I've been playing Pirates of the Burning Sea on and off lately. Today someone asked me if I was looking for a society (guild). I said yes and joined. A little bit later the person who asked was helping me with a group mission.
I'm not sure why it was considered a group mission. Maybe I was underestimating the power of a few levels and my recently tricked out new ship (it's so much more powerful than my previous one, except it's slow and hard to turn and I hate it). As best as I could tell, all my new friend needed to do was distract the hail of cannon fire as I, in about 30 seconds, nudged the target ship into the wind, swung around parallel, blasted some fire across the deck, and boarded it. After a bit of stabbing I had captured the crew I needed (a navy guy had taken half of mine, but gave me permission to take from other ships) and was off.
Previously scheduled programming:
Then a few other people from the society joined us and we went sailing into the open waters to find more powerful ships to gang up on. We had no missions (quests), no guide, no arrows. Instead we just decided to wander out and see what we could find and fight, the equivalent of a few players in WoW deciding to go level up by finding elites to team up on. We'd sail around and call out nearby fleets to decide if they were worth hunting.
I'm level 21. The highest person in our group was 40-something. There were a couple others in their mid-20s and a 30-something. Can you imagine a level 40 player willingly grouping up with a level 21 and not considering charging gold for running them through SFK? The level 40 gets nothing from level 21 content and the level 21 has nothing to contribute to level 40 content, beside a massive aggro range and tendency to get one-shot.
Now I won't pretend I was especially useful, and I might even venture to say that due to my newbiness and level I was even inefficient to bring (since I got a share of the loot disproportionate to my killing ability). But I wasn't purely dead weight. That was... well that was what made it possible for me to play with my new society within a few minutes of joining. We didn't have the same quests, same level, same ship quality, or any other metric that games have that in WoW would separate us, so we could play together and play together productively. Note that I include the productive part in there. Feel-good "yay we're playing together even if you're twenty levels lower and I'm one-shotting everything while you scamper behind looting" is only fun for a short while.
I doubt WoW will ever be able to do this. The level-based avoidance would have to go. The power gain from leveling would need to be severely toned down. The level-based xp would need changing. To go along with 'flatter' levels, gear would need to be weaker as well. Too much would have to change.
But it would be nice. Play with friends, regardless of level. How strange would that be! No more racing to the level cap to be able to raid with friends, only to find you also need gear, and so on, only to find that after two months invested you're actually really bad at WoW and cannot play with them after all. Not that that has happened to me personally. My friends are all on different servers.
The social implications are staggering.
But wait, there's more. While we were out on our random hunting (fleeting), we advertised in the nation channel to see if anyone wanted to join. Heh. Can you imagine asking in faction channel (if it existed) if anyone wanted to join you in group quests on another continent? Heh. How about zone chat? Still no. And yet we did, and we got people, and no one raged, flamed, or ninjaed. Well, maybe the last one, since the defeated/abandoned (derelict) ships themselves (not the cargo) are something of a free-for-all, so we all want to rush for them. But that's like, 1% of the loot (maybe it's more, I wouldn't know, but it's not like they're ninjaing epics).
I can't remember the last time I grouped up with someone I just ran into. Okay wait, yes, now I remember: during the RIFT "let's call this beta rather than pre-launch trial even though we all know what this is" event when I grouped with a silent person, silently killed a few things, and silently parted ways. Before that? I'm sure there were some, but for anything consistent we'd have to go all the way back to Silithus, summoning Twilight Hammer bosses and grinding bugs.
It's a shame PotBS is clunky and unpolished compared to WoW, because I like the social aspect of it a lot better.
Oh, and flame wars between the factions in zone channels when they're fighting over ports (or just killing each other for giggles): epic.