Can heroism be a (very, very, very) part-time job?
October 26, 2011 1:53 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been invited by friends to join them on a MMORPG (City of Heroes). Is it possible to have a good time with this game without it turning into a monumental time-suck?

We're all guys in our late 30s/early 40s, kids and/or hobbies. I've got a lot of personal projects on the go, and I think the other guys might have a bit more time to dedicate to this than me. None of us have ever played CoH before, and we're all keen, but my previous exposure to MMORPGs (watching guys in my D&D group who played the Star Wars MMORPG before moving on to WoW) always struck me as something where they were investing 20+ hours a week in it.

I’m frankly more interested in the social aspect of hanging around with some now geographically diverse friends than I am in the game, but I love superheroes so there's a lot of native appeal there as well. Two of us (me included) are not “gamers”, the other two are more experienced at online gaming (but pretty MMORPG-lite, AFAIK).

Is it a fool's errand to think that we can just "get together" for a couple of hours a week (max) online and play? Do you have any strategies or ideas on how to really get a lot of MMORPG fun out of a limited amount of time? If the others have more time to bash around and level up and stuff, am I anchored to “keeping up with the SuperJoneses” or will I be able to play with them regardless?
posted by Shepherd to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
Best answer: City of Heroes is very well suited to be super casual - the missions are short (and have difficulty sliders, if I recall), there are a bunch of ways for different-level people to play together and have fun, and half of the population seems to do nothing but hang out in public places, show off their costumes, and chat. It's in no way like WoW, where to have fun you have to actually work at being pretty good at the game. I'm actually planning to install it again now that it's free-to-play, because sometimes there's just nothing I like better than punching thugs in the face and then leaping tall buildings in a single bound while looking awesome.

(Disclaimer: I worked at NCsoft years ago. This mostly means I can tell some entertaining stories about Jack Emmert, but I know the game fairly well.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:57 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: No MMO actually requires a massive time investment so long as you accept that means slower progression (granted, far too many games focus on putting roadblocks in the way of people who play 60+ hours a week which has a detrimental affect on those who only play 5) but CoH is very casual friendly.

There's not much in the way of loot and if you're playing the free version then there isn't any really. Its fun right out of the gate - you'll be zapping, splatting and kapowing within your first hour. Missions take 5-15 minutes generally so if you're all like-minded, stopping when you need to will be no problem (assuming you want to!)
If you're interested in the story I'd advise starting Hero side (the freedom patch changed the tutorial events but missions on Villain side still refer to the old tutorial and the praetorian missions can be challenging even for experienced players)

If you start your characters at the same time you used to be able to make a levelling pact (you gain xp at the same rate even if you're offline) - not sure if you can now but with mentoring/side-kicking you can group with anyone of any level. When a mission is selected for the group it is set to the level of the owner of the mission and everyone in the group is automatically levelled up or down to match the level of the mission.
posted by missmagenta at 2:16 PM on October 26, 2011

Nah, you'll be fine.

Actually the same applies to World of Warcraft - it's enormously fast and casual these days, and grinding only really happens at the level cap (and is entirely optional anyway).
posted by Sebmojo at 2:25 PM on October 26, 2011

Best answer: Hi there. Seven year CoX vet here. I can think of no other MMO that is as friendly to the time-strapped, casual player as City of Heroes. It's amazingly undemanding on your time. There's no need to schedule raids, no drive to keep up with gear, and no crushing pressure to hit max level. Soloing quietly is as viable a playstyle as grouping, although grouping will be faster.

If your friends (or you) play unequally, when you do team up your levels will be normalized (super-sidekicking) so that nobody is left behind on the power curve. While some content does enforce a minimum level requirement, there is much, much more to do in the game that has no level requirements. It is entirely feasible for a level 1 character, fresh out of Galaxy City, to team up with a max-level Incarnated level 50+1 and take on some of the worst threats the game has to offer. Conversely, the maxed-out character can tag along with the lowbie and assist them on their missions, still earning rewards as they do so.

Speaking gearwise, the equipment in the game adds major bonuses but any character can be very effective with the bare minimum that can be obtained either via adventuring or from ingame vendors. Very, very few usable items ingame drop from specific enemies, and those that do are entirely optional. Additionally, a market exists to purchase items from other players. If using player-driven markets isn't your thing, then most items can be purchased using merits; a currency earned either during Task Forces/Strike Forces (a sort of organized team effort between maximum 8 characters) or simply by playing the normal story arcs.

With a dedicated timeslot and a static group of friends, I would consider organizing Task Force/Strike Force nights, as well as general do-whatever teaming nights. If some of you have more or less time, then the higher levels may find themselves coming down the run with the lowbies, or vice-versa, but you will always be able to do something in game, even if you only have fifteen minutes to play.
posted by Sternmeyer at 2:37 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a multiyear Coh/CoV vet too and I mostly play solo except with my buddy and thats just weekends between his family time and my insane work schedule. Nthing you'll be just fine.

It's a fun, silly game with a good sense of humor and no sense of urgency. Avoid the Task Force mishes unless you can seriously dedicate a couple+ hours of play. People sometimes take those pretty seriously (like raids in WoW).

It also has about the best character design there is. Amazingly comprehensive. It can take an hour or more just to fine tune your toon. Time which should be spent. It costs money (prestige/infamy) to change your costume afterward and you want to be .. AWESOME! Have fun.
posted by elendil71 at 3:28 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a COH/COV vet literally since the Beta, though I took several years off (but kept paying, yay vet rewards) and have only just gotten back in. I'l echo what everyone else says: It is the best social/casual MMORPG I've ever seen and has a very friendly and welcoming player base. In my experience, it is the opposite of WoW, which I hate.

I'm in my 40s with my own business and two kids and no time to play the way I used to. That makes WoW essentially unplayable, but the few hours I spend in CoH/CoV every few weeks remain totally enjoyable. Go for it. It's free to play now, so you have nothing to lose. Drop me a MeMail if you want any help.
posted by The Bellman at 3:44 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

By the way, if you're going to start, start now! The Halloween content is hilarious and fun.
posted by The Bellman at 3:45 PM on October 26, 2011

Best answer: I am a recovering CoH player. It's true it doesn't necessarily require massive time commitments but it's not true that all the missions are short. There are some that take hours and there are task forces that can take 10-20 hours. These are all optional but much of the best content is on task forces. The truth is the time suck factor isn't in any game; it's in the player. Only you will know if it is a time vortex once you get sucked into it.

MMORPGs didn't create the dopamine system. They just manipulate it.
posted by chairface at 7:57 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I played for a few years after launch and just got back into playing with my kids (ages 10 and 8) since the game went free-to-play. Each of them rolled a Blaster and I rolled two healers (one for each of them). They get to run around and blast bad guys and I make sure they remain standing.

Each of them gets a 45-minute window in which to play, and we're able to get multiple missions done and make good progress on their levelling without it being a grind.

The sidekicking system makes this one of the BEST games for a casual social group to play, because no one gets left behind and even a level 1 character fresh out of the tutorial can be sidekicked into the hardest endgame missions and have fun.

I love this game more than I should. :)
posted by DWRoelands at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great answers -- thanks, guys! I have created two characters for group play: Goosemaster, a scrapper that attacks with the proportional ferocity and tenacity of a goose, and the Pale Green Pants, a mystic blaster-type that has harnessed the power of a pair of Pale Green Pants with nobody inside 'em.

I was hoping to have a character that was invisible but for the pants, but that's apparently not possible -- invisibility is an all-or-nothing thing.

I'm on Union, so if you see me, say hi!
posted by Shepherd at 12:36 PM on November 2, 2011

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