How World of Warcraft’s Pandaria Remix Is Restoring The Joy Of The Journey

How World of Warcraft’s Pandaria Remix Is Restoring The Joy Of The Journey

When ‘Timerunning: Pandamonium’ first appeared on the World of Warcraft roadmap five months ago, it led to plenty of speculation. We already have Timewalking, where players revisit old dungeons for fun and profit. But Timerunning? Now it’s here with its new name, Remix: Mists of Pandaria, and it’s hoping to make the journey for fresh characters all the way to maximum level feel like a fast and fresh experience.

Remix is an accelerated levelling event,” says Brian Dowling, Senior Game Designer. “I’m sure different players are going to choose different routes for experiencing that journey to max level. Do you want to experience the storylines? Do you want to run group content the whole way through? The journey is very much up to the players to tailor while unlocking things as they progress.”

Key to the concept is making Remix a completely isolated way to play the Mists of Pandaria expansion all over again. The setting is a beloved era of the game, but it is known as one of the slower continents to go back to if you want to use it to get new characters caught up to the modern era. With levelling generally treated as just trying to ‘catch up’ to the current content, few are focused on slowing down to smell the cherry blossoms.

“If people are only concerned with levelling speed, they don’t go to Pandaria,” says Dowling. “But it is a beloved expansion! Honestly, the fact it didn’t already start super fast gave us leeway to speed it up and make it feel like one of the fastest expansions. In my latest playthrough, by the time I got to my 60s, I was doing 20-minute levels. And you can feel the power ramp happen as you go.”

“We still want the content to feel good and rewarding to play. The power growth starts by feeling relatively normal, but then you escape that and start to feel overpowered. By making sure enemies push back a little bit and don’t instantly fall over early on, you get to feel that power growth, both in solo and group content.”

Putting the question of whether they think players are likely to become so overpowered they could solo Pandaria raids, the team sounds like they would be surprised – but that you can never put anything past a motivated player.

“If folks can do that, it would be really impressive,” says Ciji Bambrick, Senior Test Analyst. “When you start to feel really powerful you can definitely go in and start to solo some dungeons and scenarios, but as far as raids go, I guess it’s going to depend on the player. Maybe small groups? But we’re excited to see what players are going to be able to push and what they can do with those power levels.”

“I’m sure some will say ‘Challenge accepted!’” says Dowling. “We definitely expect players to surprise us.”

In practice so far, less than two weeks in, we’ve seen smaller-than-usual groups of raiders manage to down the toughest boss in the final raid. With more than two months still to go in the event, it’ll be fun to watch just what those folks can do.

Learnings from Diablo Seasons

Blizzard games having time limited containment zones for special events isn’t new. We just had the Plunderstorm Battle Royale event that ended shortly before Remix launched. But it’s Diablo, where seasons have been a hallmark of the franchise since 2014, where the WoW team found its primary Remix inspiration.

“The original idea for Remix was watching a bunch of my friends playing Diablo 3 Season 28 when they added the new talents,” says Dowling. “When we were brainstorming last year on cool things to do at the end of Dragonflight while players wait for The War Within, we looked at the way people play Diablo over and over. World of Warcraft has so much awesome content that some players haven’t seen for years. We should do that, too.”

By isolating the Timerunners away from the main retail game mode into this season-like bubble, the WoW team has been able to have fun with not just the accelerated levelling speed but also offering a wide range of unique ‘spell gems’ that see characters achieving new automated powers that help lay waste to everything that stands in their way. Your attacks can call down meteor strikes, hail storms, buff allies, or attempt to execute every enemy when they hit 10% health. Equipment is covered in these special gem slots, with more slots in gear the higher you level, so you can mix and match a bunch of powers all at once to see what suits your style.

Most important is the Cloak of Infinite Potential that fills with ‘threads’ of power that boost stats and give an experience bonus. These threads drop from every mob you kill, every quest you complete, and every dungeon, raid, and scenario you complete. These threads also unlock special achievements that make the cloak of any future characters you send into Remix even more powerful right out of the gate. At its best, you’ll start future characters with a +100% XP boost to accelerate future runs through the event.

For players pushing to seriously optimise their Remix runs, they’re now hitting maximum level in less than four hours – a significant speed boost over the usual levelling process in the main game. But it’s also the variety of ways you can play that makes this feel like a fresh approach to spending time levelling new characters.

Given the time-limited window, a lot of game features that usually operate on week-long lockouts for receiving rewards, like dungeons and raids, are instead operating on one-day loops to allow players to spend more time in their favourite parts of the game. Plus, raids also begin to unlock from level 25 instead of being purely an endgame activity to add more avenues for fun through the levelling journey.

“The addition of Dragonriding also really helps with this journey too,” says Bambrick. “Back when you were doing Pandaria the first time, you didn’t have this. Now, you can just hop on your Dragonriding mount and use the extra flight speed from the very start to get around Pandaria fast. It’s not only fun, because these zones are just such a beautiful landscape. It makes it a special experience. And you’ll also earn more currency because there’s little orbs you can fly through and collect more Bronze to buy more rewards.”

Doodads and luckydos

For many players, Remix is a gateway to earning a whole bunch of outfits, mounts, and toys, new and old, through that special Bronze currency Bambrick mentioned. Like the threads and gems, you earn Bronze everywhere, and you can spend it on upgrading your character equipment. But most people will be saving it to spend on the gear that stays with their account after Pandaria Remix concludes.

All the gear from Pandaria raids and dungeons is on sale from special vendors, and if you can earn around 1.6 million Bronze, you’ll buy up everything on offer. That would take a big, big commitment, but even the more casual players will comfortably earn tens of thousands on their journey to level 70 – enough to buy a few choice mounts, outfits, and toys.

These include highly sought-after items that are typically incredibly rare drops from weekly lockout world and raid bosses. Personally, my main target is the Reins of the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent, which I’ve been trying to make drop for years with no success.

The biggest target item of all is the Tusks of Mannoroth, badass unique pauldrons worn by the (ex-)Warchief Garrosh that are now unobtainable in the normal game. These require a more concerted effort of killing the boss a bunch of times to collect a special token to go with the Bronze cost, but for many, it will be worth it.

When Remix first kicked off, there was a mixed reaction as players encountered weird level scaling problems and worried Bronze was too hard to earn. But the WoW team has tweaked the mode almost daily, and it quickly feels like it’s hitting that mark of giving every kind of player the kind of fun – and rewards – they were coming to Remix looking for.

Ready for the new everything

The in-game calendar says Pandaria Remix will end on August 19, giving many players plenty to dig their teeth into until the pre-launch window of The War Within expansion.

The opportunity to level a swag of new characters is also well-timed, given the new expansion brings with it a new “Account Wide Everything” philosophy for the future of the game. Until now, if you wanted to unlock cool new armour or get credit for special quest outfits on multiple characters, you had to play the same content four times or more to cover your style options. When The War Within arrives, this will shift to one character unlocking everything for all future characters. You can finally have your ‘alt army’ and not feel like you have weekly chores just to keep up.

Will we see another expansion get a Remix in the future? It feels like a certainty, but for now, the team is playing it cool.

“With the 20th anniversary coming up, we’re looking for ways to surprise and delight players with stuff we know they love and new things we hope they fall in love with,” says Dowling. “We’ll be listening to feedback to see what the reception is and the kinds of things we want to do in the future.”

Image: Blizzard Entertainment, Kotaku Australia

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