Faction Xfers: Stormwind, we have a problem.

So as good friend and fellow blogger Kaae heartfully recounted in her blog, Blizzard’s recent faction change service has, in the opinion of many, caused more problems than it has solved. And, I hate to say it, I’d have to strongly agree. The issue has been mentioned several times on popular wow-podcast, The Instance, and discussed on forums, blogs, and sites across the net.

So the issue, what exactly has happened? Why? And how can we fix this?

As an aside, this is going to be a wordy, generally humor-less entry, a bit of a detour from my usual posts. But since I feel this is a serious issue, I’m dedicated a lot of time and research on this.
Hopefully anyone who reads this fully will appreciate it!

Part One: Predictions
It bothered me from the start when they lifted the faction restriction on PvP servers, as it was something they had said from the beginning they would NEVER do, to upkeep the integrity of the game. But WoW has become such a huge cash-cow, it seems as though Blizz is throwing a lot of their previous ‘morals’ to please the masses, or make an extra buck.

I predicated a lot of trade spam and “gtfo my alt” bullshit, and most of my doubts centered around the immaturity of world PvP and ganking. Kaae, however, predicted a more pressing issue since before the service went live: it was going to create a huge population imbalance that would severely alter the play experience for the Alliance on our server. Many scoffed at the thought, or at least doubted the severity of her claims.

Low and behold, the lift happens and many of our Alliance’s top players, or more popular social players, wound up re-rolling horde alts. Soon a good chunk of these players leveled to 80, and began spending more time on their horde toons. This was the first major sign that Kaae had been right.

A few weeks later the actual faction transfer goes live, and the the final twist of the dagger has taken place gradually over time since then. Entire guilds have faction switched. Those who didn’t found themselves losing key players to the horde, either on our server or others. Kaae found her guild jumping to the #1 spot quickly, as all her fellow highly ranked guilds either left or fell apart.

The general morale on the Alliance has fallen dramatically, as well. People are giving up and leaving themselves, so it’s been a giant chain-reaction.

As as much as we’ve felt the change, this is not by far the worst faring server out there.

Part Two: What’s the problem and why did it happen?
Information can be browsed via WoW-Census, a database site dedicated to displaying ratios between factions, races, and classes on any given server. While the accuracy and reliability of this site is generally taken with a grain of salt, it’s still a good overall glimpse at how things have changed since faction transfers went live.

Now, as mentioned before, the topic has been covered on and off on the Instance several times, and one server, Cho’Gall, was used as an example of the extremity of these changes.

The server, previously about 2:3 ratio Alliance/Horde, now finds itself at 1:8, which is actually down from its 1:15 ratio at its worse. Alternatively, Alleria, a PvE server, has a 4:1 alliance to horde imbalance, a number made worse since the faction changes.

So why does this happen?
The issue appears to be predominant although not limited to lower population servers, especially PvP. My guess is this is for a few reasons:

~Previously on PvP servers, there was always a bit of a mystery regarding the other faction. What’s their economy like? How are their pugs? What’s their trade-chat like? Outside of progression which is monitored on threads and 3rd party websites, there was little insight to the rest, and ultimately, majority of what goes on.
~For many people, the ability to re-roll and eventually xfer to the other side is less daunting than simply re-rolling and xfering to another server, because you’re on the same “home” and are able to see familiar names and guilds. Furthermore, you can xfer items and money from your main characters VIA neautral AH, as starting fresh on a new server often means being broke-ass poor, a big change from the comfort of being supported by your mains.
~Taunting people who’ve killed you or whom you’ve killed is always fun. Furthermore, making a DK alt to camp your friends/enemies is also very appealing.
~Lower pop servers often give the illusion that one side has better players/progression, often leading to a desire to switch.

Why is this a problem?
At face value, it’s not. World PvP is dead, and Battlegroups generally contain even helpings of different server types allowing for a general balance in instanced BG’s. The issues lie deeply in player experience, the majority of which I mentioned in the intro.
WG is another issue, as I’ve find on Andorhal that horde now owns it 80% of the time, and when we win, it’s usually by a landslide.

There’s no competition for guilds to progress from one side to the other. Current alliance players who can’t afford or simply don’t want to xfer are stuck with a dying pool of people to play with. And really, what is the fun of having nobody on the other side?

Part Three: How can this be fixed?
The obvious answer, and it’s been mentioned plenty of times, is to offer free faction xfers to problem servers/factions.
~Would this work?
Hells to the yes. I know, with my 3 80’s and countless alts, I’d be more than happy to send one or two to the other side to try and balance things, especially PvP alts who aren’t bound by a raiding guild. And, entire guilds could find themselves switching to the other side, or start satellite guilds to help out. And I know i’m far from the only one who feels that way.

~Would Blizz do it?
Up in the air. Blues have already stated this as one of the major options they are considering. They’ve done free server xfers to specific factions to adjust population imbalances before. It wouldn’t be much different other than allowing cross faction to do it as well. The main concern on their end, of course, is the loss of revenue from allowing this to happen. I don’t feel that would be that big of an issue, though, considering that they’ll probably limit the offer to extreme cases, like Cho’Gall, and most servers wouldn’t be seeing this offered any time soon.

Another option: Force server balance by locking down xfers/creations on one side.
~Would this work?
Iffy. The differences between the horde and the alliance are extreme enough that people aren’t going to choose a side based on a server. They’d choose a server based on a side. This wouldn’t do much to help correct existing balance issues or encourage re-rolls on the other side. It would simply prevent switches from making them more severe.

~Would Blizz do it?
Highly unlikely. PvP centric games like Aion put a similar lockdown on servers that dip too heavily to one side. For an established game like WoW, though, this would probably cause a lot of unrest amongst players. Many xfers and re-rolls are to join friends on other servers. Being unable to do so seems like a major let-down, and would likely not fly with most. It would also limit the ability for people to roll alts, unless a rule for an existing toon with a certain level is used.

Suggestion: Offer more detailed information when choosing severs.
This should include faction ratios right off the bat.

~Would it work?
It would help tremendously, yes. People who are rolling for the first time are probably not going to know how to or bother wanting to do research on the server they choose. It’s likely going to be based solely on overall population and type. Being able to see that the server you’re about to pick, is heavy on one side to the other could definitely help deter people from joining one that’s heavily imbalanced.
Xfers wanting to leave an unsatisfying server are more likely to do their own research based on their goal: pve or pvp, what guilds are available and how the server does over all in their area of interest.
Xfers leaving to go TO a specific server for a reason, IE a friend or guild they’ve previously made arrangements with, already have their minds set, though, so it would do little on their end.

~Would blizz do it?
Maybe. It seems to me like a minimal amount of coding to alleviate a big problem.

Part 4: Teh Conclusion
It appears as though the developers and think-tank behind World of Warcraft continue to try and lift the limitations previously placed to help the game grow. I personally feel like these changes that are being made, along with Catacylsm as a whole, are more or less an overhaul of WoW to keep the game up-to-date. Essentially, instead of having to eventually make “WoW2”, it would seem they’re simply trying to get the current game in shape to become retroactive in itself so that there will never be a full need to create a sequel.

How this pans out overtime is really up in the air. Making big changes to a game that’s been around for five years is not an easy task. The extra revenue they’re making from all these services seems to be like too much of a bonus to just say “nay, we were wrong” to either.

So I suppose this is a wait-and-see scenerio!