Affiliations? I got the 2nd ed PHB and I cant find anything on it. Is it like the Allegiance system from Modern d20? I'm hoping they would use Allegiance in 4th ed, but I'm interested hearing more about this Affiliation system you are talking about.
Basically, it was adding mechanics to what we have been doing in D&D all along. Like someone said it was "fluff" before and now we have mechanics for it.
Building a mechanic to make it easier for DM's who want to use it is not a bad thing IMO. Its Optional afterall.