Blizzard Entertainment has released an update to its massively multiplayer online role playing game
World of Warcraft
(WoW). The new 2.0.1 update is available for download from the WoW servers the next time you connect, and features a major performance improvement for Intel-based Mac users.
World of Warcraft is the popular online RPG available for both Mac OS X and Windows. Set in the world of Azeroth, scene of past Warcraft real-time strategy game battles, WoW puts you in the role of a hero of various races within the game that are aligned into two factions: The Alliance and The Horde. You create your own character, define what class they’ll play as (priest, shaman, warrior, mage and so on), then go out into the world and go on quests, attack monsters, and build your character’s experience, all in an online world that’s populated by computer-controlled non-player characters and other players.
The game has been successful enough to spawn an add-on expansion pack, due in mid-January called
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. In preparation for that release Blizzard has dubbed this 2.0.1 update the “Before the Storm” patch.
“Before the Storm” makes several important game-wide enhancements including a revamped Player vs. Player (PvP) honor system, which now allows players to accumulate honor points that can be spent like currency to purchase weapons, armor and other precious items. New talents have been added to each class, and a Looking For Group (LFG) tool is now available to help players find groups to explore instanced dungeons and quests. Players can also now queue for small-group, gladiatorial combat matches — arena skirmishes, as they are known — by speaking to Battlemasters throughout the world.
Many, many other enhancements have been made in this significant update, including some that are specific to the Macintosh release. The Mac release now supports multithreaded OpenGL, a feature on Intel-based Macs running Mac OS X v10.4.8.
Much of what OpenGL does is dependent on the Mac’s central processing unit, not its graphics hardware. Multithreaded OpenGL leverages this by distributing the processing of complex 3D graphics scenes between multiple processors or multiple processing cores on Intel-based Macs. Blizzard claims that multithreaded OpenGL support can, in fact, double the performance of World of Warcraft depending on your Mac’s hardware capabilities and the settings specified in the game.
Multithreaded OpenGL is an “opt-in” technology for game developers to implement, so this performance improvement isn’t automatic, and this is the first general release of World of Warcraft to feature the technology. Up to now, it’s been available in recent beta builds of the Burning Crusade expansion pack.
Other Mac specific improvements include better video hardware detection, disabled vertex animation shaders for Intel video-based systems, improved iTunes key-binding, a tutorial tips bug fix, audio code crash bug, improved support for Weather Shaders and support for changing the mouse sensitivity.