This rumour was kicked off by this screenshot when it came out.
Some people (including me) speculated that those were NPCs, others speculate that they were other players and that this may be evidence that PSO2 is either open-world or has portions that are. Others still thought, somewhat jokingly, that PSO2 would be getting raids. Well it turns out this last group may have been right.
What We Know
We know that there are “Large Party Areas”, or missions where up to 12 players can be in the same instance. We also know that there are abilities that will only affect your immediate party of 4, as well as others that will affect everyone in the large party. Raid buffs, eh? Certainly sounds like them.
Well, I can’t say for certain they will be raids as players may be familiar with. Traditionally, raid content consists of significantly buffed up enemies and bosses whose mechanics require good coordination of all raid members involved to overcome. They’re also typically where the best gear in the game is obtainable. Now, take into account these are also games that depend on the tank/healer/dps trinity. There is healing in the PS online games, sure (mind healing was never the only thing you’d do), but there are no tanks. Very few missions require any particular degree of group coordination, either (even bosses). So far, somehow I doubt that “Large Party Areas” will be much more than a social thing. Maybe the enemies will be stronger. Really just because without characters having much variation in the roles they can play theres not a lot of room for combat mechanics that only organized groups could overcome.
As it turns out, the multi-party system will be available in the first alpha test, so we’ll hopefully learn more about this in the coming days.