Monday, September 14, 2009

In-Game Problems vs Out-of-Game Problems

Note: This was originally posted as a response to Larisa at The Pink Pigtail Inn in an article about faction changes.

There is a difference between problems that should be handled "in-game" and problems that should be handled "out-of-game".

Faction/race/gender changes are out-of-game changes. They are changes made because the player outside the game is unhappy, and so we choose to turn a blind eye to the impact that the change has on roleplaying or character history.

It is a mistake to try and handle everything within the rules. Sometimes, you have to step outside the rules and the gameworld, and talk directly to the player.

You see this a lot in regular table-top roleplaying forums. The DM will say that Player A's character is being disruptive and constantly working at cross-purposes to the group. Some DMs try and force the character to work with the group using in-game mechanics such as threats or magical coercion. But the proper response is to talk to the player outside the game, tell the player that he is hurting the game and remove him from the group if necessary.

Similarly, faction change is an out-of-game problem. A player wants to play with friends who are on the other faction. So they can now switch, and everyone in-game pretends that they've been Horde all along. It is an out-of-game solution for an out-of-game problem.

This issue appears with a lot of rule systems. For example, loot systems often get more and more complex as officers try and prevent players from abusing the system. But rather than altering the rules of the loot system, it's often better to talk to the players in question, and get them to work with the system, rather than playing games with the loot rules.


  1. While I agree that out-of-game problems preferable should be dealt with out-of-game, not by messing around with the game mechanisms, I disagree that the wish to change faction belongs to this category.

    I for one don't know anyone playing at the horde side, so it's not an out-of-game issue for me. But if I for some reason would have to quit raiding and I had the opportunity to make a real faction change, doing it the hard way as I suggest, I would definitely go for it. It would be the most cool, interesting achievement I could possibly think of, something that would keep me hooked in the game for a long time, something that would make me feel involved in the world happenings and committed to my character. Much more interesting than starting a horde char from scratch or just switching out my main over night by the payed faction change they're currently offering.

  2. It is really a matter of two different ideals and purposes. Rohan, your purpose is to allow friends who meet (probably in RL) that play different factions to play together without having to level another toon on another faction. In this case, the faction change works, and should work out of game, (though for maybe a bit more than 10$) Your desire is to play together, and have fun, in this case factions are a simple hinderance to this, For anyone who doesn't care about lore and rp this is fine, new paint and shrubs... good to go.

    Then there is the other side Larisa is right too, There should be an in-game mechanic for those who for RP, or achievement reasons want to become the other faction as their current character. They truly want to play the traitorous imp, or the disillusioned hero jaded by their own leadership, For them the faction change isn't about fixing an out of game issue (hey we are two people but cant play together because we started on diff factions) its about exploring the world from a new perspective