Well, Blizzard has posted some changes to the way Cataclysm raids will be structured. Here are the high points:
* Shared lockout between 25s and 10s
A good call. Repeating the same boss multiple times a week was a bad idea.
* Normal versus Heroic toggle on a per-boss basis
This is okay. I prefer separate instances because it makes it a lot easier to structure your time, especially for a limited-time guild. On a per-boss basis, it's fairly easy to misjudge the amount of time needed to finish the instance. You either fail to kill the end boss, or have time left over which you could have used to practice a Heroic mode. Neither of these results is particularly ideal. If Heroics were a separate instance, you keep going until you clear it, or you run out of time. Very easy to schedule.
* 10s and 25s to have same difficulty level
We'll see if this works. 10s might end up being much more rigorous in class composition requirements. Every class you double up on means one entire class won't be present in the raid. At least a 25 can count on at least one of each class.
To be honest, I think raid buffs and debuffs will need to be scaled back significantly for this to work. The difference between a 10-man which can cover every buff and one which can't is huge.
* Multiple shorter dungeons
Sure, why not? Might be better for PuGGing. A good PuG might be able to clear the entire instance, while if you get trapped in a bad PuG, you only burn half your raiding opportunities.
The problem with multiple dungeons is that you can end up with what happened with Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Cavern. People will kill 1 boss from one instance, then go to the other instance and kill a couple before heading back. Cherry-picking bosses in order of difficulty, and generally wasting time.
I think this would work best if there was a clear progression in difficulty. Instance A is harder than Instance B. No randomly-accessible Loot Reaver.
* Gating is staying
Good. I like gating. It gives you something to look forward to every couple of weeks. And the race among the top guilds is far more interesting. You don't get the situation where one guild jumps out ahead early and rides that all the way to the end.
* PvE will earn Hero/Valor Points, like PvP Honor/Conquest (Arena) Points
This is pretty good. The PvP model is much better model for vendor-sold gear, especially when the top level Points will be converted to the lower level at the start of a new Tier.
No more having to run to the Money Changer in the Dalaran sewers to get the correct type of Emblem necessary.
* 10s and 25s will drop the same loot
Saving the controversial change for last. I think that this change heralds the death knell for 25s.
The thing is that it does not matter how many people want to do 25s. What matters is how many guild or raid leaders want to do 25s. The administrative costs are disproportionately placed on a few shoulders. Even if they really like 25s, I can see more than few guild leaders cracking and saying, "Screw this, it's much less headache to just take my core and do 10s and get the same loot."
I like 25s better than 10s. 25s are much more intricate, and I like the camaraderie of hanging out in the paladin or healer channel, bemoaning the lack of proper loot dropping. The whole group within the group aspect. I will be sad to see them die. But this change does simplify things a great deal. As well, it allows Blizzard to keep loot in a much tighter band, so we hopefully will not see the rampant loot inflation of Wrath.
I don't really think the extra amount of rewards for 25s is going to make much of a difference. If 10s drop 2 pieces of loot, 25s must drop 5 pieces just to maintain parity. If 25s get a 50% premium, then they drop 7-8 pieces, which is a little ridiculous. It might work if 10s dropped 1 item and 25s dropped 4. But imagine the howls in a 10-man when your one item turns out to be holy paladin spell plate (or any item which no one can use). And since it is 10s, the odds are higher that the item will be unusable due to your raid composition. Extra gold or Valor Points is unexciting, especially if Valor Points are capped. Might as well do the 10-man and daily heroics. That's much less effort for the raid/guild leader.
I do wonder what affect this will have on guild recruitment. Guilds always have attrition, but in a 25s guild that attrition can be "smoother". Maybe you lose one person a week, but that's only ~3% of your raiding force. Meanwhile, losing one person in a 10s guild is a loss of ~8% of the force at one time. So recruiting for 10s is "spikier". Whereas you can always apply to a 25s guild and they might take a flyer on you because it's only a slight increase in the size of the raiding force. But a 10s guild doesn't really have that luxury, I think. One additional person is a much larger increase in the raiding force.
You know, this analogy between recruiting and healing is kind of interesting. Smooth, steady damage versus spiky damage. Maybe I will look into it later.
So that's my take on Cataclysm raiding. Overall, many good ideas and changes. The best of Wrath (except Ulduar-style heroic toggles1) is being carried forward. However, I think Cataclysm will see the slow death of the 25s raiding scene, especially among the Aristocracy and Gentry tiers.
1. I really should write a post about why Ulduar-style toggles are much better than interface toggles.