Alpha beta soup

The development of Battle for Azeroth has moved into the next phase. Late yesterday Blizz announced the closing of the alpha servers and a new start with beta. Accompanying this announcement was a new round of invites, presumably rather large in scope and permitting many of the actual customer base for the game to try out BfA.

(No, I haven’t checked yet to see if I got an invite, but since I think there were roughly a gazillion sent out, I suppose there is a chance. If I did, and if it goes like the schedule for Legion, we can expect the PTR very soon. 🤨)

Today’s post is just a couple of observations about what has become Blizz’s standard testing cycle for new expansions.

The alpha —> beta phases are new starting with Legion. Sort of. That is, in the run up to Legion, Blizz called its customer test phase “alpha” but was coy about saying what exactly that meant. In previous expansions there was only a beta and a PTR — at least those were the two phases Blizz publicly acknowledged. When we saw the term “alpha” for Legion, many assumed it was because development was at a cruder stage than usual for allowing some of the public to see it. This made sense, because WoD had been such a disaster that it seemed Blizz would do anything to refocus their customers on Legion. As far as I can recall, Blizz never did put out anything they called “beta” — they went directly from several months of alpha to the PTR. Still, there were a few discernible phases in the Legion alpha — it started with the usual favored few, then gradually — close to the end — was expanded to include representatives of the hoi polloi.

This time, the BfA alpha started out the same, but apparently Blizz is now comfortable with actually calling the early tests “alpha” and the ones where they let in some of the Great Unwashed “beta”.

Why the difference? I think there is a clue contained in a blue post quoted in MMO-C here. Basically, Blizz now permits the pros (big Twitchers, world-first guilds, top 1% on various servers, etc.) to have actual input on important development such as class and spec tuning and profession paths, while reps of the other 99% get to have input on things like travel glitches and wardrobe malfunctions.

Okay, that was maybe a bit snarky, but the blue post I cited pretty much announced that no one participating in the beta should harbor any illusions that they are going to actually shape any of the important stuff. That has already been done by the big kids. Just log on if you got an invite, and help Blizz find all their bugs and stress their servers a bit. Oh, and maybe rave about the marvelous new Island Expeditions which are of course awesome. Because another reason to send out a ton of beta invites is to help generate enthusiasm for BfA. Maybe we will get some explanation of the test phases in tomorrow’s happy chat with Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas.

HAHAHAHA! I crack myself up! More likely it will be an extended infomercial for the expansion.

To be fair, even during the alpha it was apparent that not a lot of class changes were going to be forthcoming. There were a few in response to alpha tester comments, but for a significant number of classes what we saw is what we will get. Blizz had already designed the winner and loser classes/specs for the expansion, and they would not be swayed by such details as actual comparison numbers and professional opinions about the feel of the spec.

Some of the only important stuff we might see tweaked in the beta, I suspect, is the interaction between class mechanics and quests/instances/raids. That is, if Blizz has failed to take the new class changes into account for their group encounter and quest designs (almost certainly the case), they might tweak some of the encounters to make them more compatible. Maybe. And of course, Blizz will happily accept actual bugs that beta testers find.

But if you got a beta invite and expect Blizz to listen to — much less take action on — your frustration with, for example, all the new actions now subject to the global cooldown, forget it. If you are lucky, there will have been a dev that actually plays and understands your chosen class and spec, and thus you will have an engaging play style in BfA and will routinely appear near the top of the charts (if that is something important to you). But if changes were made by a numbers geek who has no clue about the very soul of your chosen class/spec and who frankly could care less, prepare for a couple of years of frustration.

Hmm. I seem cranky today. Maybe I should go check my email.

8 thoughts on “Alpha beta soup

  1. Now you are tempting me to install it. Because if I do try it out, I will be very honest in my assessment of how if feels to play it, will it pump up my enthusiasm to get back on every day, or will it be the sounding of the death knell where it pushes me to walk away forever.

  2. Well, it looks like they’ve decided to do away with the zoo BM spec in BfA. I’m sad about that… BM hunters weren’t mentioned as one of the groups who should be expecting some significant changes in beta (although animal companion isn’t in the game yet). So I guess the state of things now is how we should expect it? I’m at a bit of a loss. I might try MM. It does feel close to how hunters used to feel. Survival feels fun too, but I don’t want to play melee in any serious raiding environment. Or I might go and play my warlock as my new main. Demonology does have that zoo feeling, especially now that they’ve got rid of the super clunky “empower” mastery.

    1. Turns out I did get an invite. Haven’t done much but dabble my toe in so far, but honestly my first impression of BM is that it is weak but has noticeably more action than in Legion. Like you, my backup plan for BfA had been to either play MM (maybe bucking the trend and having a pet), or switch to a different class. I clearly need some more time to play with BM tough and get a better feel for the play style.

      1. Really? On my time on the alpha/beta so far, I’ve found it to be noticeably slower. Part of that is likely gear related. Premade toon with lower crit = fewer DB resets. Add a nerfing of the reset chance from One with the Pack from 30% to 20% and it doesn’t feel as face paced to me.

        Demonology definitely has a lot of stuff going on with the legion of demons. Sort of like a Diablo necromancer and their skeletons. They’ve got a reset mechanic with their hard hitting spell too.

        Well, things can change as well. The BM spec might feel a bit more fluid on live. I’ve had some lag on the alpha server making it frustrating to try to maintain my dire frenzy stacks. I’ll try playing around a bit more. We’ve still got time before the August BfA release.

      2. It’s slower, I agree, but by “more action” I mean there seems like a bit more for the hunter to do, versus the Legion Cobra Shot as the only real “shot” the hunter has (plus the long-cd artifact shot), all the rest being doing the equivalent of letting go go leashes and hoping for the best. The dire frenzy stacks definitely will take some getting used to. I am not even trying to maximize damage at this point, more just puttering around and getting an idea of the overall feel.

  3. I somehow got in the alpha, and now the beta (even though I am currently unsubbed). I sent them some feedback on hunter, but really found I didn’t want to play MM, it was a chore every time I logged in. With no ranged SV replacement in sight, alpha/beta for me was confirmation that unsubbing was the right thing to do. I really hoped we only had to suffer through Legion, and then things would get better.

    I suppose I can be a blizz forums optimist, “Don’t worry, it’s only beta, there is still time to fix things” or “Azurite will fix things”.

  4. Blizz,

    STOP! Just effin stop! Stop pretending what I have to say matters. STOP pretending hours or tens of hours of effort, care, and attention to detail, thoughtful feed back matters! Its effing insulting. Its a gosh darn sheetshow to have people believe what they think, feel, and play tested matters. Its insulting to run the 3 card monte like you have a chance at actually contributing.

    Look at Bendak who is one of the “privileged” few to have a voice. He wrote up TONS of thoughts and feedback to have it all wiped without warning as the switch from alpha to beta changed their posting methodology.

    Blizzard is NOT player oriented anymore. Their corporatization is complete. Sheet in your ear for what sounds nice, and they are going to do what they damn well want to do.

    I’m done with Blizzard as a game maker I respect. If I have fun playing the game they make, so be it. If I don’t, I will not play. No more trust. You’ve exploited my trust far too many times for me to ever give it to you again. I will play if I have fun, and will stop the moment I am not having fun. End of Story.

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