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Beta Testing 101: What to, and what not to, expect from the MoP beta

Blizzcon cinematic announces pandaren
In the most exciting World of Warcraft news of 2012, the beta for Mists of Pandaria opened up this week. Like millions of other players, I was not one of the lucky few chosen for the first round of beta invites. However, there are a number of diligent players currently hard at work testing some of the changes coming in MoP, as well as datamining glyphs and leveling monks.

If you're one of the lucky players who got in this week or if you manage to get in in the next few weeks, there are some important facts you should know before you play the beta. For seasoned veterans of beta testing, these will be self evident. For the others for whom this will be the first beta ever, these are things you should read and consider. If you don't, you could turn into one of the disappointing trade chat trolls who rages about their warrior suddenly having a mana bar (and other fun beta mishaps).

Oh yes, there will be bugs

Above all else, the thing you can most expect from the beta of any video game ever is that there will be bugs. Bugs are one of the main reasons games go into beta; they're a way of allowing scores of players to scour every inch of the game world for bugs by doing everything possible that could possibly cause an issue. By doing this, Blizzard can isolate and treat bugs before they ever make it to live servers, allowing players on live a smooth playing experience.

Pandaren mage in blue and purple robes
To get to that point, though, beta players need to play through a ton of bugs. For those in Cataclysm's beta, there was a week where feral druids' Mangles to do something like 3,000% normal damage, which meant everyone they played in PvP got one-shot. Currently on MoP's beta, transferred characters sometimes have 10 times their normal stat values, which allow for things like 290,000 damage Arcane Blasts at level 85.

Bugs happen in any video game, and in the beta they're all the more prevalent. If you're expecting to log on and just be able to play MoP with no drawbacks, you probably just want to save yourself the headache and frustration and wait for release day. It will be worth it.

Change happens

I'm not sure I can emphasize enough that change happens. I know that as a class columnist, most of my MoP-flavored Totem Talks end with a gigantic "all of this is subject to change disclosure," but I'll say it again: Everything in the Mists of Pandaria beta is subject to change (or almost everything). We can be pretty sure the next WoW game is Mists of Pandaria and that pandaren will be a playable race from Pandaria, but the rest can change.

So don't grow too attached. I know a lot of the new abilities, like shaman's Ascendance, look really cool. I know that I want that in the live version of the game, without any changes, right this second. Maybe when I get my invite, I'll finally get it, play with it for two months in beta, and still love it for all that time. Maybe it's the one thing that really makes me want to go out and buy Mists of Pandaria when it's released.

Screenshot of ascendance from mop talent calculator
None of that matters. Blizzard's internal balance testing or stress on game servers or even developers' being unhappy with how the ability turned out could make Ascendance end up on the cutting block. MMORPGs (and WoW in particular) are constantly changing beasts, and the entire point of betas/PTRs is to find out what works and what doesn't and to cut what doesn't. Don't grow too attached to anything.

You're not playing Mists of Pandaria

You're not actually playing Mists of Pandaria in the beta; you're playing its embryo. This probably should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Mists of Pandaria isn't finished. While our representatives to the Blizzard press tour were amazed by how far along MoP is in development, the game isn't finished. You can't go into beta expecting that you're getting a sneak peak at playing MoP three or four months early, and that you'll be able to experience all of MoPs new content at your leisure. You aren't, and you won't.

Scenic temple screenshot
You're playing on Blizzard's schedule and not your own. Zones will be open or closed depending on what Blizzard needs tested. Models won't all be finished, and placeholders will be in their places. Raids won't be implemented any time soon, and even when they are, Blizzard will have its own time table for testing them. You'll get to play snippets, and the snippets you play are dependent on what Blizzard needs to stress test at that moment.

MoP won't fix it

As everyone who has ever played WoW has heard, a common phrase on the forums/trade chat used to talk about class balance is "MoP (or Cataclysm before it) will fix it." It's generally used sardonically by players who are so jaded that they don't actually believe the next expansion will solve any of their problems, and I'm not sure I agree with that usage. That said, there is a kernel of truth to this sentiment: MoP won't be the magical panacea for all your class balance woes.

WoW is a MMORPG, and all MMORPGs are constant works in progress. The buff/nerf rollercoaster is neverending, and it needs to be to provide the variety that keeps people interested in playing and the game from getting stagnant. Blizzard will do a good job of working to fix some important issues your class had Cataclysm, but it won't do everything. And this is a good thing. If Blizzard were to remove all of your weaknesses and problems, your class would probably end up too powerful and get nerfed in patch 5.1 Or you'd be playing a rogue. Not sure which is worse. I kid.
Blizzcon cinematic announces pet battle system
Basically, if you go into the beta with an open mind, understanding that you're a vital part in the process of making Mists of Pandaria a better game for everyone, you're probably going to enjoy your time there. If you go in thinking MoP beta is an alternative to the disappointing lack of content in Cataclysm right now and expect to just be smoothly playing some of the cool things like challenge modes, Pet Battles, or even WoW FarmVille with no issues, you'll be in for a rude awakening.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Bugs, Mists of Pandaria

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