Looking at the incoming results of the race poll that Amary posted earlier on the Rift: Planes of Telara forums, it becomes quite evident that the Guardians are probably going to go into the game at a disadvantage. I say probably because no forum poll can be a 100% indicator of faction balance. We may see things balance out upon release. However, it does give a good indication of what the general Rift community is feeling toward the Guardians.
On the surface, Guardians should be a very popular faction. They have two of the most popular races in any fantasy MMO, humans and elves. They also have Dwarfs, which also always seem to be a popular choice. They have very nice character models and they have deep and interesting lore. I also am of the opinion that they have the best promo video of the two factions. Heck, the narrator sounds like Charlton Heston and you can never go wrong with Charlton Heston. Yet, despite all that, they are lagging far behind in popularity. The question is why?
Two recent threads on the forums, one by Kuldorn and one by Bruzuh, give great feedback on exactly why the Defiants are proving to be so much more popular than the Guardians. In these threads you see the normal reasons; character models, races and racial abilities. But, one reason stands out ahead of all the others and that is a general dislike of the religious fanaticism inherent in the Guardians lore. This seems to be the single biggest reason that the Guardians are lagging behind in popularity.
I am not going to get into a debate about religion in general or fanaticism in particular in this post. This is a gaming blog and, as such, I will not delve into the reasoning or correctness of this dislike. Suffice it to say, its there and it is affecting player’s faction choice. The question now becomes what can be done to influence player choice back to the Guardians and balance things out?
The lore in Rift’s details the basic disagreements between the Defiant and the Guardians. The Guardians worship and commune with the Gods and believe that they need the Gods to fight back the encroaching Planes. The Defiants, on the other hand, believe that the Gods already failed Telara once and do not want to trust them again. They believe that if it is going to get done, its up to the races of Telara to do it, not the Gods.
In addition, one of the basic differences in the two Factions is Source Stone and their use of it. The Guardians use it to commune with their Gods. The Defiants use it to power their machinery. This makes the war between the factions not just a philosophical one but a concrete one. One based on a finite resource.
How can you tweak the lore, just a bit, to do away with the fanatical aspect of the Guardians. Yet, at the same time, keep the basic disagreements between the two factions?
I believe that it is too late to change the lore of the game and do away with the entire Guardian back story. There are already too many quests, too much back story and even comic books that deal with the lore of the Guardians. But, let’s play “what if…” for a second. Let’s change the back story just a tad and see if that affects how you view the Guardians.
What if, instead of worshiping and following the Gods, the Guardians enslaved them?
What if Source Stone did not allow the Guardians to commune with their Gods but, instead, allowed them to control the Gods and steal some of their power for the Guardians own purposes?
Would that change player’s perception of the Guardians? Would that increase their popularity? Would more players feel comfortable playing that role as opposed to religious fanatics?
I am just guessing but I think it would increase it by a very large amount. I have noticed that gamers tend toward the evil or dark factions in general. Even when a faction is not truly evil but seems so at first glance. Horde tends to be more popular than Alliance in WoW. When I played Aion, Asmodian always seemed to be more popular than Elyos. Destruction held a large population advantage over Order in WAR. For some reason the factions perceived as evil have always seemed to hold the population edge.
And what could be more “evil” or “dark” than enslaving the Gods? Even when you are using them to save your world. I think a change like this would give the Guardians a huge jump in popularity and balance out things with regard to faction balance.
I know its never going to happen. I’m just spit-balling here and wondering what could be done about the current situation. My question to you, the readers, is; Do you think that the change detailed above would make you more or less likely to play Guardian? Does this appeal to you more than the current lore of Guardian fanaticism?