The alpha testing period for World of Warcraft: Dragonflight starts Thursday for a small group of lucky testers. But as is tradition, Blizzard will expand alpha access to more players as it adds new builds, and expand to a much larger group when Dragonflight hits beta in a few months. Players who are interested in testing Dragonflight before its release later this year can sign up on Blizzard’s website.
We’ve had an opportunity to test this alpha build already, in a preview event held by Blizzard, and were able to speak to game director Ion Hazzikostas in a group interview about Dragonflight. Through both of these experiences, we were able to answer a lot of questions the community has had.
Tackling the biggest community question first, Hazzikostas addressed community speculation that Dragonflight might be delayed into 2023.
“I think we’re feeling comfortable,” he said. “We wouldn’t have announced [a 2022 release window] were that not the case, particularly after the Shadowlands delay a couple of years ago.”
Hazzikostas blames player skepticism on what would traditionally be a very short beta window. Shadowlands alpha testing started in early April 2020 and eventually launched on Nov. 23 that the same year. That’s a seven-month window, whereas Dragonflight will only have a five-month testing window if Blizzard releases it before Dec. 31. But unlike Shadowlands and other World of Warcraft expansions, all of Dragonflight’s zones are currently ready for testing.
In the build I played — which is the opening build of the alpha — only a single zone (The Azure Span) and questline were available. However, when the alpha gets updated next week, Blizzard will rotate the Azure Span out to work on feedback and move a new zone that’s filled with quests in its place. Blizzard intends to test these different zones in “rapid succession.” In what Hazzikostas estimates to be about a month and a half, the game will be ready to move into beta, where the expansion will likely be sewn together and playable in the proper order.
Hazzikostas said that Dragonflight has had the same development time as any other World of Warcraft expansion, and was being worked on prior to Shadowlands’ launch.
Blizzard could, of course, run into some potential game-delaying snags over the next few months that could affect its plans for Dragonflight — especially with each class moving to a new talent tree system and the new Dracthyr Evoker class. But Hazzikostas and the team seem confident that the game will be ready before the end of the year. And based on my hours with the alpha, I didn’t see anything that would make me second guess their decision.