We're continuing to refine the raid progression paths in Cataclysm, and we'd like to share some of those changes with you today. Please enjoy!
The first of the refinements being made is that we're combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once per week per character. In other words, if you wanted to do both a 10- and 25-person raid in a single week, you’d need to do so on two different characters. Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel. Obviously the raid lockout change doesn't apply in pure Icecrown terms though, as this change goes hand-in-hand with a few other changes to raid progression in Cataclysm.
So they're going to make us choose between 10 and 25? Well, that should be easy; 25m's give better loot... right?
We're designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we'll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They'll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items. Choosing Heroic mode will drop a scaled-up version of those items. Our hope is that players will be able to associate bosses with their loot tables and even associate specific artwork with specific item names to a far greater extent than today.
Oh... so, if both versions drop the same items, then why the hell would anyone put up with the headache of trying to herd 24 other cats through fights, let alone roll against them for the exact same gear as you could get in 10m's without as much competition or frustration?
We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you're able to gather the people. The raid designers are designing encounters with these changes in mind, and the class designers are making class changes to help make 10-person groups easier to build. Running 25-player raids will be a bit more lucrative, as should be expected, but if for a week or two you need to do 10s because half the guild is away on vacation, you can do that and not suffer a dramatic loss to your ability to get the items you want.
Even having the bosses drop more loot doesn't change the fact that, per individual, you're better off in 10m's. I highly doubt they'd have a boss drop two or more of the same item, nor have loot tables so large that you're not likely to see that item within the next week or two.
Also, if you have a solid 25-man raiding core, that means you have, what, 5-7 healers, 3-4 tanks, and loads of DPS... between offspecs and back-ups, I don't think anyone would be hard-pressed to turn a 25-man raiding core into 3 solid 10-man groups, reducing hassle and loot drama, and maximizing both progression and gearing.
I'll admit, I've liked 10m's more than 25m's for quite a while, and this announcement has only strengthened by convictions. I guess we'll have to wait and see the specifics before we jump to any bold conclusions, but I think they're going down the wrong path here.