I think it’s time to leave the EverQuest mentality behind. In the real world freedom is tempered by responsibility. No such paradigm exists in EQ as players are actually encouraged to act and behave like a bunch of brigands and mercenaries where guild jumping, loot whoring, personal achievement and greed are the only virtues. The integrity and believability of WoW’s online world is much too important to allow diametrically opposed factions to group together. Could you imagine in Middle-earth Online if they let hobbits group with orcs? How about in a World War II game if they let British soldiers group with Nazi’s? Both examples demonstrate how preposterous the current system is in EQ.
Almost nobody roleplays in EQ because it is not supported by the devs nor is there any positive aspect to it you if you do. There is no advantage to grouping with dark elves if you are a dark elf. In the real world those that group from the same hometown and have the same cultural, religious and racial backgrounds would make a far more effective tactical and combat force then a rag tag bunch of people that don’t share the same language, beliefs or religion.
We’ve made it far too easy for players in online games to shrug off roleplaying when we should be rewarding them. Roleplayers add depth and character to a game, powergamers detract from the sense of realism and immersion. I think it’s far more satisfying to commit to a cause/faction/alliance and have something to strive for the the current system of EQ that allows necros to group with paladins and Trolls to group with dwarves.
In EQ the only goal is obtaining levels and loot. In the real world you are protective of your family, your hometown, your religion, your beliefs and your way of life. Those are causes worth fighting for and worth dying for. Remember the scenes in the movie Gladiator that showed the General’s connection to his land and his family when he used to kneel down and rub the soil in his hands? That’s that kind if immutable passion that we need to help players develop. That will only come when we make the games more believable and immersive. Online game designers need to create worlds that go beyond levels and loot and give players a reason to fight for things. That’s why I think WoW is on the right track with the Alliance vs. The Horde.