I was reading Keen’s opinion of the Warhammer Alliance poll showing a factional slant toward Destruction, and it made me think about DAoC and the three-realm system. When WoW announced they would only have two factions, I thought it was a bad idea. Coming from DAoC, I really thought the three-realm system was a great way to keep power somewhat balanced, even when population numbers weren’t balanced.
With three realms, two weaker realms can square off against a stronger realm and keep them fighting on two fronts. A strong realm with two weaker opponents has the opportunity for greater challenges than they would dominating one outnumbered or less-skilled opponent. The frontiers were never even in DAoC, but most nights managed to see challenges to the stronger realm, or spirited guerilla warfare on their flanks while they tried to press toward their objectives.
The Warhammer IP probably precludes the idea of a three-front war, and maybe Mythic had other reasons why there are only two factions available. Whatever the reason, polls that show players with a strong preference toward one faction over the other in WAR are cause for some concern.
On my DAoC server, my realm (Hibernia) was the weakest realm for quite a long time. Midgard was dominant, and Albion was no pushover. The Hibernian frontier was the Midgard and Albion playground, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the two realms would square off against one another at times, the Hibs would have had a difficult time venturing out into their own frontier.
Because of the three-realm system, though, Hibernia could spend a lot of time in RvR, using guerilla tactics, heading over to Midgard while the Mids were engaged with Albion, or hitting a Mid force from the other side of an Albion offensive. By putting ourselves in that mix for long enough, Hibernian leaders emerged, and Hibernian RvR skills matured. Eventually, we became an equal force on the frontiers.
I’m concerned that a weaker realm may not get those same opportunities to mature in WAR. I’m sure Mythic has ideas how to address a server that has one vastly superior faction (whether it be through population or skill), but losing realm morale could have a devastating effect on a WAR server. If one realm is dominant, the other realm may lose heart and stop showing up for fights. Then you end up with one faction feeling like they have no chance in PvP, and the other faction feeling like they have no challenge. I’m not sure where that opportunity for learning exists in WAR, without it entailing a lot of ass-kicking by the superior faction.
I suppose Scenario PvP will at least ensure a fair fight by the numbers. Perhaps a numerically less populated server can succeed in instances, and maintain some control of zones that way. Perhaps lightning raids on open-world PvP targets can prove a successful way of trying to maintain realm control. And maybe Mythic has other ideas up their sleeves.
It’s pretty likely that I’ll be joining Order in the fight against Destruction. I have a strong preference toward the Order races and classes so far, and I’ll bet my old DAoC guild will be going Order, at least as mains. So, if nothing else, if there’s a big Destruction population advantage, I’ll be able to report what it’s like being an underdog in WAR.
I know it’s too early to claim the sky is falling. We’ll have to wait past release to see how things shake out, population-wise. I hope, though, that I don’t end up missing my three factions.