I love the change. I'm not a raider by any means, so this will probably be one of those 'other' perspectives. My WoW experiences boil down to pwning noobs. I was in a US-top 50 guild, but only briefly before I decided I didn't want to spend that much of my evening slaying dragons. I used to love raiding Karazhan in The Burning Crusade because it was a fun 10-man. When I was raiding Black Temple with the server's #1 guild occasionally, I would still do weekly Karazhans because they were quick and enjoyable. If Kara had the option of being a 25-man raid, I'm sure a lot of people would have never stepped in it after defeating Prince Maldemoninfernaldudeazar or whatever his name was. I might get to experience that again in Cataclysm.
This change is a definite 'win' for all of the 10-man strict guilds (like my guild). Now, raiders decked out in 25-man gear won't be able to come into a 10-man raid and cheese all of the achievements. We'll be competing with the big guilds for the first 10-man kills, instead of coming in weeks behind due to massive gear differences. I have spent the entirety of Wrath building a solid group of 10 players with a shared goal of working our hardest on tackling new raids, and this change will give us the chance to actually have our kills mean something. Also, it should fix the trinket problem, where 10-man trinkets were trash compared to their 25-man equivalents.
The face of raiding is going to change. I for one like it, others may not. Coming from a small guild that has had issues every single tier where we float between having enough people to run 25's and being just short if everyone doesn't show up, I can see why many people might think this is 'bad' for my type of guild. We'll have to choose which path we're going to take and either way it goes, there is going to be a mess. We either down-size completely which means removing some people, or we continue to struggle to fill 25 man raids while losing the option to do 10 man raids when we don't have enough online. For a guild like mine, I can certainly see why people might be worried about this change and why going to the 10-man route would be easier.
Overall, I think the change is great. It really helps out the 10-man exclusive guilds and it prevents the high end 25-man guilds from having to run the same content twice every week. I think we'll see a swing in the raiding scene, and I definitely think there will be more 10-man raiding guilds than there will be 25-man, but I don't see it being the death of either option. 25-man raids will still matter, the best of the best will still focus on them, and the hardcore raiders of today will still clamor to get into that raiding scene. For the more casual raiders, it opens up great new doors where they can still be competitive without having to devote the time to trying to make two different raid clears of the same instance every week. It's a win-win in my book.
My guild has run 40-player raids, 20-player, 25-player, and 10-player through the years. I prefer the smaller raid size, so I'm excited about this change. Fewer players means fewer delays during the run and thus less standing around waiting on one or two people. Fewer players also means each raid member plays a more vital role and individual mistakes can be far costlier. To me, it's more fun that way. I will enjoy no longer feeling as though 10-player raids are second class.
There are other advantages. By allowing both sizes to share a loot table, Blizzard's itemization team can focus more on creating interesting items and making sure each spec's needs are met in each tier. Also, by sharing lockouts, players who don't want to raid four or five nights per week won't feel compelled to do so to remain viable. During the first tier, before hard modes are unlocked, that's going to mean a lot less raiding than we're accustomed to right now. Keep in mind, however, that Blizzard wants heroic dungeons to be more relevant to a fresh 85 than they were for a fresh 80. Also, think about what will be available once the next tier is released: T11 normal raids, T11 hard modes, T12 normal raids, and eventually T12 hard modes. Given that Blizzard intends to create multiple raid instances per tier, I doubt any of us will be upset that we can't visit each zone twice per week in different sizes.
Best of all, the players who run 25-player raids will, I hope, want to raid with 25 players. They won't be there for the better loot alone. If so, I believe that will improve the 25-player experience immensely for those who prefer it.
This change will affect all raiding guilds, and I know many players are concerned about the impact it will have on their own community. I would urge everyone to wait until more details are known, such as the true difficulty of each raid size and the disparity in rewards between them, before rushing to judgment.
I suspect I'm in the minority of players, but I actually like this raiding design change. I'm a 25-man non-hard mode raider who refuses to spend more than 2 nights raiding a week, so limiting people to a single useful instance per character means that people who choose not to raid 4+ nights a week will be at no disadvantage. If dedicating one character to PvE involves no more than however long it takes to clear the relevant dungeons, a lot of players will get to experience a lot of other parts of the game. Right now, a PvE dedication means you have to clear as far as possible in the most recent 10 and 25-man instance, which often precludes much time for anything else.
Secondly, Blizzard left themselves a large dial they can adjust to make sure that people still run 25-man content. Just as long as they adjust the reward rate from 25-mans to compensate for the loss of higher quality gear, there'll be about the same number of 25-man groups as there are now.
For completely selfish reasons, I love this change, and hate it at the same time. I understand all of the arguments for more epic encounters, but for me, even with 10 people, the encounters still felt epic. The Lich King especially felt epic to me, each and every stage. Through event mechanics and spell effects, it was frantic enough to really keep me on my toes. From the Lore standpoint, I just believe it took an army to take him down. Anyway, that's besides the point. The point of these changes is to give Blizzard more design room and less to worry about gear wise. Having to cobble together odd combinations of 10 and 25 player loot to be absolutely effective was just crappy design, and normalizing loot makes for a cleaner experience. Plus, Blizzard can control gear inflation and we might not have to see another SunIceWellCitadel RadianceChill.
How do you give 10 mans the legendaries that 25 mans get? Simple. Pieces of the legendary drop 5%-10% of the time on 10-man, and 35%-40% on 25-man. Maybe not those numbers exactly, but making it take longer in the 10-mans at least makes it available to those raiders and 10-mans aren't seen as the bastard child of raiding. Right now, I love 10-mans, and have since Karazhan. Kara was the best raid design decision Blizzard has ever made, because it took the horrid planning out of the 40 player game and made fun content accessible across the board. I wholeheartedly believe that Cataclysm will be the last expansion to feature 25-man raids prominently, a move I believe that has been in the works for a good long time.
I tend to think this change is a solid one. Yes, it's probably going to break up some 25-mans, but Burning Crusade broke up some 40-mans. Much like how Wrath's Arena changes seperated out who liked to run Arenas from who was only doing it for the gear, It seems like this change will separate those who actually like 25-mans from those who are only doing it for the gear. If more people are playing at the level they want to play, this can only be a good thing. It also allows Blizzard to throttle content a bit more, and leaves people not feeling obligated to run both the 10-man and the 25-man every single week for gear or extra practice or whatever else. This change, if handled correctly, will allow for a more varied, accessible end-game that removes a lot of the current annoyances with the repetitiveness of raid content and the 2nd class status of pure dedicated 10-man raid groups or guilds.
On the lore side, I don't think you need to have a group of 25 or 40 people to make a boss kill seem epic. For me, when I remember epic boss kills, I remember the scale of the dungeon, the size of the boss, and the mechanics and feel of the fight itself. I don't think the reason I was so pumped on killing Ragnaros was because I did it with 39 other people. Rather, I'd say it was because Ragnaros was an awe-inspiringly huge boss with amazing mechanics that made me feel like a speck next to his might. Certainly, I felt a lot of camraderie with the group I killed him with, but I think I can feel that with 9 or 24 other people as easily as 39 other people. The "40-man effect," in my mind, was as much because Ragnaros and Onyxia were huge and new, rather than the fact that I was facing them with 39 other people.
Personally, the shift excites me because I've gone through the horrid experience of 40- and 25-man raids breaking down due to poor numbers. As epic as it was to take down Ragnaros for the first time, I'd trade it in for the ease of forming a raid, on-time pull times, and enjoying the experience with a few close friends. Karazhan was an eye-opener for me, and I suspect Blizzard as well. It was so well designed that it felt epic all the way through despite the smaller raid composition. If Blizzard manages to design the raids in Cataclysm to evoke that same feeling, I think everything will be just fine.
On a tangent, I'm wondering if 10-man raids will dictate the design of future Battlegrounds. With rated Battlegrounds as the future of World of Warcraft PvP, smaller raid compositions might be the ideal way to go. It's hard to imagine gathering the numbers for rated Alterac Valley and Isle of Conquest -- it's hard enough to gather those numbers now, whether through PUGs or guilds. It seems to me that Blizzard has settled on 10 as the magic number for moderately organized raids, and I'm inclined to agree. I think it's a good, solid number for group content. I'm excited to see how the philosophy will apply to the PvP aspect of the game.
My first thought is that this is an awesome change that reduces the spectrum between "the best" gear and "okay" gear. Right now, if you're PvEing or PvPing in 10-Normal gear ... it's okay. It's not great, but it's okay. But the difference between 10-Normal and 25-Heroic gear is huge, and I'm constantly seeing the problems that disparity causes. This change will compress the scale, and I think that will help balance immensely.
I'm going to play the change through no matter how it turns out. That being said, I think forming an opinion about this change demands a great deal more self-awareness and brutal honesty than any other new dynamic. After all, it seems like they're adding more content (raids), more options, and doing generally good things -- nothing is being taken away, really, just added. (Assuming there's enough content for the raid-every-night crowd to enjoy.) So, why would this be so contentious?
I think the fear, uncertainty, and doubt is sourced from two things. The first is change. This is a huge change to our community and culture, moving away from the idea that "The only serious raid is a 25 man raid" to something more accessible to everyone. I don't know whether that's good or bad, but I feel like that feedback is definitely out there. Second, prestige rules are changing. The elevated status of 25-man raids is being radically altered, and that's obviously frightening to some people.
Ultimately, I'm eager to see how it turns out.