Recently, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to the Beta for the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria. After days and days of sitting on it in nervous antici…pation, I finally ventured into this Strange New World in Warcraft.
I’ve never participated in a beta for an MMO. For those unfamiliar with the term, this is a pre-release version of a game (or in this case, expansion) that is ready for broader testing by volunteers, but not for release to the public. Those who have access put the new programming and gameplay through its paces and provide feedback that developers use to make final improvements to the game. It’s a coveted access that lets a select few experience the new content before everyone else, with all the attendant status and advanced knowledge that comes from playing early.
In an MMO beta, you’re sharing this development space with all the other people who have the special access. As a result, you have many, many people doing the same thing at the same time – in this case, starting a character of the new Pandarian race and exploring their start area. When you have hundreds of people at the same stage in the game, you have crazy crowds playing on top of each other.
From the comments in General chat, a whole lot of people were a whole lot of pissed off at the chaos that made it literally impossible to do this one particular quest . But I had a rather different reaction.
For me, the madhouse was actually thrilling. All those people navigating the social and technical demands of the game were a stark contrast to the often empty feel of WoW regions, especially in starting areas. I loved seeing the scramble and questions and confusions that draw out the best and the worst of a throng of strangers trying to do a specific Something. Being part of that reinforces how much WoW really is an amazingly vast set of communities that actually don’t often come together in world, aside from the occasional novel event like those of the WHU or the Mogfather.
So instead of being annoyed by the difficulties presented by dozens and dozens of people overflowing in the same space (coupled with a bug that kept the needed item from respawning), I had a great time just watching, reading people’s chat, and wandering amidst the pandemonium. The pragmatics of Getting Things Done really aren’t nearly as interesting as all those fabulous, crazy, silly, fascinating people.