While, this blog isn’t quite back up and running yet, I did want to talk a little about the Shadowlands beta and the access (or general lack of) to it.
The alpha test for this expansion was almost exclusively limited to streamers, youtubers and other such content creators. In addition to those type, the very top end of competitive content players also had a high rate of invitation (as is true historically as well). At first, this made sense to me. The very best get rewarded for their accomplishments. The content creators will create content with their access. Even further, WoW streamers and high end content runners tend to be very active and are very likely to spend a lot of time in an alpha test to either get an advantage for when the expansion goes live or, naturally, to have something in demand to stream. Win, win, win, right? Maybe… Some thoughts about this, and a tip about beta access, after the break.
I think it’s safe to say that the majority of World of Warcraft players are not PVP Arena Rank 1, in the World First Race, or verified Twitch partners. The people getting into the alpha test were an extremely poor representation of the player base. But, now we’re in the beta, so, this problem is certainly solved now, right? No, it doesn’t seem so. Judging from comments on the general forums and wowhead (and a lack thereof, in some instances), there is an abundant lack of people bragging about their invite and an abundance of lamenting their empty mailboxes. Further, the beta general forums have maybe two dozen players posting in a 24 hour period (and this doesn’t even mean all of said people are actually IN the beta). In my own personal circles, I don’t know a single person who wasn’t in the alpha that now has beta access, nor has anyone I play with heard of one. It’s still just streamers and top ranked guilds, with rare exceptions.
So, what’s the problem with this? As I mentioned before, it’s a very poor representation of the player base. Feedback will come from the perspective of a rare “elite” type of player. Balance feedback nearly exclusively from those in the top 0.1% of throughput. Enjoyability feedback from a very specific type of player. Feedback potentially biased based on what makes a better video and less about what makes a better game. And, while all of that feedback is still important and valuable, having 90% of the commentary coming from 1% or less of the people isn’t… maybe helpful to the game overall. And sure, more and more waves of invites will go out and overtime the critiques of the expansion will come from a more representative group of players, but how much of the game will already be solidified? How many kinds of people won’t have even seen the differing options to comment on one or another? How much time will there be left to change something that doesn’t suit the majority but was praised by the few before the masses were able to give their input?
Naturally, some of this is speculation. As far as I know, there’s no official statistics on who and what got invited to the alpha or beta. There may be some perception bias, but when I see more streamers streaming the beta than non-streamers even discussing having played it, it does lend a lot of weight to the basis of my point. I think Blizzard should, more early on, get a broader scope of people into test the content, so that the initial changes in direction can come in a way that will feel best for the biggest group of players. By all means, make sure some top content creators are there to build hype, make sure that those in the bleeding edge of gameplay are able to push things to their limit, but don’t let it be mostly that for the majority of testing.
What do you think? Is it okay to limit the types of players getting into early testing?
Finally, a tip regarding seeing if you have access. You should get an email from Blizzard informing you. However, lovelywaz in the wowhead comment section of a post noted that they only found out from checking the game version drop down menu, in the bnet launcher. I’ve been obsessively checking already, but hadn’t thought to mention it until seeing that post. Good luck!