somehow we could all speak in the same channel. It’s been a long time I can’t remember how it was all setup.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

ahh ye i remember the customm chat system things. lol. people had some really obnoxious macros set up from what i recall and i think????? did they nerf the system or something at some point because of that? idk, i was only playing tsw to kill time until gw2 launched XD

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Bryan Turner

I think Rift did it best surprisingly. When declining player population forced guilds/parties/raids to have mixed populations they simply ended the war and created arbitrary factions similar to NPC factions that you need to farm repeatedly for to get access to Vendors (think Wows Argent Dawn or Wardens or Kiran Tor) except these factions are only there for PVP purposes and never intersect with the main story.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

it’s a problem with hard factions is that it dicates alot of your interactions with other players and who and who you can’t group with or pvp against.

and as we’ve all experienced multiple times faction populations are never balanced even reasonably no matter the efforts of developers.

which is why i prefer the old lineage 2 model best. let me choose my own friends and enemies and organize in “limited’ numbers within clan/guild and alliance systems using diplomacy and political intrigue.

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Schmidt.Capela

and as we’ve all experienced multiple times faction populations are never balanced even reasonably no matter the efforts of developers.

The only reasonable way to make factions balanced is to make most players actually want to join the currently losing faction. Which, for progression-minded players, means you must be able to earn more rewards, with the same effort, by fighting for the weaker faction, the one that loses more battles, than for the stronger faction.

Devs don’t want to go even near that, though. So we are left with factional PvP systems where a nobody in the winning faction often gets more rewards than a truly great player in the losing faction, so instead of trying to win players merely transfer to (or reroll on) the already winning faction, utterly wrecking any semblance of faction balance the game might have had.

(There are unreasonable ways to enforce faction balance. For example, automatically assigning players to the weaker faction instead of letting them choose. But those tend to anger players, sometimes driving them away before they even start playing.)

Taking that into account is why Mario Kart is so fun, so successful, BTW. The more you dash ahead, the weaker you become, in that you will be unable to get any of the good powerups; by the same token, the more you fall behind, the better the items you get. It creates a natural handicapping mechanism drawing all players closer regardless of their skill level.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

The only reasonable way to make factions balanced is to make most players actually want to join the currently losing faction. Which, for progression-minded players, means you must be able to earn more rewards, with the same effort, by fighting for the weaker faction, the one that loses more battles, than for the stronger faction.

numerous games have tried that a multitude of times and it doesn’t work. never has in any case example in which it’s been done.

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Schmidt.Capela

numerous games have tried that a multitude of times and it doesn’t work. never has in any case example in which it’s been done.

So tell me, which MMOs with faction-based PvP offer better rewards to players that lose a fight while playing for the weaker faction than to players that win a fight while playing for the winning faction?

Because that is what it would take. Make players know for sure that for the same effort they will be better rewarded playing for the weaker faction, even if that faction loses most, or all, fights. After all, if you want to draw players to the weaker faction you have to account not only for rewards and progression, but also for how enjoyable winning feels.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

aion and warhammer to name two that did this various times.

numerous other games as well. it’s a fairly common mechanic in korean/asian pvp games.

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m not familiar with Warhammer’s PvP rewards, but I seem to recall there were instances that only the winning faction could enter? That creates a strong incentive to just move to the winning faction so you can effortlessly enjoy the benefits of winning. If you want factions to balance themselves out you need the losing faction to have more, or better, rewards, so a way to get rewards that only the winning faction can access is the exact opposite of what you want.

AION, if I’m not mistaken, has the same issue of very profitable instances only being accessible to players in the winning faction, which is one heck of an incentive for players to just ditch the losing faction and reroll in the winning one instead. The way it tried to control faction balance was by preventing players from creating characters in the leading faction, but as I recall it kinda backfired, as players in the weaker side saw character creation in the other faction being disabled as a sure sign of imbalance, a reason to move to other servers instead of trying to fight back.

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