Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 29, 2008
Blame the lore

My apologies for a recent flippant remark saying that there were only 3 people out there actually reading the lore. That was an unjust exaggeration. But I'm afraid I'm going to cause further unhappiness to the lore fans with this post. The thing is that both Keen and /random are discussing how sad it is that WAR only has 2 realms, not 3. Quote: "Rock-Paper-Scissors is a lot more fun than Rock-Paper, ya know?" That made me think *why* Mythic chose to go for just two realms. And the answer is definitely the lore.

Whether it is Tolkien, Star Wars, or the Warhammer lore, most epic war stories are good vs. evil. In real history "good" and "evil" aren't so clearly defined, but 3-way wars are still extremely rare. 3-way fights are a lot more common in video games which don't start out with an existing license. Dark Age of Camelot or Starcraft didn't have pre-existing lore which would prevent them from having 3 warring parties.

If you have "good" and "evil" fighting each other, what third party could you add to that? "Neutral" doesn't seem to be a good choice, because why would they fight the two others instead of just staying out of it? Furthermore the interest of 3 realms is that any two can gang up against the third. Can you see good and evil allying themselves against those wicked neutral guys? It is a lot harder to come up with a good story of why there are three realms, all equally strong, with any possible combination of 2 against 1 working as well as free-for-all combat of everyone against everyone.

So as long as MMORPGs use lore from other sources, we won't be seeing many 3-way wars anytime soon. A third party in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning simply wouldn't work well from the lore point of view, even if it would be an improvement from the gameplay point of view.
Hm, wouldn't Lizardmen quite fit that bill though?
The current number of armies in the Warhammer tabletop game is about 15 official ones. 5 of them in many certain campaigns team up with each other to illustrate the good guys. 2 other ones can be sum to as the bad greenskins, 2 more as the bad undead faction. That still leaves a lot of neutral and straight bad factions all at war with each other. Even factions that may team up for certain campaigns, will split and kill each other later on.

There's only one true evil faction in Warhammer and it's Chaos. Dark Elves, Undead, Skaven, Greenskins, Ogres may seem bad but there far from "evil" and would rather die in combat than to join forces with Chaos like in the MMO. There are true neutral armies in Warhammer too: Lizardmen, Wood Elves and Dogs of War.

What's left in WAR is a dumbed down lore, shoehorned into a scenario, where they can tie certain classes to certain races. It's like making the original lore more accessible so to speak, but at the same time butchering the original lore. The original faction setup does work for the tabletop, cause it's more chess than D'n'D, but something like this is a nightmare for balance in an class based MMORPG. If you ever played on one of those ancient EQ Zek servers, you got the picture, what it's like to have more than two "realms". It kinda worked back then, but it would scare a lot of current players.

That's actually exactly what I thought. I did remember there being enough factions that pretty much hated each other in Warhammer that they could have easily come up with three factions, though I couldn't have rattled them off like you did.

I think what it really comes down to is it's an easy way to structure the game. Three parallel leveling tracks, with representatives of each of the two factions on either side of each track. If there were three factions, it would have been more of a design challenge to lay out the tracks.
I think your point stands for the time being, Tobold, but I can't help but think that Mythic will probably release a 3rd side in an expansion pack. When you think about it, that is very consistent with not only the warhammer lore, but also with the way that the original warhammer product line developed.

even more importantly, I seem to remember Mark Jacobs giving an interview in which he stated that they designed WAR's systems to be expansion-friendly from the ground up -- no changing of the game's entire background mechanics every expansion pack ala WOW. Adding a 3rd side to the conflict would be one very good way to introduce a horizontal expansion pack rather than a vertical one.
The MMO in development Aion seems to utilize the three-party approach quite ingenuously. Players can play the light and dark side and a third, NPC faction supports (quite unrealistically but fine for balancing purposes) the losing side. Therefore, any realm imbalances in PVP battles will be automatically tipped to a more neutral favor.
I would blame Mark Jacobs, or thank him. He could have gone either way. If you had 3 realms, you wouldn't have much career variety within any race or you would have more careers than Mark wants. Every fantasy IP has the same setup, the necromantic "south", the demonic "north" and the human alliance caught in the middle. Hyboria, Middle Earth, Azeroth all the same. The lore was not the limiting barrier.

I agree. Lore-wise, it would have made more sense if Chaos were the major force of evil - much like the demons in WoW.

The Warhammer setting is pretty grim, and the lore allows for lots of conflict even amongst the "good" aligned armies. But for the people that don't care about the lore, it's much easier to present a simple good vs. evil dichotomy when picking sides.
The dark elves are probably under Tzeentch's thumb through Slaanesh and don't realize it. And since Sargeras is Blizzard's interpretation of the chaos gods and Melkor, I think it fits if you want it to.
Zapp: So, a plan to assassinate a weird-looking alien with scissors. How very Neutral of you.

Leela: What?

Zapp: It was almost the perfect crime, but you forgot one thing: Rock crushes scissors...but paper cover rock...but scissors cut paper. Kif, we have a conundrum. [Kif sighs.] Search them for paper, and bring me a rock.

Kif: Why?

Futurama, seemed apropos. :)
Warhammer lore is everybody versus everybody. There have been ample reasons for nearly any race to fight within itself even.
I always thought it is sad that we are left with such simple stories in MMOs. Good vs Bad.. it has been that way since Tolkien and even longer! But most people seem to prefer it the simple way.. Even in WoW where no side is really good or evil from the start the average Alliance guy is firmly convinced that Alliance is good and Horde is evil and even some Horde guys think that way.
I'd love to see a MMO where all the simple minded people are lured to believe that their side is good, while those who don't like to think in such absolute terms notice that this 'good' side is even worse that the 'evil' side could ever be ;)
Chaos isn't Evil. It's beyond Evil.
Orcs just follow their nature, Undead & Dark Elf factions are Evil in their own right.
Everyone is corrupted to a greater or lesser extend by Chaos. That's what the whole IP was about, knowing that the best thing that could possibly happen to the world of Warhammer is to have a Space Marine Dreadnought to find the place and execute an Exterminatus of the place.

All the 'Good' races are at each others' throats half the time. So are the Evil ones. Only Chaos fights "alone". Sometimes with Skaven or Orc auxiliaries though. I suspect the 2 factions choice had more to do with class variety and that table-top battles for the most part were one on one. It's a crying shame though as an unequal number of sides is pretty much essential to balancing populations, as Mythic will find out in a month or two.
Halo online is where its at! Human Covenant & Flood. Good, Bad and Evil. Even in the original trilogy good and bad teamed up somewhat to defeat evil, they didnt have to, perhaps this could work from lore. If the balance of power goes to one race, there is always the possibility that because of hatred to their power alliances are formed and broken.
You are quite right in that exactly 3-way conflicts with equal importance to each side is rare in non-multiplayer game lore.

Which makes perfect sense, since other media (books, theater, movies etc) tell a story with a beginning, an end and a few developments in the middle.

However, I would still count Warhammer as multiplayer game lore - just not computer game lore. Nevertheless, such lore probably do not stay at three equal sides if they go beyond two; rather a few more.

Games like chess and go stays at 2 sides. Games like Risk allows you to have up to 6 sides.

While I do not know details about Warhammer lore I would hazard a guess that choosing either 2 or 3 sides is a simplification in either case.
When I heard that the game was goind to have just two sides, I was kind of relieved. At least this way, I won't have to listen to constant griping about "Alb-ernia", "Hib-gard", or "Alb-gard"... ;)
Iagree with you Tobold. The 3 realm RvR worked in DAoC because none of those faction were evil, they just didn't like each other.

I played mostly on Hibernia, and even then the Elves and Celts were not fond of each other. But they set aside differances to defend the realm.
Like others have mentioned here, this analysis of Warhammer lore isn't really quite right. The table top game had its lore written in such a way that you could justify almost any army fighting any other army. Good and Evil are certainly there, but they don't have to be. Good races fight each other, bad races fight each other, and then there is everyone else in between. Everyone can fight anyone and there would be enough reason to justify it. Some matches would be more likely than others, but the point remains.

If they had gone with single races, rather than multi race realms, things could have been very different. There are plenty of classes in the table top to have an all Human realm, an all dwarf realm, and all chaos realm etc. each with twelve+ classes apiece.

Some folks might then argue about how many people would go human or elf or chaos or whatnot, but that certainly is a way to stay true to the lore and still make a 3,4,6,10 etc. realm war.

Don't blame the lore, blame the interpretation of the lore. Warhammer is far less polemic than Tolkien's middle earth, despite the obvious similarities.
Don't get me wrong, I loved DAoC. However, every server I played on had one faction that might as well have not existed.

Only neutral race I would accept is one that could take either side. You make your toon, and pick a side, that's where you stay on that server. Like a race in the middle of a civil war or something.
Its not lore.

1) Because the time and effort required to balance 3 realms is not 1.5 times harder than 2 realms. Its much much harder

2) Realm populations will stay more balanced with 2. When one realm gets the upper hand and maintains it for a long time, people WILL get bored and simply log to their alts on the other realm on another server. In DAOC, it wasnt uncommon for one realm to simply stay in control for far too long. People spread out simply too much across the 2 non-dominant realms. This makes it more difficult for another realm to retake control and dominance.
They should have put the humans in the "middle" faction and had them either as invaders or defenders of the lands. The lore of Warhammer (especially 40k) generally seems like it's always a fight for the survival of humanity.
WoW basically ruined the lore for me by adding the neutral Shattrath city, home to the also neutral (and even worse, unplayable) alder and scryer races.
As others have said, the basic point Tobold is making here is 100% wrong - it was logistics, not lore, that pushed things into two sides. The most Warhammery way to do things would be each race is a stand-alone faction, which, whenever defeated, fights a civil war within itself to decide who it should be at war with next. It's just that would require 21 campaigns instead of 3.

As things stand, a whole third faction would be tricky. But they could easily add a single class, say vampire lord or ogre mercenary, perhaps individually slightly more powerful than normal, but with the restriction 'always fights on the losing/outnumbered side'.

You can easily see a vampire defending against an orc invasion that would disrupt its food supply, but being completely unwilling to go on a crusade into the chaos wastes.
There should have been 3 factions in WOW: Horde, Forsaken, and Alliance.
Having the Forsaken join the Horde was a joke.
The lack of 3 sides is the main reason I have held off on preordering.

With all the Warhammer armies, 3 sides would have been simple.

The problem is not the lore.

Blogging about Online Gaming and Virtual Worlds:
Auto Assault had 3 sides as well, and it was infernally hard to balance - not just in terms of powers, but in making all factions equally attractive so you don't have one uber faction, one perpetual underdog, and then the one the other two just feel sorry for, which is what we ended up with.
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