Tackling Guilds, Factions, and Balancing It All Out
If there's something I've learned from playing MMOs since I was old enough to pay attention to games past flashing lights and goombas it's that no matter how hard the developers try, there's always going to be some sort of balancing issue. Writher it be a realm being massively underpopulated or a guild full of goons from the SomethingAwful forums somebody's probably not going to have a good time when they're unlucky enough to find themselves on the losing team.
Elder Scrolls Online has 3 factions that are constantly competing to control Cyroniil, naturally this could easily lead into a situation that happens frequently with Guild Wars 2's World vs World vs World situation where one of the three factions (or servers) absorbs all the best players and dominates the other two who are left underpopulated and getting whooped at every turn by the juggernaut.
Zenimax has nudged their way into the problem before the game even goes live during an AMA by putting a "soft cap" in place to keep things from getting too out of control in a particular faction's favor, but then they find themselves walking the fine line of keeping the factions balanced and stopping people from playing with their friends if they all happen to be on the winning side. Zenimax has stated that there'd be an "Overflow" that would still allow for you to play with friends, but if following EVE Online has taught me anything that if there's a system that can be exploited, it's going to be exploited. Thankfully Zenimax already seems to be on it.
"There's room for overflow that will allow you to join your friends or guild members in an otherwise full campaign, but eventually there is a hard limit to that. You'll be able to join campaigns with your friends, but we want to ensure that an alliance can't bring too many additional combatants in and hurt the overall balance."
If all of this faction warfare seems a bit too much for you, the classic mages and fighters guilds are still around, too. They're completely seperate from the factions and give you a more open way to playing things out the way you want to, especially if you find yourself the victim of unbalanced factions.
"Neither of these guilds take sides in the ongoing conflict in Cyrodiil. They prefer to focus their resources towards solving problems that are, in their eyes, more important, such as fighting Daedra and recovering lore on the brink of destruction."
All in all, I'm pretty excited to see how Elder Scrolls Online plays out, when it was first revealed I was about as "meh" as you could be, but things seem to have been going nowhere but up since the game's less than exciting reveal.