Yesterday’s reveal of WildStar’s second faction, the Dominion, has put into play the “bad” side in an effort to woo players to roll one of them. They certainly look interesting, especially the intelligent robots (because, seriously, who wouldn’t want to play a robot?), but it’s made me think about and wonder on the appeal of the bad guys versus the scrappy good guys.
Case studies in the “good” faction vs. “bad” faction in MMOs abound, from World of Warcraft to SWTOR to RIFT. Sometimes there’s an effort to portray the good guys as less-than-good and bad guys as “misunderstood,” but the archetypes are clearly present. One side appeals to the virtuous, upright heroes in us. The other side appeals to the dangerous, hard-edged anti-heroes. It’s a tug-o-war for players’ interest, and I always find it fascinating to see how players choose between the two.
Sometimes it’s about going against the grain, either in yourself or what you perceive as the popular choice. The bad side has a lot of allure in that regard, especially by those who want to set themselves apart from what they see as the weak carebears who are all about fluffy love. Or whatever. You know what I mean, though. It’s like, “I’m rolling the evil side because I have more gamer cred and Megadeth rules.” I saw a lot of popularity for the Empire faction in SWTOR because of this — perhaps too much popularity. Then it gets funny when everyone swamps the bad guy boat and rolling the good faction becomes the underdog choice.
But I think WildStar will be more complicated than that. Obviously it’s trying to appeal to the Firefly/Star Wars crowd with its Exiles (substitute Browncoats/Rebels as you will), and man has that pot been simmering in the geek crowd over the past ten years. I get to be a somewhat-veiled Browncoat rebelling against the authoritarian fist of the military? And I can be sassy while doing it? Where do I sign up! So I see a huge base of support for the Exiles and a reason to suspect that it could be the overwhelming choice.
So the Dominion has to step it up. To be the Horde to the Exile’s Alliance and offer a slightly darker perspective that screams motorcycle gear and total bad-assery. From the single video we saw, I don’t know how effective this is going to be. It’s cool they have humans too, and robots, musn’t forget about the robots. But they’re the oppressors and humorless ones at that. They haven’t gotten much press at all up to this point and are playing at a disadvantage for the hearts of the community.
The fourth race on each side could be a major factor in swinging some votes, sure, but Carbine’s got to give us more than that if they want players to go, “Dominion? Sign ME up!” Their personality has to appeal in some way. They have to be sympathetic so that players can identify with them. And above all else, they need to exude cool at every turn so that not picking them would be a painful decision.
As it stands, I’m 90% in the Exile camp until or unless Carbine convinces me otherwise. We’ve still a ways to go before that decision needs to be made, however, so anything can happen.