World Of Warcraft is downplaying the "War" bit and planning to let Alliance and Horde players play together. It'll be an opt-in feature for those who want it, but it'll let you form cross-faction parties for running dungeons, raids and rated PvP when it launches.
Ion Hazzikostas, game director of World Of Warcraft, outlined the changes in a detailed blog post. It sounds like it's not a simple change, however.
"There have been two decades’ worth of code and content crafted with the assumption that parties can only have players of a single faction, and while we want to make this feature available as soon as possible, the extent of the change means that it couldn’t be ready in time for the upcoming Eternity’s End content update. Instead, we are planning to test and release it as part of a subsequent 9.2.5 update," says the post.
The two guiding principles, Hazzikostas writes, are to "focus on organised instanced gameplay" and "make this an opt-in feature as much as possible." The thinking goes that instanced play - those aforementioned raids, etc. - are the area where players being separated between factions has the greatest negative impact. The post provides further detail on how the system will work:
- Players will be able to directly invite members of the opposite faction to a party if you have a BattleTag or Real ID friendship, or if you are members of a cross-faction WoW Community.
- Premade Groups in the Group Finder listings for Mythic dungeons, raids, or rated arena/RBGs will be open to applicants of both factions, though the group leader may choose to restrict the listing to same-faction applicants if they so choose.
- Guilds will remain single-faction, and random matchmade activities like Heroic dungeons, Skirmishes, or Random Battlegrounds will all remain same-faction (both because there is less faction-driven pressure around random groups, and to avoid compromising the opt-in nature of the feature by randomly placing a queuing orc in a group with a night elf).
I can't help but wonder if this is a change driven by dwindling player numbers, and designed to make it easier for people to find people to raid with. In principle letting friends play together more easily sounds great, but it's also another change which dismantles the integrity of World Of Warcraft as a world rather than a theme park. Maybe that all already went away when they made it easier to fast travel, though.
Of course, I haven't played WoW in ten years so what do I know. Blizzard's post specifically solicits feedback and so far the 800+ responses seem overwhelmingly positive.