A post mortem on WoW’s raiding Hall of the Fame and the need for cross faction PVE
As the sun set on Legion and the community looked to Battle of Azeroth, the developers acknowledged a problem with the raiding populations in each faction. For whatever reason, the raiding population had become overwhelmingly Horde. The developers had a solution, though. They created a special title and achievement, the Hall of Fame, to be awarded to the first 100 guilds on each faction to clear the Mythic difficulty of the raid. Surely, the 101st Horde guild would be motivated to transfer to Alliance to get this title and achievement, and the populations would even out.
As we approach patch 8.3 and the opening of the final raid of Battle for Azeroth, it’s fair to examine this again and assess how the Hall of Fame has impacted populations.
The last raid before the developers implemented the Hall of Fame was Antorus, the Burning Throne. If the Hall of Fame had been available in Antorus, it would have closed around February 5 for the Horde, and on March 7 for the Alliance — four weeks later. This is our baseline before the Hall of Fame change.
The next raid was Uldir, the opening raid of Battle for Azeroth. The Horde Hall of Fame closed on October 14. At that point, 12 Alliance guilds had cleared Mythic and earned Hall of Fame honors. The Alliance Hall of Fame closed on November 5, three weeks later.
That’s a small improvement, but the developers were still concerned. Racials have been hotly debated and an often-cited reason for the disparity between the population. In patch 8.1, the developers tried to redress the issue. Trolls received a small nerf to Berserking and Blood Elves received a small nerf to Arcane Torrent.
The following raid was Battle for Dazar’alor. This raid further tried to neutralize any imbalance from Horde Racials by race changing the players for three bosses in the raid. The Horde Hall of Fame closed on March 10. At that point, there were 15 Alliance guilds in the Hall of Fame. On April 7, the Alliance Hall of Fame filled. We were back to a four week difference.
In the mini raid of Crucible of Storms, the Horde Hall of Fame closed on June 15. The Alliance had 12 guilds with clears at that point. The Alliance did not fill its Hall of Fame, with only 42 guilds clearing Crucible before patch 8.2 released on June 25. If we assume the standard three to four weeks, Alliance would have completed around July 12, if it had remained available.
The latest raid was Eternal Palace. Horde finished the Hall of Fame on September 5. Alliance would complete it on October 10. We’re now looking at six weeks, two weeks longer than Battle for Dazar’alor.
The unmistakable conclusion to draw from the data is the Hall of Fame achievements and titles did not work. They had no impact on the Horde/Alliance imbalance in Cutting Edge guilds. When you add on the nerfs to Berserking and Arcane Torrent, it only further underscores the failure of Hall of Fame to make an impact.
Not just elite raiding is affected
This population imbalance is a problem for only Cutting Edge guilds, those pushing for a top 100 Mythic clear. It filters down to Ahead of the Curve (AotC) guilds, those guilds whose goal is to clear Heroic prior to the next raid. Even Normal mode guilds, like my own guild, feel the impacts. We are facing this dilemma as we struggle to recruit or even find a guild to merge with. A third of us want to stay Alliance, a third want to go Horde for easier recruiting, and a third just want to play with their friends regardless of faction.
It further filters down to pick up groups, LFR and even to the solo player through the general faction economy. It’s not a healthy state for the game. The developers recognize this and have an interesting solution in mind.
The developers’ next answer
I expect we’ll see a similar story with the Hall of Fame in Ny’alotha. Horde will finish their Hall of Fame in full when there are a dozen or so Alliance guilds with a clear. The Alliance will follow-up three to six weeks later.
The developers seem to have once again looked at the Racials, but this time on the Alliance side. 8.3 introduces the Mechagnome Allied Race with some powerful Racial traits like Combat Analysis and Emergency Failsafe. EF alone will be a wipe saver.
But will this be enough? The best-case scenario it stops the bleeding and maintains the status quo. Maybe twenty guilds on Alliance get Hall of Fame before the Horde closes. Maybe it only takes three weeks longer than Horde. It still doesn’t provide the impetus to reverse the downward trend. There’s simply too much inertia to overcome to bring guilds back to Alliance.
There’s another option: make guilds cross faction.
The examples from lore
Many groups in the universe of World of Warcraft open their arms to members of both the Horde and Alliance including: the Cenarion Circle, the Earthen Ring, the Argent Crusade, the Ebon Blade, the Legion Class Order Halls, and even the Darkmoon Faire. These groups are the closest in-game analogs for our guilds. The Argent Crusade and Knights of Ebon Blade even joined together to form the Ashen Verdict. If Death Knights and Paladins can put aside their differences to form a guild like structure, player character Orcs and Humans should be able to as well. Even in the Shadowlands, members of both factions will unite under the flag of their chosen Covenant.
Battle for Azeroth gave many hints that a fundamental changes to factions was on the horizon through its story. From the marketing copy promising a resolution of the faction conflict to Jaina and Thrall’s declaring we’re different this time to Saurfang’s exultant declaration of breaking the cycle.
We didn’t break the cycle
In another expansion or two, must we have the Horde commit yet another atrocity to create yet another contrived reason for conflict. Perhaps for a little variety, the Alliance can commit the war crime this time. Could we instead allow what’s happened in the lore and the beautiful cinematics to become reality in game? Allowing for cross-faction PVE is the best cure for a player made issue. It doesn’t harm or hinder anyone.
There are some implementation details to work out. There are faction-specific role playing moments in various raids where the Alliance and Horde see or hear different things. Battle for Dazar’alor and Antorus are two recent raids to feature this. The solution could be as simple as examining the traditional faction of each race of each member of the raid and using the role playing dialog, or boss layout for the faction with the most players in the raid.
The BlizzCon answer
But these issues are secondary to the discussion because the developers are firmly against the idea of cross-faction groups. In the World of Warcraft: Q&A panel at BlizzCon, the developers gave their take on the possibility of uniting the factions.
What disappointed me about this answer, was Hazzikostas acknowledged his customers’ pain points. He acknowledged the issues of wanting to play with the friends and the difficulties of recruitment. How can you say you, “want to look for ways to make sure people have as many options as we can to make sure people have ways to fill out their raid,” while ignoring the most obvious answer.
The answer they gave boils down to their belief that the faction conflict is so intrinsic to the game that it must always exist. This may have been true at one point, but it is true no longer. Over time, all things change. In fact, they must change. This is true of World of Warcraft.
There was a time when PVE and PVP servers were so core to the game to the point you couldn’t have a character on both factions on a PVP server. That distinction no longer exists. There was a time when 40 man raids were the core PVE mechanic to the game, and there was no way smaller raid sizes could work. There was a time when the Tier sets defined raiding. “Bring the player, not the class” was the overarching design philosophy, until it wasn’t any longer. Then came specialization identity, but in Shadowlands, we’ll swing back to the class identity.
Mercenary Mode in PVP didn’t threaten the faction conflict making World of Warcraft what it is, yet that same type of solution is unthinkable for PVE. The Hall of Fame has failed to alter the balance of the population. When Mechagnomes likewise don’t change the dynamic, I hope the developers will realize cross-faction grouping is the best answer. The heroes of Azeroth are constantly teaming up for the greater good — but we can’t ever group up in game. It’s past time for that to change.
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