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The War Within > WoWApr 23, 2024 10:00 am CT

You got into The War Within alpha or beta! Now what?

The whole World of Warcraft community has been rumbling about the launch of The War Within alpha. Anyone who pre-orders the Epic Edition is guaranteed access to the beta at some point, or you can sign up for the beta directly and have a chance to get an invite.

So if you beat the odds and got into the beta. Now what?

Firstly, you need to check if the invite is genuine. Blizzard will never send you an email telling you to click on a link to get access. Your best option is to go to your Battle.net launcher and in the World of Warcraft game menu, under the game version in the Under Development section will be an entry for The War Within alpha or The War Within beta. It will give you the option to install and launch the game if your account has been flagged for access.

How is alpha or beta different from early access?

Generally, in software development an alpha is a version of software that is not yet feature complete. There are still sections of the core functionality that haven’t been built or work together yet. A beta is a version that is feature complete but not fully tested yet.

Both alpha and beta versions are usually different environments from final production. They are expected to be unstable, they can be taken down for a fresh build at any time, and downtime is not a priority compared to the production environments. There are no Game Masters on test environments or Customer Service support options — though if someone is acting out of pocket, you can and should still report them. Speaking of reporting, for both alpha and beta phases, bugs should be reported early and often. Expect to encounter everything from quest mobs not phasing correctly, to typos, to the old classic, “something just killed me and I don’t know what.” Blizzard makes reporting them relatively easy, with a large hard to miss button on the UI.

Alpha and beta servers can be wiped and have your progress reset at any time. Note especially that any progression made in an alpha or beta environment will not be transferred to live.

Early access is a finished version of the code on production servers, with production characters. Progression will be retained after the formal launch. The Epic Edition of TWW grants three days of early access, and those three days of progress will allow you a head start on your real characters.

So how do I play on a test server?

If your account is flagged for TWW alpha or beta, you can select it from the drop-down menu on the launcher and install it the same way you can the PTR or WoW Classic. Just find the free disk space — good luck with that — and you’ll be in alpha Azeroth in no time!

In terms of your time playing, alpha tests will often have focused plans. You may be restricted to specific level bands or zones, and you may only be able to use pre-generated characters. Addons are often disabled — and are likely very unstable anyway due to changes to the APIs. Expect that progress may be reset and any characters you have progressed on may be locked or wiped when they change what they’re testing. There are often placeholder models for new creature or environmental elements — expect to see plenty of floating checkered cubes. Expect quest flows to change frequently in some form or another as issues are identified and resolved.

As beta is typically feature complete, you will more likely have greater freedom to try the content you want when the test phase changes. This is usually when you’ll be able to copy your account data (which may include things like battle pet, mount, or transmog data) and you may be able to use one of your retail characters, or continue with template characters. You may still find graphical placeholders, and quest chains can be totally re-written through the iterative process, which can block progress on some test characters. It’s a good time to do end-to-end tests or to test older content to look for problems.

The purpose of an alpha or beta test is to find things that don’t work the way they’re expected. It’s not intended to be a sneak peek of the per se, but note that you will encounter spoilers if you do any questing or exploring at all — some of which may even be reverted later.

Even if add-ons are available, unless you are using the test servers to update addons that you are personally developing, you probably want to keep the number you use to the minimum. Alpha and beta are unstable. When you’re trying to identify what is crashing your game client, or the quest says to press a specific button but it isn’t working, you want to eliminate addons from the possible causes. Personally I like to use BugGrabber/BugSack to capture error messages, and TomTom with PasteNG to be able to plot the location of quest objectives or NPCs of note, but I try to use the minimum beyond this on test.

If you’re someone who doesn’t play a lot of alts because you don’t want to keep replaying the same story, consider testing something other than questing so you don’t burn out by playing the story the whole way through before you have to do it again on live. There are scenarios and dungeon you can test. There are professions and pet battles. You can even test old world content to see if the class changes let you clear old content effectively, or if the new Druid ability they added suddenly makes you fall through the world in Dazar’alor. There are a huge number of exotic and unexpected bugs to squash!

If you are fortunate enough to get access, have fun, but remember that test environments are a shifting sand. They can be unstable and be erased or vanish at any time. And if you are not lucky enough to get chosen, don’t worry — you will get plenty of time to play on live when the game launches, and we will do our best to report on what’s coming so you can be prepared to make the most of it.

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