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.

Crowds trying to do a quest in the Mists of Pandaria beta.

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.


9 responses to “Panda-monium

  1. I was playing in the first hours of the release of Wrath of the Lich King, and there was a similar phenomenon in Borean Tundra, which served as the major intro area to the new continent. It was really interesting watching people pile up and try to negotiate who would get an object, seeing people develop strategies and “camping” spawn points for quest items, and generally trying to pass the time by telling jokes or whatever in General chat. I didn’t see as much of that with the Cataclysm release, and I wonder if they will keep this particular quest or fix it for the final version of MoP!

  2. I was wondering the same thing, Lauren. I mean, it’s not really a good test of that area to have sooooo many people there at the same time, as that is a tiny portion of how that area will be used. Soon enough folks will be past that stage and the crowded aspects won’t be a problem.

    So what, exactly, comes from this beta testing, other than specific glitches? Are they indeed really looking for playability issues still? Or are they at that “yeah, we know it’s awkward now, but we also know it won’t be a week after release” stage?

    So many of my hats are riveted by this whole Beta testing thing. The game-designer-me, the social-researcher-me, the virtual-space-researcher me, the WoW-player-me….

    Which side are they?
    Do they have druid class?
    If yes, is bearmode a gaint panda?!
    Is there a new class that gets drunk and spits liquor&fire?!?!

  4. Yes!! Pandas!!!! They are… NO SIDE!!! From what I understand, you choose Alliance or Horde after doing the start area quests. and Druid! I don’t know! What a good question!

    What they have is a MONK….

  5. (clearly i’m picking up on the copious exclamation points and just running with that.)

  6. Amazing, so tempted to play WoW again when this comes out, but FFXIV is starting to do well too and got a strong group of new friends now >.<

  7. Did you happen to come across the lines in Jade Forest (new level 85 zone, will be the borean/howling/hyjal/vash for this expansion)? There was a very broken phased meditation quest (Horde) that broke every time two people tried to do it concurrently. So the interpid beta folk had formed a line and were trying to police the event into a ‘one at a time’ event. I am 36, generally submissive to the whims of the crowd; so I logged out that night at the quest spot; hoping to see a different scenario the next day.

    I did not.

    The line had grown, and I did not care to play the waiting game. I didn’t feel bad for cutting in line, didn’t ask permission, didn’t interact with the crowd at all. I just did my quest (failing twice due to said bug) and moved on; only to find ANOTHER quest line a few steps later.

    Really fascinating to watch. And also interesting, in an introspective sort of waty, that I chose to forsake the crowd and just plow through the quest without regard for the dozens of folks waiting in line.

  8. @Talaena Oh wow…. I had’t gotten there yet…. I will HAVE to check that out. I got thwarted at that Panda quest, and haven’t really gone back in. Gotta migrate those toons and check out the new stuff! And the people, of course.

  9. Well MoP is allmost here. Comming out 9/25/12.
    Not soon enough if you ask me.LOL

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