World of Warcraft developer Blizzard Entertainment once said that the separation between the Horde and the Alliance was “a pillar of what makes Warcraft, Warcraft,” but now things are changing. Blizzard announced Monday that it will begin testing “cross-faction instances” soon on the public test realm.
When the 9.2.5 update goes live on the PTR, players will be able to create premade parties between Horde and Alliance players for “dungeons, raids, and rated PvP,” Blizzard said.
“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,” World of Warcraft game director Ion Hazzikostas wrote in a development preview blog.
Guilds will remain open only to single factions, as will Heroic dungeons, Skirmishes, and Random Battlegrounds. But players can invite opposite faction players to parties or through premade groups in Group Finder for “Mythic dungeons, raids, or rated arena/RBGs,” — though group leaders can opt to keep their party within the same faction. Blizzard said opposing-faction players will stay designated as “unfriendly” or hostile in the regular world, but will be able to use party chat. In dungeons, players — regardless of faction — will be friendlies, as if you were the same faction.
Certain legacy instances won’t be available: “Battle of Dazar’alor, Trial of the Crusader, Icecrown Citadel, and a handful of others that similarly have extensive faction-specific components that will have to be reworked to support cross-faction parties,” Blizzard said.
This decision comes at an unexpected time; the Battle for Azeroth expansion ended with relative harmony between the factions, but cross-faction play was not addressed at that time. The Alliance faction has steadily been dwindling in relevance when it comes to endgame content; the Horde have an advantage in world-first races and other competitive content.
If you’re interested in how Blizzard came to and made this decision, the developer has thoroughly outlined the feature’s theory.
In crafting the ruleset for this new feature, we were guided by two goals:
- Focus on organized instanced gameplay. Dungeons, raids, and rated PvP have been at the center of the most compelling arguments for relaxing the faction divide. This is content that by definition requires a premade group, and thus social barriers will have the greatest negative impact on people’s ability to access these experiences on their preferred terms.
- Make this an opt-in feature as much as possible. In terms of in-world fiction and player preferences, there are decades of animosity to overcome. While we are excited to offer players the choice to reach across the faction divide and cooperate to overcome common foes, we know that there are many who will react warily to this change, and we don’t want to override those preferences. This is about increasing options for players.
These guidelines led us to the following system:
- 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).
World of Warcraft’s 9.2 patch, Eternity’s End, is the last Shadowlands story, and currently available on the game’s test realm. It doesn’t yet have a release date on regular servers, and neither does patch 9.2.5.
Cross-faction play has been highly anticipated and requested by World of Warcraft fans for some time, but some fans are still grappling with the question of whether they can support Blizzard in World of Warcraft, with the current legal troubles faced by the developers. Activision Blizzard is still embroiled in a lawsuit with the state of California over allegations of widespread sexual harassment.