Warlords of Draenor enters alpha testing

The next World of Warcraft expansion set, Warlords of Draenor, has taken another huge step towards release, entering a very limited Alpha phase of testing. Unlike most early tests though, Blizzard is also trying out a whole new file format as well as a bunch of new content.

Blizzard has used the Mo’PaQ file format (MPQ for short) for nearly two decades. The format has seen the company able to develop and introduce innovative new content – such as Blizzard‘s streaming client – but unsurprisingly, in 20 years the studio’s pushed the format “far beyond” what it was originally designed for, and it’s time to retire it.

Warlords of Draenor is giving Blizzard the opportunity it needs to completely overhaul the system, switching the game over to a new format – CASC (Content Addressable Storage Container).

As geeky as it may sound, we’re extremely excited to be moving to this new file format. It provides a ton of benefits not only for us and our ability to support and patch the game, but also for players.

Some benefits of CASC:

  • File Corruption—File repair tools are a thing of the past. The file structure maintains itself, helping to prevent errors during installation.
  • Speed—Real-world game performance should increase for many players thanks to a non-redundant file structure—in layman’s terms, the game can find the assets it’s looking for more quickly.
  • Patching—Updating your game files should be faster and more reliable. Patch data is integrated seamlessly, and no longer requires double the installation size on-disk when patching.
  • Client Hotfixing—CASC allows us to be able to hotfix client game data, similar to server hotfixes, giving us the ability to address client-side issues that would normally require a patch.
  • Streaming—The new format provides better support for streaming data and gives us greater flexibility to define how content updates are delivered and released.
  • Expandable—The file structure is built to allow easy integration of new technologies in the future that we haven’t even thought up yet.
  • …and more!

The new file format is also being used in the Technical Alpha for Heroes of the Storm, with early testers reporting a definite improvement in real-world game performance. Blizzard has also noted using CASC means that errors can simply be hotfixed rather than requiring patches, and when patches are required, they can be rolled out much more quickly.

Don’t care about behind the scenes? Only want to know about the new content being introduced, the changes and updates headed your way? Blizzard has shared lengthy patch notes detailing everything that’s currently in place in the Warlords of Draenor Alpha – go have a read!

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