It’s been five months since we first revealed our World of Warcraft: Shadowlands expansion at BlizzCon 2019. The whole team has been hard at work transforming the vision we laid out last November into a reality, and we can’t wait to share our progress with all of you.
Later this week, we will send out our first round of invitations to a closed alpha test for Shadowlands.
This first batch of invitations will mainly go out to long-time WoW players with active accounts in good standing, as well as Blizzard friends and family, along with a limited number of content creators and journalists. This initial wave represents only a small fraction of the pool of testers that will ultimately gain access to the test in the coming months—if you’re interested in helping make Shadowlands better, sign up using the Beta Opt-In link on the Shadowlands home page. Later on, as we engage in focused PvP and raid testing, we’ll also do some targeted invite waves that prioritize players with extensive experience or expertise in those parts of the game.
When the alpha servers go live, we will have the full level-up experience in the zone of Bastion available, along with its accompanying dungeon, the Necrotic Wake. Testers who are interested in checking out our revamped new player experience can play through the Alliance version of the new zone and tutorials. We’ll aim to roll out new content on a regular basis throughout the test cycle—later in April we hope to offer the zone of Revendreth, as well as a look at Torghast, Tower of the Damned, our endless dungeon experience. We will continue to unlock content such as zones, dungeons, and endgame questlines when they’re ready for feedback, using template characters as needed to focus testing and feedback on specific parts of the game. Once everything has been released into the test environment, we’ll officially move into a beta phase, wiping all characters and kicking off a larger round of invites for an end-to-end test of the entire Shadowlands experience.
While content will be rolled out methodically over the course of the alpha, many of our underlying systems changes will be apparent from the moment players first log in later this week, and there will be hints of others that are still in progress. A few examples:
- Players of all 12 classes will immediately see changes in their Spellbooks, Talents, and in some cases even their resources. We’ll have a separate blog coming out in the coming days discussing how we applied the class design philosophies we laid out at BlizzCon 2019 and giving key examples of the sorts of changes to expect for each class and their specializations. Unlike the last couple of expansion alphas, where the conversation with the community often began with us saying “Let us know which spells you miss most…” this time around we’re eager to hear whether we’ve gone too far with “unpruning.” Maybe a bunch of folks actually really hated Eyes of the Beast all along—who knows?
- We have been making improvements to our quest interface, with an eye toward better distinguishing major quests that are required to advance the narrative from optional side quests that tell more localized stories. Our work-in-progress 3D indicator of tracked quest objective locations will be available to use, which aims to reduce the need to bring up the map when navigating the world and help more clearly identify when an objective is above or below you. We’re also rolling out a system that allows players to set a personal waypoint on the map as well as share that pin in chat channels, so that you should no longer need an add-on to convey exactly where Rustfeather just spawned.
- Also of note are some changes to PvP currencies—notably, Conquest is once again a spendable currency earned through Shadowlands Rated PvP. Players will be able to use Conquest points to purchase specific items of their choice from a vendor in the capital city of Oribos (in an easy-to-find location, naturally). Conquest can also be used to upgrade that gear further (similar to how Benthic gear worked with Manapearls in Rise of Azshara). We’ll have lots more information to share on the details of this system, as well as our broader endgame itemization plans, as the alpha rolls on and we reach max-level content.
As our community and fansites dig into the game files that are packaged with the client in the coming days, you’ll also doubtless find bits and pieces of data relating to endgame systems like Soulbinds, Covenant Sanctums, and crafted legendary items. Much of those features remain a work-in-progress and, especially in an alpha setting, the game’s data contains numerous experiments and discarded ideas, so please take what you might find via datamining with a grain of salt. We remain guided by the core philosophies that we articulated at BlizzCon: player agency and empowering choices. We can’t wait to share details of these systems with you as soon as we’re able—one of our main lessons learned from past expansions is the vital importance of carving out a large window in our alpha and beta for feedback and iteration on these endgame systems.
Thank you for your patience, and we’ll see you soon (no TM) in the Shadowlands!
Join the discussion on the forums here.