its been a while since i tortured you with my ideas how MMOing could evolve but playing WAR for a few weeks made me think: "Do we really need groups in MMORPGs ?"
heres my personal history of groups/ grouping:
in the stone age there was pen&paper(& dice)
you got together with a few friends, there was these guy called game-master who in contrast to modern day mmos told the story in contrast to being a service technician. in 99.9% the guys around your ling room table was "the group". if someone asked you "hey, can i come play on Sunday?" you wouldn't say: "sorry our group only allows 6 people" and only very rarely the gm would have another group in your living room playing with them both. and if he would he wouldn't make 2 different group chats if they were in the same room.
in the bronze age there were single player rpgs
"pool of radiance", "dungeon master", "baldurs gate" adopted the pen&paper rpg to the pc and tried to simulate it. the gm and dies were replaced by program and CPU and since it was a in the pre-internet area you would play the game alone in front of your computer. to have a group feeling you could invite a number of npc to your party and basically play/command them all. since the game would have been to easy if you would rush a dungeon with a group of 50 henchmen the group size was limited to around 4-8 characters.
then came MMORPG
they basically took from single player rpgs and replaced all the npc by player characters.
as of today i cant think of an MMORPG that doesn't allow the grouping of players into some sidebar where you can see little portraits of your group mates along with their health, buffs...
my question is if this group mechanism is really necessary or:
could there be a MMORPG without groups ?
don't get me wrong, this isn't about the question if people should work together at a team. this is fundamental to MMO and the reason why we play the MMs in the first place. my question is directed to wads finding alternatives to a static, limited in number grouping system, the group sidebar.
my question are:
-shouldn't all characters in the same room hear what a character says (if its not a whisper)
-shouldn't all followers of (insert your deity here) get buffed by a prayer if they are close to the priest ?
-shouldn't all people be able to get loot from a slain monster if they were near by (or for the sake of peace helped kill it)
- shouldn't a tank be able to have a watchful eye on a priest even if they are not technically grouped together ?
lets see why we see the group bar as a necessity in on-line games and what mechanism could replace it:
1. group chat:
should be replaced by local chat anyway. guild-chat and whispers are fine but group chat seems a contradiction to realism. just throw it out and make people here whats been said around them regardless of grouping
2. buffing/ healing:
area heals/buffs should be just that: an area effect
area buffs could also be limited to people of a certain believe (deity) or fraction (your guild)
single heals could be spotted visually, i.e. if the base marker of someone goes red he needs heal, or better yet have healers really work for their money spotting people that bleed, limp or have any other kind of visual wounds.
to help healers watch out for a single target (i.e. the tank) maybe allow healers to have their own grouping feature called "healers eyes" where he puts people on watch and gets alerted when they need heal
3. loot/xp distribution
warhammers PQ system seems to work nicely on that regard (at least there doesn't seem to be big drama about it). you get a chance on loot depending how much you contributed. apparently they found a system not only based on damage to the mob but includes healing, buffing, tanking as well. maybe it needs some tweaking but generally it shows it can be done.
in a more harsh environment you could also go with a "grab what you can get" loot system as i often experienced in my pen&paper days where the thieve asked me to make a roll to quickly grab a ring from the treasure without his companions noticing it.
4. other mechanism
whenever a player needs o follow/watch another player he could include that person to his personal watch list. this list would be pretty much similar to the group bar you have ATM (maybe smaller or larger but not limited) to get quick infos about those people.
in short, i didn't find a reason yet why this typical 6-man group sidebar exists from MMO to MMO where i see it as historical ballast from single player rpg games