Blizzard Entertainment has released a new beta version of World of Warcraft, its eminently popular online role playing game for Mac OS X and Windows. The new 2.2 beta sports myriad enhancements including some Mac-specific improvements.

This new version is not something yet in public distribution. Instead, it's being distributed to World of Warcraft users who have signed up for access to the Public Test Realms (PTRs), a staging area where development versions of World of Warcraft are vetted on a more limited basis by Blizzard's Quality Assurance department before being put into full-scale distribution.

The new 2.2 release sports more enhancements, bug fixes, changes and play-balancing features than we can comfortably list here, but there are a few items of particular note to Macintosh users. Among them is the ability for Mac users to now capture movies of their games in action using QuickTime.

The 2.2 software sports the ability to record in-game video to QuickTime using H.264, Motion JPEG or Pixlet codecs, and you can specify resolution and frame rate. Blizzard notes that not all Macs have enough performance to smoothly capture video at a high frame rate; the company cautions that users will have to find good settings for each system. The new functionality requires Mac OS X v10.4.9 or later and QuickTime 7.1.6 or later.

Blizzard also notes that additional graphics optimizations have been made which utilize AltiVec on PowerPC-based Macs and SSE on Intel-based Macs. These optimizations have yielded performance benefits on systems where vertex animation shaders aren't available, such as Mac minis and MacBooks that use Intel integrated video.

More details about what's changed in this release are available in the World of Warcraft Test Realm Forum.