Many of you are no doubt familiar with GM Island (read our 2010 writeup of the place), a restricted part of the map accessible only to GMs. It used to also be accessible to players, if you were ridiculously determined to get there and didn't mind risking a ban. Well, GM Island is not the only invisible zone that exists in the World of Warcraft, and no, we're not talking about Pandaria pre-Cataclsym. There are a myriad of "test zones," places where developers can try out things like textures and mechanics inside the actual game without affecting the places that players inhabit.
The Royal IdP Essploring Fundation (yes, actual name) is a collection of French players dedicated to finding and elucidating unknown areas of Azeroth. What is "Essploration," you ask? Here's a quick translation from their about page for your reading pleasure:
If you can understand French I highly recommend reading through the entirety of their about page, as it's very interesting! If not, however, you're still pretty well-off sticking to the English translations of their write-ups.
Essploration is the attempt to reach all the hidden zones of Azeroth believed to be inaccessible to normal players. The World of Warcraft is full of places unknown and invisible to the majority of players, sometimes magnificent, often very ugly, and which will never be officially accessible!
Gallery: GM Island and the Player Jail
Redditor Piprap, in particular, called out the RIdPEF's Aléquia Moowisle for this documentation, including screenshot tour and history, of one such restricted zone, known simply as "Development." Development has been in place since before WoW's official release, and has evolved and changed along with the game itself. Aléquia explains that, before Wrath of the Lich King, Development was known from two smaller zones: Designer's Island and Programmer's Island.
More after the break.
Filed under: Blizzard