Blizzard Opens Public Testing of Battlegrounds in World of Warcraft

Blizzard has re-opened its public test realms for World of Warcraft players who want to test out the features that will be included in the upcoming version 1.5 patch, including the eagerly anticipated Battlegrounds, which allow Horde and Alliance characters to duke it out in feverish epic battles. Players who want to log into the test realms during the first week of testing must have logged into World of Warcraft sometime after April 10 and must have created an account before May 9. Gamers who donit meet those criteria can join the testing in its second week.

The first two Battlegrounds open for business are Warsong Gulch and Alterac Valley -- Horde and Alliance characters can enter them from their respective territories. World of Warcraft version 1.5 also features numerous gameplay tweaks, including changes to the recently implemented player-versus-player (PvP) Honor System, modifications to the character classes, new quests and improvements to existing ones, enhancements to the user interface and world environment and more. Blizzard did not announce when the final version of the patch will be available.

Players who want to participate in the testing can copy no more than two of their existing characters to the test realms. Improvements made to those characters while in the test realms donit reflect on the live versions of those characters, however, and all characters will be deleted from the test realms once the Beta period ends. They will have to copy characters again once a new testing phase begins.

World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that takes place in the world of Azeroth, where the Horde -- represented by Orcs, Trolls, the bull-like Tauren and the Undead -- battle against the Alliance, which consists of Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes and Night Elves. Players create a character belonging to one of those races and select a class, such as Mage, Paladin or Druid, before experiencing the ground-level view of a world previously seen from a top-level perspective in the best-selling Warcraft real-time strategy games. Players embark on quests, team up with each other to fight members of the other side and explore a world that consists of two continents and many cities and towns connected by intricate travel systems.

The game sells for US$49.95 and requires a $14.95 monthly fee, with the first 30 days waived. System requirements call for Mac OS X v10.3.5 or higher, a G4 or G5 933MHz processor, 512MB RAM, an ATI or Nvidia video card with 32MB video RAM, 4GB of free hard drive space and a 56K or better modem.

Two Alliance players celebrate a victory in Horde territory