Replacement for WoW for a long-distance pair
November 7, 2011 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Help me find a substitute for World of Warcraft to serve as common ground and entertainment for myself and my long-distance boyfriend.

My boyfriend and I met on World of Warcraft several years ago. We played happily for 2 years until we both sort of gradually stopped playing for a few reasons- guild drama, friends stopped playing, job and home obligations, et cetera. Now we have differing schedules and I need to spend less time hanging around waiting for him to text me, and we'd both like something new to explore as we've had our fill of just watching TV shows and movies. We haven't found an alternate activity that we can both do that fulfills the following criteria:

1. Can interact in realtime
2. Can do alone and then talk about it later on
3. Can be done via internet, on non-gaming laptops (one Mac, one PC), sometimes with crappy hotel internet
4. Involves other people to expand our social circle: we spend too much time with just us two
5. Doesn't require a console

These are the things we really enjoyed about WoW: lots of new friends and people to chat with, theorycrafting and thinking about new ways to approach boss fights, occasional mindless farming, PVPing in arenas, raiding, customization within game (personal stats and gear choice, messing with the UI).

We've tried the following:

League of Legends - doesn't play well with Macs, and I didn't enjoy it much; he used to enjoy but has unplayable framerates now
Minecraft - doesn't have a real social aspect (except maybe on private servers?), but I like the idea of creating things together and also working solo
Ascension - we play the boardgame version via an online module; awesome, but isn't something we can do solo

We aren't dead-set on a video game, but it seems to offer the most options. We are both willing to make a few concessions - maybe a new computer, maybe he could try to bring a console into the hotel, et cetera. We are open to all options and will give most anything a shot. We'd like to avoid going back to WoW but it might end up happening if we can't find an alternative.

Save us from boredom!
posted by rachaelfaith to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
puzzle pirates!
It works fine on low end machines, it is cheap or free depending on how you play, there can be as much or as little interactions with other humans as you'd like, and it's fun puzzling stuff.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:13 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know couples who watch movies "together" by syncing start times in remote locations and discussing after (or during) via Skype.

There are other online board game options that offer the opportunity to meet new folks: (for Dominion) (for Agricola) (for lots of others) shows potential, but isn't open for public consumption yet.
posted by genrand at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you considered Second Life? It can be a great way to interact with somebody long distance, to meet other new and fun people, to have a common context for doing things separately and then talking about it later or showing one another what you found, and to make things. Even if all you make is your character, that can be a neverending fun thing with all the adjustments and clothes and stuff. You can try to make it look like you or go nuts and be an abstract object or something silly. But you can also build things. It's pretty easy to get the basics of that, though the more advanced stuff is obviously harder. But you don't have to do that. You can just find fun places to hang out. There are lots of music clubs, for example. If the two of you are into a particular kind of music, there's a crowd and a club for it - probably lots of them. You can do activities, in-game games, exploring, naughty stuff, voice chat or text chat, private or public chat, set up house together or not. You could do things like sailboat racing, skydiving, watch B movies, take classes (about SL topics or RL topics), go to discussion groups, combat, roleplaying, charity events, book readings, meeting people from all over the world, and just about anything else you can think of. It's fun to find a regular crowd and a handful of haunts because whenever you log in, it's like going to Cheers, everybody knows you name. It's amazing to see what some people do in there. And it's also just nice to hang out and have some casual fun and social contact. It's even fun just to fly around, just to fly.

A lot of people try it out and are initially frustrated by the controls or frustrated that it's not a game, doesn't have a particular objective, and they quit. Stick with it a bit though, ask other people questions, and you can really come to enjoy it. Many people (ahem) get sucked in at first and do marathon sessions a la Warcraft and have to pull themselves back a bit. It can be seriously addictive. But it's also something you can just do occasionally. It's always there. There are always people around, even if not your crowd. There is always something new to explore. Give it a shot!
posted by Askr at 8:22 AM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

City Of Heroes/Villains is getting on a bit (so is not very graphically demanding) but is still a great MMO which has recently gone Free To Play.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:23 AM on November 7, 2011

I'm a big fan of Spiral Knights: it's basically a free-to-play MMO Zelda game, it runs well on both my MacBook Pro and my PC, and has lots and lots of stuff to do but is good to play in short, 30-minute bites.
posted by Oktober at 8:28 AM on November 7, 2011

Eve Online is not supergraphically demanding, has all of those elements, but is super geeky.

You need spreadsheets to play. Seriously. Here's a good review of Eve Online.

But you just may love it.
posted by Argyle at 8:28 AM on November 7, 2011

I second Second Life. You can even make a living there! For the premium price ($9.95 i think) you will both get a parcel of land to build and live on. But if you go with the free option, you can still build in the "sandboxes".
posted by atomicmedia at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2011

If you can stand a lot of cuteness, Glitch might work for you. It's pretty grindy and there's no combat, but it is very social and there are tons of awesome new people to meet. It can be extremely time-consuming if you'd like, but it's not necessary.

My SO and I now live together, but it would've been great for us when we lived in different time zones—you can play separately and talk about cute stuff you did or saw later, or you can go on mining expeditions together and reap bonuses, or mail presents and love letters and flaps of no-no powder. Bonus: a zillion Mefites for you to add to your contact list.
posted by bewilderbeast at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Rift. It's not everyone's cup of tea but I rather like the zone wide Rift events and it's enough like WoW it's easy to jump in but you won't know all the story etc so that would be fun to explore.

There is also the Lord of the Rings game. I like that one, but it doesn't seem as easy to make friends on that one, but that could just be me.

I've had a lot of fun playing scrabble and stuff online with family and friends overseas with Yahoo games, though that was a few years ago so not sure if it still works the same.

Second Life is fun. My MIL is addicted and has friends from all around the world she chats to in it all the time, and has taken to breeding horses in game like its crack or something. I like exploring in it, but found people a little clique -y but I am a bit introverted and was by myself would be more fun to explore with someone. You can download mods and stuff that make the controls easier. There is a lot of free stuff too and that's fun to hunt around for, though you can go nuts and spend RL money there as well.
posted by wwax at 8:34 AM on November 7, 2011

Lego Universe?
posted by Jacen at 8:38 AM on November 7, 2011

Warhammer is similar to WoW, and is even better if you like PvP (or at least, it was when I last played).

I can also recommend watching movies while being on Skype or Vent.
posted by neushoorn at 8:52 AM on November 7, 2011

Yeah, setting up a personal Ventrilo server is (to me) an awesome alternative to Skype...
posted by atomicmedia at 8:59 AM on November 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I did mention that we've already had our fill of Skyped movies. We usually watch via shared screen or if we're concerned about graphics, both download and watch simultaneously. That's not very interactive, though, so we're looking for other options.

I'll be linking him to this thread later on so we can look into what interests us. I am interested in Minecraft moreso, though, how might we expand that into a more social platform?
posted by rachaelfaith at 9:18 AM on November 7, 2011

Seconding Glitch.
posted by Specklet at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2011

EVE is kind of like a space trading simulation combined with double-entry bookkeeping. It's absolutely insane, but a lot of fun. Learning curve is an absolute bitch though, and I will dispute the "not graphically demanding" bit. Unless you turn the options all the way down and run at a really low resolution, it's actually a pretty big hit on the ol' GPU. I mean, screenshots.
posted by valkyryn at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2011

If you can handle gorgeous ASCII graphics, and deep strategic gameplay, than allow me to introduce you to tomenet.

Tomenet is a multiplayer roguelike, though it has a bit of a real time feel(Turns range from 150ms - 300 ms each depending on how difficult a given dungeon is). You pick a character and race from a wide variety of truly different choices, and then enter a large open world to have adventures.

The game world is extremely interactive. Be warned though, this game is mercilessly difficult, but fair.
posted by satori_movement at 9:52 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend the MeFightClub Minecraft server if you want a good social experience. The folks over at MFC are MeFi folks with an interest in gaming, and they are a very friendly bunch. Their server is huge (or was, when I last poked my nose in), with lots of collaborative building projects.
posted by ashirys at 9:56 AM on November 7, 2011

I pretty much always recommend Kingdom of Loathing. You didn't mention loving graphics, which is good since KoL has stick figures and text. But it is very funny text. And it has everything you ask for, and everything you say you loved about WOW. Plus, it is free to sign up, and the community is fantastic.
posted by Night_owl at 10:35 AM on November 7, 2011

Fourthing Minecraft. There's no cohesive social aspect, but there are LOTS of servers that are more social than others. It's just a matter of finding your crowd. Minecraft totally meets and exceeds all of your other stated needs as well.
posted by Aquaman at 11:04 AM on November 7, 2011

Runescape? You can start out in "Free to Play" to see if you like it.

They just did a major assault on bots, so the FtP worlds should be bearable (at least for a while).

Yeah, the majority of players seem to be teens, but there's also lots of adults. My husband and I play, both together (for questing and events) and separately (for our own skill interests).

I play on a not-so-new WinXP laptop over wifi, my husband on a several year old XP desktop. I have played on hotel wifi around the US and in Europe. (I wouldn't fight on an iffy connection, though.)

If you do sign up, shoot me a mail and I'd be happy to assist in any way I can.
posted by at 11:50 AM on November 7, 2011

If you want to reconsider the WoW thing, my guild is trying to build up a bit past our raiding core. You can take a look at our website here. The guild already has several couples in it, and I would estimate our average age to be around 25. We're very nice people, gchat just tends to be kind of dead outside of raid times, which is why I'm trying to find people who might want to sign on at other times. :)

FWIW we've also got a few people (including myself) who enjoy PvP quite a bit, and although I don't want to run it (as I already run the raids), I sort of fantasize about having an RBG team I could heal for on my priest.
posted by kavasa at 12:51 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might consider playing Magic: the Gathering online. There are tons of people there, it's competitive, it's available at all hours (except for a few on Wednesdays when they do updates) and can be done singly or in groups. Warning: it can be a huge money sink, but it doesn't have to be. Just avoid drafting and owning all of the power rares (when they first come out online).

Also, as a bit of a long shot, have you considered text-based online RPGs? They can be EXTREMELY hit-or-miss in terms of quality and community, but with the right group it can provide tactical elements, socialization (of a sort) and the ability to play together and singly. I know this can be done via message board, site (such as or chat.
posted by daikaisho at 3:22 PM on November 7, 2011

Minecraft. You can build an adorable home together!

Also, DC Unlimited just went free, so that's worth a look.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:24 PM on November 7, 2011

Seconding Rift as a really nice "similar but different" experience compared to WoW. I find the character creation and graphics much more appealing and love the zone-wide events that can pop up out of nowhere and require you to team up with others in the area to defeat.
posted by platinum at 4:12 PM on November 7, 2011

Left 4 Dead/Left 4 Dead 2 might be a decent enough choice. You could try Portal 2 in multiplayer mode if your machines can handle it.

You could also try Words for Friends, although it doesn't have a real time av chat, it has a regular text chat and you could skype while playing too.
posted by plinth at 4:47 PM on November 7, 2011

My boyfriend and I had a go at Glitch when I spent a few weeks away recently. It was pretty cute and funny, and he did come in handy for a quest or two. It does get old kinda quickly (I like quests, but they peter out after a while) but it's a lovely atmosphere and fun in bursts.
posted by divabat at 9:28 PM on November 7, 2011

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