Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Weight Watchers: Slim your Tauren down to a Gnome

In a completely predictable move, after allowing you to change your name, server, sex, and look, Blizzard is now working on a system that lets you change your race in World of Warcraft, including changing a Horde character into an Alliance one and vice versa. Yes, you somewhat overweight Tauren can now do a diet and slim down in bulk and size until he is a Gnome. Details are still being worked out.

Some commenters accuse Blizzard of this being just another RMT option, as you'll have to pay to change. But I don't think the income of that is really going to have a big impact on the billion dollar annual revenue of World of Warcraft. I'd say the main motivation is to keep people playing after they got bored with one side, but don't want to abandon their old character.

And in WoW, unlike other RPGs, that is easier than it looks. Race has very, very little influence on your character, much less so than in other games. In many other systems a large race like the Tauren would be stronger, while a small race like a Gnome would be more agile or intelligent. In Everquest it was completely possible to gimp yourself by making a sub-optimal race / class combination. Not so in WoW. The Tauren warrior transformed into a Gnome warrior will not suddenly become less strong and more agile. The stats will only change minimally, or not at all.

What made this predictable was that it is just another step in the process of diluting character identity. That is a bad thing, because it weakens social cohesion, which isn't strong in WoW in the first place. Next up: The ability to change you character class.
Changing classes seems far less likely then changing faction to me, but a year ago I would never have seen this coming. Nor server transfers. Nor PvE to PvP transfers. So what do I know?

But still, Blizzard has signalled that you may not be able to fully control what race you switch to. You will change to a "roughly equivalent" character of the other faction? Obviously this is limited by race/class combinations such as only Night Elves/Tauren can be druids, any Horde Shaman would have to become a Dranei, etc.

If they do implement this through a race change, I would certainly pay to change the race of my character from Night Elf to human. I wonder how Faction Switching will play out on PvP servers where a character has multiple alts?

As you know, you cannot create characters of opposite faction on a PvP server.
I agree.
It follows their logic, it was predictable, it certainly will create profit in the shortrun.
But they are cannibalizing their own game world. Perhaps there is a reason they didn't do it earlier.

Maybe they are testing things to find out what works and what doesn't.
I know that this change is just another one of the dozens of nails in the coffin of WoW.

WoW is reduced to the lowest common denominator. Nobody really likes it, but everybody plays it, because it is just-good-enough.
This works very well (in economic terms) for the film industry; but it doesn't produce something you could be proud of.

I hope it doesn't work out to be economically reasonable for them, but I fear the worst.
I agree with you Nils, having played since the beginning they are certainly sacrificing all the integrity of the world and weight of your decisions for short term profit.

But really, good for them because their is nothing of impact in terms of lore to do after we slay the Lich King.

WoW is on a long slow decline now, and we will all soon be playing Starcraft II/Diablo III/Unnamed Blizzard MMO.

As much as I hate this decision as a purist, I too will pay for this service to stave off some boredom.
"WoW is reduced to the lowest common denominator. Nobody really likes it, but everybody plays it, because it is just-good-enough."

Oh c'mon. It's been around for five years and people are still playing it. People like it. People love it. It's the best MMO out there.

I don't see a problem with this. You can already change your appearance and sex, yet how many players do this? A scant few, I think. This new option to change faction will be similar, I predict, in that only a small percentage of players will do that.

This can add social cohesion, because it gives friends a chance to play together.
I agree with Mark. If I have a friend who plays a horde char on another server while mine is Alliance, until now our choices were limited to the un-palatable option of leveling up a new character on the friend's server so we could play together. Having this option now means I will be able to play with my horde-loving friend :)

There is one thing I don't think anyone could predict, but maybe Tobold will prove me wrong :) - if this option will reduce or enhance the horde-alliance balance problem. I'm guessing that due to low number of people switching this won't actually change anything, but I could be dead wrong :)
Class changes are unlikely because leveling another class is a huge part of WoWs endgame for casual players.

Faction and server changes allow mmog players that have been scattered to the mmog winds over the past decade + to regroup in WoW. Doing so without half the players having to relevel because of faction. Building or rebuilding social interactions actualy seems to be one of the main reasons for this change.

You mite not think its important because for most of you, all the social contacts you have made in mmogs are all still located in relatively compact areas of WoW. Clearly though as anyone who reads this blog will note your average mmog player eventualy reachs the point where they begin to spread out to other mmogs. After this happens you eventualy relise that the majority of your mmog friend have become scattered and desire to be able to regroup somehow becomes very appealing.
The original reason for not allowing it is because Blizzard did not want players to change their race en masse to the flavor of the month. For my DK that would for example be an Orc. They have more pet damage, axe specialisation + a free AP trinket ability. They're standing head and shoulders above the classes. And I can imagine that the top guilds will force their players to pick the optimum class.

But I suppose Blizzard can live with a few hardcore people switching classes. Those players already picked an orc in the first place. And I know at least one person who rerolled his priest from human to draenei at the start of TBC for their better racials.

It is a nice idea to be able to switch to horde though. Maybe it will fix the horde/alliance imbalance a bit. Or you can apply to horde/alliance guilds. Or just play with a friend who's playing the different faction.
Class changes are unlikely because leveling another class is a huge part of WoWs endgame for casual players.

If that was really the case, then why don't Death Knights start at level 1 instead of 55? Rolling a DK is already half of a class change.
Changing your current class, no. Paying for a higher level character or able to roll a higher level starting character? Maybe.

Changing a current character class doesn't make much sense to me for a few reasons.
I would much rather see next up: cross faction communication (back) and cross faction grouping (in the next expansion).

The PCs are already blowing off some of the most important characters of the Alliance and Horde by going into Ulduar. Since we are already doing that let us group together--increasing social cohesion.
Soon after or right when the next expansion ships, we will be able to buy premade level 80 chars. Mark my words.

I *could* use this, as my friends now play Horde on another server.

But all this RMT added to every "service" you can imagine is turning me more and more away from all contemporary or upcoming MMOs.
> "Soon after or right when the next expansion ships, we will be able to buy premade level 80 chars. Mark my words."

@Longasc, I haven't seen such a feature even in MMOs where the entire business model is based around F2P+RMT, so I seriously doubt you are right about WoW, an MMO where RMT is only a way to get some small convenience (different server, different character looks, soon different faction) which don't directly affect game play.
More options to try and prevent people from leaving makes good business sense.
I'd like to see them open all the classes to every race: a Tauren rogue sounds like fun...or a gnome druid :)
Wow. At this point they are just trying to see how far they can go, aren't they?

Switching factions. Christ. Anything to keep people playing another month.

WoW is dead. That movement you see is just the maggots feeding.
I think this is their solution to imbalanced racials. Well on one hand I think it kills the little diversity the game still has left, on the other hand there was not much to begin with and it racials do influence arenas in negative way.

ohh yeah and racial balance gonna swing mad now - wholesale increase in humans ( they have 2 best racials in the game) ,decrease of gnomes (worst pvp racials ever). Horde in general has worse racials than alliance (e.g. in category " best racial for a given class"). It was the opposite at release, pendulum swinged since then
If I should pay for a class change, I would in a heartbeat. Or if they would allow a dual-class system like they did dual-spec.

I just don't have the time to level the class I really want to play (I made a big mistake when WLK hit and got two of my other characters to 80), and now I'm stuck with classes I don't enjoy as much. Were it possible to toss them some cash and rectify that mistake, I'd be all about it.

Heck, I'd love them to introduce a mini-transaction store like Runes of Magic with XP potions and other such vanity items, and then maybe I'd be able to spend the time to level my Priest or a Paladin.
I see this as less of a reduction of social cohesion and more of a move to facilitate social ties. Most players, because they are casual, identify with their friends as people, not as toons. If my raid leader switches from a Blood Elf to a Forsaken, our online relationship isn't changed. The new plan has the added advantage of allowing people to switch factions to join new guilds or play with RL friends, which likely keeps people playing longer.

The ability to change classes, while clearly much more drastic, follows in the same vein. Under the philosophy "Bring the player, not the class," Bliz wants people to be playing and paying for as long as possible, no matter what class their main is.
As Nils says they're beginning to cannibalise their own game world. They'll make short term profits out of this but long term it reduces the immersiveness.

This may be deliberate as they may wish to transfer some of the popularity WOW has to their forthcoming releases and part of that may be breaking the hold WoW has on players.
This is a great change. Bemoaning about "social cohesion" is misleading, because the only players who would leave their friends/guild/server to go to the other faction were already not feeling social to begin with. The option doesn't make things less cohesive.

In fact there's a decent argument that it will make things more cohesive. I know people in my guild who have Horde chars on different servers, and maybe they'll want to bring them to our Alliance guild. Or on my old small realm, there were plenty of people who rerolled Horde after getting to know them as Alliance. Now they don't have to start from scratch.

While I doubt paid class changes will be allowed (but never say never), Blizzard is more likely to make it in the next expansion where every class can start at say, 65 or so, without grinding through the wastelands. Now race changes? That's definitely next on the chopping block to happen.
The road to hell is four lane asphalt, with convenience stores every mile.

And the Blizsheep keep defending every outrage because it makes things easier or pads Blizzards checking account.

And btw, knowing that at any time you can change your name, gender, race, and faction is going to generate SO much guild drama simply because people know they don't actually have to deal with the consequences of anything if they don't feel like it. It will also sever all emotional connection to a character, but I guess we're past that point, eh?
I actually wonder why they didn't add a functionality to start over with a character of your maximum level character on any server for both factions.
Make this charcter equipped in good greens and everythings is fine.

Perhaps this would have been more compictaed to implement?
Perhaps they speculate that this way people first transfer the charcter to the right faction and then transfer it to another server which costs extra. I don't know. I just know that the whole problem has a better solution - at least from my PoV.

[.. Remark:
Did I say 'good greens' - I meant good blues, because nowadays there is grey=white=green=CRAP, blue=INFERIOR and violett=NORMAL]
If that was really the case, then why don't Death Knights start at level 1 instead of 55? Rolling a DK is already half of a class change.

Allowing one of ten classes to make half of a class change is a exception not proof that the same will eventualy be allowed for other classes.

DK are a marketing driven creation built in order to sale WotLK to long time current and former WoW Players. DK simply dont follow all the rules other classes have to because the reason they exist is to be a sales gimmick.

Alowing them to start at level 55 is simply the main way that godmode been implemented for the class. The very people responsable for DK starting at level 55 will be ones most opposed to allowing class changes. Because there godmode feature is to important and valueable to allow it to be devalued by allowing class changes.
I wonder how this will affect achievements?

Since some are Alliance/Horde specific.
Why would I have less of an emotional investment in my character if I can change his looks, name, faction, and server?

My investment comes from the time I spent playing the character.

I see this as a positive. It gives players more flexibility about how they want to play WoW.

And really, there are so many players playing WoW that the small trickle of players who will switch faction aren't really going to be noticed, I'm guessing.
"...diluting character identity. That is a bad thing, because it weakens social cohesion..."

You'll have to provide some evidence to back that up before I believe it.

Many of the players in my guild have alts they play a lot and we recognize them anyway. How is that substantially any different from allowing them to change their race?

We haven't lost any social cohesion and it does reinforce the idea that there's a person on the other side of the chat window.

Has some immersion been lost, or rather, is there the potential for losing some immersion since no-one is forcing you to change your race? Maybe, but if this change ruins it for you then your hold was pretty tenuous as it was.

Toxic said :

"And btw, knowing that at any time you can change your name, gender, race, and faction is going to generate SO much guild drama simply because people know they don't actually have to deal with the consequences of anything if they don't feel like it."

I have to assume that was sarcasm because you've been able to do that since the game was released. At absolute worst you re-rolled.
Before they allowed the ruleset transfers (PvP<->PvE), GMs on the forums were usually swift to respond to requests for class/gender/race changes with: "We want that certain player decisions to matter."

The conclusion of those latest announcements is clearly: "Nothing in WoW matters shit."

Sorry couldn't resist :P.
Mike, no its not sarcasm. Re-rolling was 6 days of work if you were fast. You don't just re-roll. That's a lot of work.

Used to be you couldn't transfer at all, couldn't get a name change unless your name was offensive. Bullshit nothing has changed. And this adds to the ability to burn bridges without any sort of significant consequences, though I suppose the ability to freely swap servers would do that as well.
It really irks me when players who don't like WoW say no one likes WoW. Regardless of its other errors (real or imagined) the game has the best raiding system currently in existence. The game is well (if not perfectly) balanced, and very fun to play.

Adding in the faction change allows players who have an old character they love bring that character across to their new faction with friends. It's a move to cut away at another of those pointless barriers separating players from FUN what these games are supposed to be about. How is that a bad thing?
Meh, I've seen WoW as half-dead for awhile. Blizzard mentions a "content patch" and all they really do is slap a few classes, give candy to others, and then allow you and your friends to start a new arena season and do more pointless dailies.

Content patch indeed. Thanks Blizzard.

This move, along with being able to move your toon from PvE to PvP, is just more of the same. Give the most amount of players the most amount of options so that they keep paying...I mean playing every month.

I can tell you this. If you will be able to change your race without changing faction, you are going to see a whole lot more humans and a whole lot less of everything else. Due of course to the multiple molestations of racials through the years. Maybe that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but ultimately it erases some of the game's vivacity of having more than just humans and orcs.

Of course the game is going on 5 years old now, and no amount of subscriptions is going to save the game from eventually eating itself. Honestly, I place the "blame" on Blizzard listening to the general forums and doing what a bunch of semi-literate trolls want them to do.

I'm not going to claim that faction/race change is going to make the game unfair/more imbalanced than it already is. Or that Blizzard is just trying to squeeze a few more dollars out of its players.

But I will say that Blizzard is diluting their own game, whether it be death knights, pve->pvp transfers or faction changes. Two years from now, you might be able to buy WoW, start your character at level cap, have dual-faction in addition to dual-spec, and have your introductory quests be the dailies you are going to repeat 200 times a year...all in order to get you acclimated to how the game works.

Imagine how WoW was played years ago, before WoTLK and even BC, and how it is played now. Some things changed for the better, and some things seem to change because Blizzard has nothing better to do but fundamentally change the character of their game. Sometimes I think Blizzard goes a little too far in trying to get a larger part of the population to like it.
n1ck, if race changes without faction changes occur, it will certainly end up being "World of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans".
"My investment comes from the time I spent playing the character."

Exactly. That's why faction and even class changes make sense. The more time you spend with a single character that happens to be able to multitask over his/her lifespan, the more likely you are to stick with it. If you're always rerolling alts and getting burned out on lower level content just because you want to try something new or see new content, you're more likely to leave the game.

If you've ever whined about the grind in the game, this is one way that Blizzard can take some of it out. On top of that, it's a great way for friends to play together, as has been noted.

I'd also suggest that "instant level-capped characters for sale" is a good idea. Not everyone wants to grind through the leveling content to play with their raiding buddies. It's the natural flipside of the players who don't want to raid, but who just want to play the leveling content. Sure, Blizzard isn't getting the money from them during the leveling grind, but they might just stick around longer when they can do what they want to do from the outset, rather than dink around plodding uphill both ways just to satisfy some old codger's notion of "how things should be".
Apparently everyone who plays WoW has friends who play on the other faction, and yet they never decided over the course of almost 5 years to play with their friends and instead just soloed dailies and level 40 dungeons.

Really? I see that thrown around, and yet I highly doubt most people who use faction changing will be doing it to play with friends, and will instead do it just to try out the other side.

Does that save time? Yes. Does it make factions almost irrelevent? Yes.

Why not just remove the already arbitrary faction of Horde and Alliance, open the game up so that factions can communicate with each other, group with each other? PvP and PvP Servers? Who cares, even to Blizzard the lore is pointless, not important, and something that stands in the way of players getting the tour of their game.

The point I and others are trying to make is that ultimately Blizzard is making their game a cheapened, diluted version of itself, in order to save someone a few hours of re-rolling.

Who has cross-faction friends who wouldn't run them through dungeons, give them money, and help them into a guild just to play with their friend? This isn't about making it easy to play with friends, its about removing any semblance of the game's character in order to satisfy as many people as possible.

You can see it as a step forward, I just see it as a WoW jumping the shark. There's nothing really left for Blizzard to do with this game, except start characters at max level and allow you to log in to see what the new Blizzard AI has done with your character since you last logged out. Maybe you got some new gear and a title while you were logged out. Sweet! It saved me some time and grinding, and I still got a reward.

This is the best MMO ever!
I think pre made 80's is over doing it. I think paying for pre made level 55's with a set of class specific greens would work well. In fact I love the idea ;), you get some solo time should you want it; you get time to learn the skills and you get time to group in northrend(or other expansion). I would certainlt play more regularly would this option be open.
Yeah, I think instant 80's is pushing it, but instant 55's would be fine with me. I wouldn't pay a lot for that, though. In fact, I think it's something that Blizzard should consider adding as a standard, free feature.
I was thinking about this a bit more, and I realize that Blizzard built in a lot of lore in the first 10 levels or so, so maybe you play the first 10 levels and then get jumped to level 55.

I personally would love something like that. I have two capped characters and one level 72 character. I really don't want to replay all that old content just to have fun with a new class. (I also have a level 29 priest -- not a twink -- and a level 22 mage, as well as a few toons in the teens. I've played a lot of that content to death.)
How about this: no skipping levels, but we open up the two factions completely! I would be in favor of merged factions. More people to play with, places to go, quests to visit. Suddenly the game doubles in scope.
Good on Blizz for opening up things that many players have requested or wanted over the years.
Just cause Blizz is now changing content and rules to better suit the casual playerbase, doesnt mean that the game is dead -or that they have given up and will follow any whim of the player group.
The playerbase of WoW have changed alot since release, its only natural (and good for a games longevity) that the game changes too.
So, you can change factions - and? People who see WoW as dead will continue to do that, while those who still enjoy the game gets more options. For so many beeing affronted (based on the commentary here), I dont see who is actually loosing out.

As a sidenote: The arguments against these changes seem to me to have the same tone as my grandma use: "When I was young [insert phenomenon], we couldnt do that - but now adays kids are allowed to do whatever they want". Apparently us gamers grow old really fast :)
I guess i have mixed feelings about this now. On one hand, i think this is great. On the other hand, this really dilutes the product. But if was done in a cool way, then maybe. Some people on WI were talking about quest chains that cause you to change faction. It would be pretty interesting if you could be a human horde or BE alliance; and I can totally see that working lorewise; after all people jump ship often enough in conflicts such as the cold war.

The other thing is that if you want to see the other side, the best way to do that is to reroll. Otherwise your alliance 80 plays just like a horde 80. For myself, I'd also love some microtransaction stuff for example a potion of 3x XP gain for an hour for a buck.

Yeah WoW is dying, and it's no surprise. The good old days will never come again, no matter what. We'll never see 40 man PVE raids, never down illidan in a meaningful way, etc. As the game gets more and more vertical blizz is going to have to do *something* to get people coming back for more, because i'll be damned if I'm going to level a char from 1 to *90* for the next expansion.

I think my biggest lament is their decision to just kill off all the content in the previous expansions; i mean whole zones are just barren, no point to go in them unless you just want to wander and explore. Just goes to show, if you want to experience a great game, get in from the start.
Just one question...what else are you all playing? I'd especially like to hear from the people complaining that the game is being diluted or cheapened.

What kind of grind-fest are you playing now to recapture that agonizing, brain-numbing experience when WoW was released?

I don't agree that instant 80s are a good idea, but some things have to change to keep up with the lifespan of the player base.

WoW has saturated itself in a market with few real competitors and there are not many unexplored player populations left from which to draw new players. What's left is a player base that has done most of the content available and has taken to creating alts in order to get that replay value.

It makes sense to facilitate things such as leveling, traveling, and even faction changes if that is what the customer's want.

I get tired of reading posts by some pompous raid-holic who longs for the so-called glory days and demeans any change as making the game worse. Those days are gone, the voice of the customer demands change, and only the stupid would fail to try and appease that customer.

Short of declaring WoW a religion, there is nothing sacrosanct about a game, especially WoW. The game has been retconned in all it's incarnations, so why break with tradition?
I don't even see current Horde v. Alliance grudges to be valid in the current context anyways. It may have been in WC1&2 (I don't know, didn't play them), but the Warcraft Universe has been heading in this direction ever since WC3.

I mean, it's the only natural direction of any world whose viewpoint gets naturally larger and larger; as far as I can tell, most countries on earth aren't exactly in a fight to the death squabble any more.
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