But that's, of course, exactly what Blizzard wants to keep us from doing before we get the retail version.
I've included a little gallery of screenshots, edited and otherwise, that I've bothered to take during my sojourn as a beta tester. Keep in mind my system barely met the minimum requirements for the game, so the screenshots will not look as Stellar as those with other computers might see it. That's okay, for even with my low settings I really loved the game's look. It felt hand-drawn and hand-painted in a way -- like I was in the middle of a 3D Asterix cartoon or something. I liked that a lot.
SCREENSHOTS AHEAD, ZUG ZUG
Here's Drolias, my dwarven hunter. I found that hunters are extremely fun to play, pets are great to play with (I had a wolf prowler named Woufs and an elder bear named Paddington) and, if you learn Skinning and Leathermaking, incredibly self-reliant and full o' resources. Drolias made it to level 14 and by that point was wearing an entire set of leather armor that he'd crafted himself. Not only were they fashionable, but some pieces were even giving stat bonuses already. Finally, a crafting system that understands players want Nice Things To Wear soon and not have to slog through 200 ability points' worth of Cheap Tunics and Patchwork Gloves!
This here's the mountain village of Kharanos, on a peak halfway between the dwarf and gnome starting city and the grand and glorious city of Ironforge. The game's world time runs in real-time, so if you play in the morning you get a nice morning environment. Late at night gives you a shot of Kharanos like this. (I'm assuming that since the servers were categorized by what US Time Zone they were in, their clocks were calibrated accordingly.) I kinda like that even though I know if I played, it'd be mostly at night, so all my characters would end up being nocturnal or something. Stranger things have happened, I guess...
Drolias is very intently stitching together a new piece of leather armor.
Click to enlarge. The game's all about funky modes of transport, too. There are player mounts for each race (dwarves get rams, gnomes get mechanical chocobos) and there are also gryphons to ride much like DAOC's automated horse routes, but I think the coolest mode of transportation is the automated tram which runs between the cities of Ironforge and Stormguard (yeah, Stormguard, right? Yeah.) The tram takes you way deep down into the earth and then runs underwater for a bit and then back up before reaching the next station. I noticed there were walkways on either side of the track, most likely to help out those who may have gone linkdead while on the tram and woke up to find themselves ... eek! Stranded! With that in mind I walked the entire length of the tunnel, just to see what it was like. The coolest part was indeed the underwater part, where there were sunken ships and fish and the like. Very cool. You can see a full-sized shot of the entire view by clicking on the image here.
Here's Drolias flying around on a gryphon, too. It's nice to see them go by while you're trudging along a cold and snowy path.
After the countdown, there was nothing left of these characters or their exploits. A player wipe is necessary at the end of a beta so that everybody gets to start fresh, and on the same level, when the game comes back up for retail. Sorry, Dro, but them's the breaks.
I fear it will be a long time before I can afford a new MMORPG, so I will not be playing WoW immediately upon release. That's okay... let the rushers go on their way and let the newbie areas clear out a little bit before jumping back in, several months down the road. I'll content myself with watching its progress from afar... for now.