You’re not quite done yet, are you?

100,000 people (potentially) will have a chance to log onto the Beta this weekend. This is great news for them and not so great for the other however many people remain without a Beta shout. However, this is not going to be another rehashed take on the ‘we were promised a pony a chance to see content before it’s finished’ argument. This is about something quite different.

It’s taken a week, but finally the realisation is beginning to sink in: anything I do now in Beta is, at least from a personal standpoint, pretty much a waste of time. Of course the total opposite is true for the people watching the steady stream of data I generate and the bugs I report. For them this is vital input to identify areas where the game needs tuning or mobs aren’t doing what they have been designed to do. Once you grasp the concept that Beta Access isn’t for your benefit, a lot of things change. I’m suspecting this is why, even with (potentially) a million people available to ‘test’, there will be bugs and issues that make it to the live release, unnoticed and not dealt with. It is only the dedicated testers who are going to stick with the game until the end: not to get to L90, or to level their Pandas to End Game, but to give the most thorough throughput of how the new data slots into the old. This does not escape the fact however, that however good the Panda Experience is, it’s not the game you leave behind, that continues to move on regardless.

I’m now grasping that my enjoyment from Beta is becoming less and less to do with the experience of pushing myself to max level, and more and more about preparation before the Expansion starts. In the first weeks I’m always scrabbling about for information on what materials come from which area, where I should focus to improve my skills… levelling is always the bonus, the relaxation. Now I have a unique opportunity to arm myself beforehand with the particular items I need, to work out which mobs are likely to drop what bits I’ll require… and I know that this interest is not simply limited to my personal focus. Judging by the interest my Beta posts are generating there’s two distinct camps I can identify: the people who want to know about changes to classes and what this means to them, and the people who make/sell things. The best way to learn what is happening to my Hunter is to play her, of course, but that can be accomplished just as easily grinding skinnable mobs and chasing down raw materials as it can be completing a quest chain. Both yield significant data, but in distinctly different ways.

I’m hoping that all the people who have their Beta invites don’t all to try and log on simultaneously this weekend (^^) although that in itself could be an interesting test of server capacity. I’m wishing they don’t all plough into the game and burn themselves out, and that as many as possible push through their characters until max level. Then I’m hoping they try and experience as much of the Beta as they can, so that every area of Pandaria is properly tested and prepared for when we all get to go there for real, whenever that ends up being. However good you think something is, there is inevitably a moment of disappointment when you grasp your personal expectations don’t live up to actual reality. Let’s hope all the hype of the last ten days doesn’t diminish with this first wave of new explorers, and remember: there’s lots to do in this game apart from levelling. Test everything on your travels. It all needs breaking…

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