Monday, May 20, 2024

We're Gonna Make You An Offer...


Sometime yesterday evening, my Timerunning Hunter dinged twenty, bringing the shutters down on her unpaid progress through World of Warcraft's Pandaria Remix event. It took me four hours and forty-three minutes to get there, from which you could conservatively subtract maybe half an hour at the absolute outside for time spent AFK. Probably a good bit less.

For the sake of argument, let's call it four hours straight. That's two and a half levels an hour or roughly a level every twenty-five minutes. 

Is that fast? I'm not sure.

I could run a comparative experiment. I just happen to have another hunter already in regular, unremixed Pandaria. She's Level 14. I could play her to twenty and check the difference. But I'm not going to.

Partly that's because I'm not interested enough in finding out the result but mostly it's because Pandaria Remix is just more fun, so why miss out? And anyway, it turns out XP gain in the Remix isn't a constant, so what would it prove?

The factor I hadn't accounted for at the start is the Cloak of Infinite Potential, an item you get early on in the event, which continuously grows in power as you gain "threads". I'm not going to attempt to explain exactly how this works for the simple reason I don't fully understand it. 

There are plenty of discussions about it on Reddit and elsewhere, suggesting the process is a lot more complex than it first appears. Apparently it has all kinds of implications, particularly for other characters on the account. 

The only part that concerns me at the moment is the basic XP gain function, which for the cloak my Hunter is wearing, has reached 20% at Level 20. I wasn't paying close attention during the leveling process so I'm not sure whether that's a co-incidence or whether the gain keeps step with the level. I think it's a co-incidence...

Whatever it is, so far I haven't really noticed that leveling feels much different to what I'm used to in WoW. It always feels freakishly fast once you get into double figures. The Free Trial ends before the slow-down comes. 

I still don't have a max-level character in the game after all these years and that's down to the grind that sets in towards the upper reaches of the level range. Either that or I've never stayed subscribed long enough to get there. Actually that's probably the more likely explanation.

XP gain aside, the Remix does feel very different, mostly because there seems to be so much going on all the time. The constant drip-feed of rewards in the form of chests to open make it seem like something's always happening, even when it probably isn't. Then there are the talents to set, the gems to slot and the new appearances to goggle at. It's all designed to make you think you're having fun all the time - and it works!

It's a while since I last capped a character out in the Free Trial so I'm not sure if this next observation applies only to the Remix or whether the whole thing has been revamped, but I'm all but certain you used to be able to carry on gaining experience to the end of Level 20. After that your character would be locked and you wouldn't be able to play them again unless you subscribed.

Now, if you're a Timerunner, it looks as though you can carry on playing as long as you want, at least until the event ends. You'll just stay at Level 20 and won't gain any more xp. I did a quest just to check and it completed normally but I didn't get either XP or a chest.

Surprisingly, though, you can still get loot from mobs. I ran around Jade Forest for a few minutes this morning, popping porcupines and cranes with my bow, and all of them dropped Bronze, the Event currency. I thought at first it was only going to be coin but on about the seventh or eight kill one dropped a gem and a consumable, so I'm guessing they keep the same loot table.

That does mean you could farm the currency and improve your gear indefinitely on the Free Trial. Since you'd never level up, you'd never outlevel the mobs. I'm not quite sure where that would get you but I'm sure someone's already doing it.

What Blizzard want you to do, of course, is subscribe. They'd really like that. A window pops up right across the middle of the screen every time you log in, suggesting it. When you hit twenty, up it pops again,as illustrated, this time with added PvP value. 

The real hard sell comes after you log out. Within seconds I received a long email congratulating me on hitting the dizzying heights of level 20 and extolling the benefits of a subscription. Apparently, "Countless epic adventures and incredible rewards await" should I care to continue on my journey and should I choose to commit to a monthly subscription I'd be able to "collect companion pets, mounts, and transmogs; face the realm’s deadliest enemies; and take your place among the world's most legendary heroes!"

So far, so expected. The paragraph that really stuck out for me, though, was this:

"Your subscription is the key to endless adventure across Azeroth with access to four legendary games—including World of Warcraft, Wrath of the Lich King Classic™, WoW® Classic: Season of Discovery, and WoW Classic: Hardcore realms. Each month of your subscription you’ll also get a complimentary 500 Trader’s Tender to spend on eye-catching collectibles offered at the Trading Post in World of Warcraft.!

Does that sound at all familiar to anyone? Because it certainly reminds me of something... four games for one sub... 500 in cash shop coin every month...

All they need to do is bang a 10% discount to cash shop purchases on the end and I think we have a viable clone!

I am a little less than convinced by the "four legendary games" part. I'm not going to get into their legendariness, which is mostly a subjective judgment. I'm more concerned about whether they really count as four separate games. Aren't they more like four different modes of the same game? 

Also, should they really still be plugging WotlK Classic? I mean, okay, technically that was the status quo when the email arrived and still is now for almost another eight hours but maybe they might have gone ahead and pre-empted the inevitable by inviting me to subscribe for Cataclysm Classic, since that's almost entirely what I'd be getting. I wonder if the message will change? I'm almost curious enough to level another character to 20 to find out.

That would mean I couldn't carry on leveling up my Gnome Hunter later today, though, and I really would like to do that. I was having a great time. I'm quite keen on taking her all the way to 70. I'm pretty sure it'll be quicker, easier and more fun than getting that last level-and-a-half on my Berserker in EverQuest II, which was otherwise going to be my plan for the next few weeks.

I'm going to have another think about it but I'm very much minded to sub for a month. That'll give me time to enjoy the Remix and also dabble in Cataclysm Classic. I'd be quite surprised if I need more than a month to do either but only time will tell. In the meantime, I have a couple more characters to take through the Free Trial before I have to decide.

All things considered, I think you'd have to call Pandaria Remix a success, both in terms of the entertainment value it provides and in its main purpose of increasing interest and raising revenue. WoW is looking surprisingly spry these days. I have to say the unexpected flexibility suits the old warhorse a lot better than I would have expected.


  1. I haven't done any direct comparisons either, but I'm pretty convinced leveling in the remix is actually slower than on live until you start getting some bigger XP boosts for your cloak. Also I don't think that reaching twenty has ever locked you out of trial account characters, but it has been a while since I played one. Class trial characters get locked out after they've been played a while, but I'm not sure you can even make those on trial accounts?

    I'm continuing to enjoy the remix as well, though inevitably some warts have started to appear. One of the few ways Blizzard's old bad habits show is that normal mode and up raids are by far the best way to get XP threads, to a truly extreme degree. Each boss kills gets you a permanent +12% boost, whereas the next best option (the raid finder) gets you +7% for each three-boss wing.

    So, I did feel kind of forced into doing those raids until I got to a decent XP boost level. Thankfully normal mode is very easy in the remix -- probably about as easy as the raid finder was back in the day -- but I would have liked to have other options for leveling my cloak.

    It would also be nice if more cloak progress transferred to your alts; it's apparently a lot more limited than we were lead to believe going in. Don't relish doing the raid grind again if I want to level any other characters. Normally I wouldn't mind slower leveling too much, but this was advertised as a power-leveling event, so I was expecting to blitz through the levels pretty effortlessly. Also my sub runs out in three weeks, and I don't really want to buy another month just to spend more time in the remix.

    Finally, I am finding the constant flood of gear and gems is starting to feel more exhausting than thrilling as I push towards cap. I spend so much time on inventory management...

    All that said, I'm still enjoying it quite a bit. It's definitely the most fun I've had in WoW in a long time, though as you say it's hard to tell how much of that is the remix elements and how much is the inherent strength of Pandaria content. Plus the community has been surprisingly friendly and chill throughout. It feels like a pretty positive environment, which is a big change of pace for WoW.

    1. It absolutely was promoted as a super-fast race through the Pandaria content with the assumption being that XP would be massively boosted throughout. I didn't even know the cloak existed until I started playing and event then I didn't pay much attention to it at first. I am tempted to run a comparison test but there are too many variables for it to be conclusive and anyway I don't care *that* much. I do think it's a bit of a misleading promotion, though.

      As for the Free Trial, I know for sure that at one point it did lock you out either when you hit 20 or when you would have hit 21, I forget which. I found it really annoying at the time. That was way back when they started doing it, though. I imagine the rules have changed a few times since then. I could actually quite enjoy just pottering around locked at 20, especially if the xp really is no better than Live, but I'm still mimded to sub for a month and see how far that takes me.

      I'm not really surprised to hear the loot tsunami loses its appeal after a while. I've played other games where that's been the case. At least they did give us some really big bags to put it all in...

  2. What I find interesting is that the paragraph mentioned four games, whereas they completely neglected WoW Classic Era, the fifth game (and the one I play).

    I guess that goes to show where Era is in the WoW pantheon, at least as far as Blizzard is concerned.

    1. I hadn't thought of that. It seems to go with a lot of the other sloppy housekeeping I've been seeing since I started playing again.

  3. Hello! Have you heard of the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV? With an expanded free trial which you can play through the entirety of A Realm Reborn and the award winning Heavensward and Stormblood expansions up to level 70 for free with no restrictions on playtime?

    (Sorry I just had to post this meme! :D)

    1. The FFXIV offer is extremely generous. Pretty much the equicalent of F2P for casual purposes. My problem with FFXIV, though, is much the same as my problem with ESO - after half an hour in either of them, I struggle to stay awake - and I mean that literally. I have nodded off at the keyboard playing FFXIV more than once.

      I don't dislike either of them but they are so stately and mannered it feels like Sunday afternoon at my aunt's house when I was ten. WoW is more like going round to a friend's house and them getting out all their toys so you can jump around and make too much noise until someone comes upstairs to tell you to calm down.


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