A lot has happened since Hi-Rez Studios announced Battlegrounds (opens in new tab), a battle royale mode for hero-shooter Paladins (opens in new tab), in January. A month and some player testing later, the developer decided to rename (opens in new tab) the mode and split it off as a separate game, called Paladins Realm Royale. That involved some "aggressive changes (opens in new tab)" that halted testing for a while. Now it's back, and Hi-Rez is inviting players to a closed alpha.
Keys are going to be difficult to come by: Hi-Rez president Stewart Chisam tweeted (opens in new tab) a link to a sign-up page yesterday with instructions for how to take part, but within hours there were no keys left. Hi-Rez says that it will be "accepting sign-ups for more testers soon", so keep your eyes peeled on the Paladins forums (opens in new tab).
As for what Realm Royale will look like, players that sign up aren't allowed to post any video or images of the game, so expect detail to be sparse. However, Hi-Rez gave us a peek at the game's weapon crafting system and its map in a forum post yesterday (opens in new tab). Players will be looting weapons, armour and abilities across the map, and as they do so they'll have the option to break any item down into Shards. Collect 100 Shards and you'll be able to visit one of the forges dotted around the map to craft a random legendary weapon or ability.
I like the sound of the system, because it gives you a reason to interact with loot that you'd normally leave alone. As Hi-Rez says, some players might end up guarding forges in the hope of catching other players in the act and stealing their loot, which means every trip there will be a balance of risk and reward.
You can see the forging system in action in the screenshot below, alongside a picture of the game's map. It's split into five larger sections, the most interesting of which look to be Badlands—a sandy area to the top left—and Everfrost, an icy zone in the top right.