Last time I talked about communications, because to me that is the single most important aspect of an MMO. The reason I play is the other people. But I know the social aspects aren’t why many people play. To many people the most important thing a group does is provide status updates.
One of the key elements in modern games and the focus on the trinity design (tank/heal/damage) is that joining a group puts the other players’ health and other stats on your User Interface where it is easy to keep track of. In this way, grouping and raid groups become vital to the game. Can you imagine playing a game where you couldn’t see the health of the other members of your party? Imagine having to call out for every heal or assist. Most games these days even include buffs on the UI so your priest can tell if that armor spell he casts has worn off or been dispelled. Sure, these elements didn’t always exists, but with them being so predominant in games now, could we do without them?
Without the group structure, if you wanted to retain these UI status updates, you would need another way to get them. So, instead of restricting this capability to groups we could unhook it and make it available always. Target a player, click on an option button on the target element, select “Pin to UI” from the menu and they get added to your screen just as if they were in your group. There might be some technical limitations to this, perhaps a maximum number of people you can pin to your UI, and it would be nice to know who has pinned you (so you can yell at a healer who doesn’t have you, the main tank, pinned), but I definitely think that a group of designers could sit around and hash out all the problems and find solutions to make this work.
This solution, of course, is more labor intensive than just joining a group or raid, so there might be resistance to such a change. But I think the overall increase of utility would be worthwhile.