Phedre reminded me that City of Heroes continues to be far more awesome than whatever it is the rest of us are playing, not only having five years of experience with features that too few games are stealing, but also continuing to create solutions to problems in the basic MMO model that work.
Issue 16 added “Super-Sidekicking.” You are probably familiar with City of Heroes as the trend-setter that has driven other games to implement some version of side-kicking: let one player function as if he were the same level as his friend, keeping his current suite of abilities but with level-appropriate numbers attached. City of Heroes has taken this to the next level: everyone on the team is now always the same level. Levels are no longer any barrier to playing with your friends. Join up, pick a mission, and you are all the right level for that mission. This also solves the old problem of power-leveling, because you cannot soak up experience at the minimum level: you are now the same level as everyone else, so might as well pitch in. Your level 2 character still has just the few powers with no enhancements, but your base numbers are just as good as the big boys, or you can get them to all visit your level for some newbie missions.
The particulars of this solution are tied to CoH’s heavily instanced structure, which makes this function more easily. Still, very few MMOs have no instancing these days, and there must be something more your game could be doing to bring you closer to where your friends are playing. The next step for Turbine’s new skirmishes?