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Exploring WoW Alpha: Hyjal and Gilneas

Hyjal Summit

Much of the old world in World of Warcraft changed a lot between alpha, beta and final retail builds of the game. In this series I’ll explore zones that differ substantially from their pre-release versions.

This time I thought of running through two zones that will both be significantly featured in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. They are Hyjal, near Winterspring, home of the eponymous Mt. Hyjal and remains of the old World Tree, and Gilneas, the human kingdom veiled in secrecy behind the Greymane Wall in Silverpine Forest.

Hyjal

This zone hosted the climactic battle of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Despite that, it has remained off limits to players so far in WoW history. Wall jumpers and Far Seers have been able to get into the zone using trickery on Live servers but what I’m going through in the below video is the same Alpha build I’ve used for the others. There is no World Tree root and no Archimonde skeleton. Instead we have a bunch of untextured terrain and missing geometry even though the height map for Mt. Hyjal is still there.

 

Gilneas

One of the seven human kingdoms from Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, Gilneas is another zone whose absence from WoW has been baffling. We still don’t know if it will be a real explorable zone, functional city, battleground or instance in Cataclysm, but here’s what exists of it right now behind the Greymane Wall. Nothing. The zone is devoid of any landmass and is even labelled ‘The Great Sea’. What a disappointment.


Exploring WoW Alpha: Stratholme and Northeron

Ruins of Stratholme City

Much of the old world in World of Warcraft changed a lot between alpha, beta and final retail builds of the game. In this series I’ll explore zones that differ substantially from their pre-release versions.

Here’s a tour of the alpha uninstanced Ruins of Stratholme. This is the present version of the city; not the one set during the Culling. Note the untextured Necropolis in the sky that would later become to dread Naxxramas.

A common thing in early versions of World of Warcraft is an uninstanced zone on the world map that would later go on to become an instanced dungeon or raid. Troll cities Zul’Gurub and Zul’Farrak are examples, along with Blackwing Lair, Mount Hyjal and the previously touched upon Ahn’Qiraj. It’s impossible to know which, if any of these, were originally conceived as outdoor zones and later reduced to instances as we saw with Azjol Nerub in Wrath of the Lich King. However I believe the city of Stratholme was once one such zone.

NortheronZonePeople have always speculated on the above zone on the world map. Stratholme sits above the zone below it, the Eastern Plaguelands, although currently in an instance off the main world map. If it is added to the main landmass in Cataclysm to enable flying it will most assuredly sit in this currently unused zone. There had been suggestions that this zone comprised ‘Northeron’, an area mentioned in an obscure manual reference to Wildhammer Dwarves and Gryphon Riders. Why such an insignificant zone would be kept on the map while key lore nations like Kul’Tiras are brazenly absent makes no sense though.


Exploring WoW Alpha: Deadwind Pass and Old Karazhan

Deadwind Pass

Much of the old world in World of Warcraft changed a lot between alpha, beta and final retail builds of the game. In this series I’ll explore zones that differ substantially from their pre-release versions.

To revisit another Alpha zone of World of Warcraft, Deadwind Pass and the tower Karazhan have also seen significant changes during development. Karazhan was again overhauled with The Burning Crusade to accommodate its new 10-man raid instance. Here’s a look at the zone and the tower before all that.

 

As you can see below, little of this remains. The look of the old tower was much more imposing than what we currently have- pity that the design had to be revised to suit Blizzard’s new purpose for the area.

The Map of Deadwind Pass.New Karazhan.

One last point of trivia is that there is also a mysterious crypt in Deadwind Pass which most people know about by now. I might take my under-levelled Shaman and see if I can’t Far Sight my way in there some time.


Exploring WoW Alpha: The Kingdom of ‘Ahn’Quiraj’

Inside the Temple of Ahn'Quiraj

Much of the old world in World of Warcraft changed a lot between alpha, beta and final retail builds of the game. In this series I’ll explore zones that differ substantially from their pre-release versions.

This is an early look at the zone ‘Ahn’Quiraj’, long before the zone itself became ‘Silithus’ and Ahn’Quiraj was relegated to raid instances in it. A lot of the geometry and doodads remained but a lot were also cut. The Temple itself remains almost identical however. Take a gander below. Guess it’s coming full circle now that this is all becoming an outdoor zone again in Cataclysm.

 

 

And just to note, I’m calling it ‘Ahn’Quiraj’ because that’s how it was originally spelt as per original WoW maps. Funny, huh? Suppose they figured the Qiraji can spell however they like without worrying about pesky English conventions. Old Silithus

I’m going to attempt a couple more of these in the next little while. I think the old versions of Karazhan in Deadwind Pass and Strathholme in the Plaguelands would be fun to look at next.


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