I got up bright and early this morning, hoping that 8 AM EDT on a Sunday would be enough of a dead time for me to get some quests done and actually experience the beta. Before I could log in, though, there was a minor update to the beta client that adds some really interesting new abilities to the game.

(Click the images for full-sized screenshots!)

Paying homage to last year’s smash hit Minecraft, a new tradeskill, Construction, has been added to World of Warcraft. (It’s a secondary skill, so everyone can pick it up.) Construction allows you to enter special phased areas of the world and begin building your own structures. You start with a mining pick, so at the beginning all you can do is dig down into the world (see the screenshot above; the guy to the right is the Construction trainer).

Having an earthen base to your structure allows you to put the “farm” in farming by planting and harvesting materials that can be used for other tradeskills like Cooking and Alchemy:

These mats – which only you can gather, but which must be replanted and then allowed to regrow – are obviously very useful to pretty much any character, but Pandaren characters get an extra benefit. Their previous racial passive “Gourmand” has been replaced with “Farmer”, which allows them to grow their crops to enormous size. The larger crops can be harvested multiple times (and will grow back if not fully harvested), and will grow together if they’re close enough. Here’s a group of about a dozen carrots planted right next to each other:

I haven’t really had a lot of time so far to play with this new feature, but one player who’s been online since the patch was released has done some really spectacular stuff. Although the construction sites are phased, you can allow other players to view your work by giving them Visitor status – they can look around but can’t modify or harvest anything – and this fellow was kind enough to let me take a couple of screenshots:

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