Looking Forward…

Saturday night found me sitting in Central Park in the city of Santa Clara watching a fine Independence Day fireworks display.  It was probably the best display finale I have ever seen, the sky ablaze with overlapping bursts of colors all set to the 1812 Overture, a magnificent piece of music if not one I would necessarily associate with the United States or the independence thereof.  But it does have cannons.

We arrived home in time for me to peek into Azeroth and catch the fireworks over Stormwind.

Oooh, ahhh...

Oooh, ahhh...

I also saw Skronk, Ula, and Earl online, representing the Saturday night group in Northrend.  They were running some quests to pick up experience.

But as we gain more experience, the whole group is now level 77 with the exception of Earl who is closing in on that, we also get closer to our tradition of being… well… done when we hit level cap.

When we hit 70 before Wrath of the Lich King, that was the end of instance runs.  We finished up Escape from Durnhold Keep then the group stopped showing up in WoW on Saturday night.

Now we’re closing in on 80 with no new expansion in the offing from Blizzard for a long time to come and we’re starting to think about what to do when we hit the level cap.

It is possible that achievements might hold our attention for a while.  Some of us in the group are more addicted to them than others though.  We might also explore the path of the Death Knight as a group of five… a death squad if you will.

But the time will come where we’ll be done with Azeroth until the next expansion and we’ll be looking for something else to do.

There are, of course, plenty of MMO options.  I am just not sure if a break from WoW would be best used playing a similar game.  If there was an MMO that would accommodate our play style, which is focused primarily on the five of us playing one night a week, and if that MMO were different enough from WoW to seem fresh, that might be an option.  But I’m not sure such a bird exists.  Our run at Warhammer Online lasted six weeks before we decided it wasn’t for us, and our time in Middle-earth was hampered by the fact that a group needs six people in LOTRO, and we only had four at the time.

Or we could kick the MMO habit for a time and look for a game that can accommodate five players.  Potshot and I have already experimented with Age of Empires II: Age of Kings and found a way to get ourselves connected reliably.  And there are certainly other RTS games to look at.

An adventure or RPG might be more our speed though.  It is a shame that Diablo II only seats 4 players, that might be an interesting retro experience.  I actually played through the original Diablo in a group a couple of times, but did most of Diablo II solo.  Too bad as well that Diablo III is still over the horizon.

Then again, maybe we ought to lighten it up and look for a shooter to occupy the time.  Something like Team Fortress 2 (if I can get over my grudge against Steam) or Battlefield Heroes might be a refreshing diversion.

So I am looking for game ideas for a regular group of five players.  You don’t have to sell me on MMOs, but something that can handle our group and can be fun and rewarding on our limited weekly play budget.

14 thoughts on “Looking Forward…

  1. Keystone

    The first thought that came to my mind was trying to find 1-2 more people to fill out your LOTRO group. The game sounds like it fits the groups’ playstyle, and I’ve read the game has even improved much since release.

    I would ask around the group if there are any family members or close friends that would be interested in tackling LOTRO together.

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  2. mm

    Let’s see…..

    You all want to get together casually, you want to mainly run instances, and have a limited play budget. I’d recommend giving Dungeons and Dragons Online a look. It becomes free to play on August 6. Having burned out on WoW and WAR, I’ll be using that to fill my time. Can’t beat free when looking at bang-for-the-buck

    MM

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  3. Loredena

    My first thought was to give EQ2 another try, as that certainly has plenty of instances. But as you say, it is still a DIKU MUD, however more involving I may find it over WoW.

    I have been playing a weekly team game of Civ 4 with two friends for close to 2 years now. Perhaps that would work for you? We used the internet option, and just save and continue the game each week — it can take several weeks to complete a single game. With 5 of you though, it really only works if you have multiple teams, and don’t mind playing against rather than with one another.

    Have you already romped through Guild Wars? That has the advantage of no monthly cost, plus hirelings to fill out the groups.

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  4. syncaine

    DDO F2P will be live by the time you guys hit 80, baring an increase in your current pace. The group size is 6, but I believe every quest/instance is intended for 4 on normal, and you can also bring hirelings to assist you whenever you are short. With 5 of you an a hireling, you should be able to do Hard mode and perhaps even Elite if you wanted to (unfortunately you have to beat normal to open Hard, and Hard to open Elite, and since so far (lvl 4) I have yet to repeat a single instance due to an XP shortage, repeating is purely optional)

    Since it will be free to some extent, it’s a no-risk try, and if it suits everyone, you can become a VIP (sub) or buy whatever content the free portion does not cover for your needs (not sure how it all works since I was not in the beta)

    The only minor issue would be that you can’t hire a rogue NPC, and a rogue is somewhat helpful depending on what quest you are working on. It’s not a showstopper by any means, but it’s the only function you can’t supplement (you can hire tanks/healer/dps), so whoever plays that class would need to be on more often than not.

    But yea, that is the game that I think meets your criteria of group-centric, on-demand, kinda-WoW-but-not (more towards not) MMO gaming.

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  5. Morinar

    If you don’t mind going with a shooter, I’d recommend something like Call of Duty 4. Multiplayer games with 4-5 people are a blast (in my opinion) and you can even still all get on Skype and make fun of/taunt each other while you play. Furthermore, the game has a mild leveling up process where you unlock new weapons as you play, which would work great for a group like yours where you only play once a week.

    If co-op is more your style, check out Left 4 Dead. While it only supports 4 players (you seem to only have 4 a lot of the time anyway), the campaigns are TONS of fun and only really shine when you have a full set of humans along.

    Not sure if you are ready to give up on MMOs, but all I know is that I recently stopped playing WoW and LOTRO in favor of multiplayer shooters and single player fare and I’ve been enjoying myself more than ever.

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  6. Green Armadillo

    Like Loredena, I’d put in a plug for (returning to?) EQ2. There’s a couple in my current guild that each dual boxes, and the resulting 4-player team can take down group and raid content. Unlike WoW, the game also comes with the ability for the entire group to mentor down to the lowest level character (and a new ability coming soon to mentor down to any multiple of 5), so you don’t need to worry about someone getting ahead or behind.

    The only caveat is that I don’t know how long an average dungeon run lasts – I’ve gone exploring in the older zones after they greyed out, and I’m shocked by the number of trash mobs. That could make the dungeon run take too long for your time constraints. Then again, EQ2 still have group-level non-instanced content.

    P.S. I’ll be amused to hear if you actually try the all DK party. Back in the Wrath beta, a party of blood spec DK’s could actually generate enough passive healing to run TBC-era dungeons. That got nerfed significantly, but you might be able to abuse the glyph of Rune tap to get some content down.

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  7. JdJdJd

    There is absolutely no reason wehy you HAVE to have 6 people in a group for LoTRO. You should do fine with 4. At least for most things. You might want to wait until you’re a little older to try some instances but that shouldn’t hamper your ability to get things accomplished. Especially if you have the normal bases covered. Healer, Tank, CC, DPS.

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  8. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @jdjdjd – My own experience is that the LOTRO instances are designed to need a full group when you are doing them at the recommended level. While we do run off and do lower level stuff when we’re short a person, our general focus has been to do the content at the appropriate level when there is actually a challenge to it.

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  9. dave

    Re-roll a different horde class on Zul’jin and hang out with me.

    You get to see all the horde side quests, play a different class.

    Also, if you are interested after you get to 80, or even before, in some of the earlier stuff like kara, I can help you gather the numbers to see some of the 10 man and higher content.

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  10. Hudson

    “Re-roll a different horde class on Zul’jin and hang out with me. You get to see all the horde side quests, play a different class”

    Soon he can just wait and pay to have his character transformed to horde, thus negating all that content. It is exactly what Blizzard wants people to do (must …force back…rage).

    Tough call on what game to pick. Either way you are going to run into a lot of similar mechanics. I think I am going to hop on that 14 free days of Conan and keep plugging in DDO. Play some XBOX in between.

    I know you guys didn’t want to try Warhammer as a group but other than that I am not sure.

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  11. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Hudson – Personally I think the horde experience is different enough that if I wanted to go that route I would take one of my current horde characters and finish getting them to level cap.

    What Blizz is letting people do is swap sides. If people want to cheat themselves out of the horde side of the world, that is no skin off my nose. I got to go beat on napping orc loggers with my little hordies in the starter zone, an experience to treasure.

    What Blizz wants people to do is keep giving them $15 a month for as long as possible. Some group has been agitating for this on the forums (and let’s face it, there is some group on the forums agitating for just about any odd-ball feature or option you could imagine and a bunch more you wouldn’t), so somebody at Blizz said, “whatever, as long as they keep paying us.”

    If it is a bad idea, people won’t use it, but I can’t see it as some sort of Blizz master plan to milk us out of a wee bit more cash. This is “Blizz caved” not “Blizz is exploiting.”

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  13. pitrelli

    I’ll vote for champions online, open beta is next month so why not dip your toe in and see if its for you?

    A good thing about it is I believe it is going to include mentoring (ie you can revert down to lower level or increas stats on a temp basis to quest with mates)

    A group of 5 and hey presto your own super team :)

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  14. Jason

    I’d actually recommend taking another look at Diablo 2. I just started playing that again, and am currently sitting with a Necro Skellymancer(lots of minions :D) in the mid 50s on Nightmare. Currently bnet games(ladder style at least) appear to be able to handle up to 8 players at a time, which is how I have it set up even if I’m the only one in there :D

    Beyond that, Titan Quest can do 2-6 players either on the Internet(Gamespy handles this, YMMV) or through VPN using Hamachi.

    And lastly, I’ll throw a recommend for DDO; I haven’t actually played it, but have planned on giving it the go-round when I’m either in the beta or once F2P goe slive.

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