Ever heard someone complaining about how WoW was so much better back in Vanilla?
"Contents too easy!" is the first cry, followed usually by sometime to do with how easy it is to get loot, and/or how classes are becoming too similar.
This is true but after reading a book (1. Yeah, I can read. 2. The book was actually on environmentalism but still...) that gave me the idea of looking back at how things used to be, comparing them with how they are and you can usually find that we're a lot better off now than we were, I thought I'd give it a crack using Warcraft.
Firstly, I cannot comment personally on end game content in Vanilla, so I asked in guild and two people answered. Ercles and an officer, who'd raided on another server.
A little bit of background first; Ercles raided as a paladin and a hunter, saw most of the content and even had a crack at Naxxramas-that-was. The other officer raided as a hunter and as a healer priest and some ZG, AQ20, MC and Onyxia. Both raided around 3-4 times a week and the raids were quite lengthy, 4-6 hours. Both of them said that 40 man raids were a huge pain in the arse organisationally but Ercles pointed out that it meant people could go afk and it wouldn't hold a raid up as their dps/healing wouldn't be missed due to sheer numbers.
Looking at it, a lot of trust was placed into a lot of people and seems like there was an awful amount of effort required by only a few to get these raids off the group. Also, as Erc nicely put it - "buffing was hell."
The officer I asked raided in a community, then as part of a guild which was lucky enough to see most end-raid bosses. However, a lot of people that raided, didn't get to fully experience everything Blizzard had given us. Only the "hardcore" got to down Kelly in Naxx-that-was, most people were happy getting a few peices of T0 from easier bosses and calling it quits. Kind of negates the fact people buy games to see and do all that's to be seen and done, with only the elite downing and experiencing everything it's no surprise that Blizzard changed to 10 man raids in TBC they definitly realised that 40 people is a hell of a number to gather, organise, buff and keep focused for more than 20 minutes.
Moving onto TBC, which I can comment about and I've got to say, I enjoyed raiding Karazhan thoroughly back when it was the only 10 man content in TBC. It was great, you could have a laugh but at the same time, you had to get serious when it counted because the place was still lethal. More and more guilds started popping up, raiding in-guild only, not having to rely on people they didn't know from PuG's or communities, it created a more friendly raiding atmosphere. Which was fantastic and something that Blizzard had got spot on. Raids were still long, Karazhan took around 3 days to clear back when it was at its hardest. Guilds that could get through it in 2 were see as being amazing and to get to Curator in one night was something people dreamed of. The ease of accessibility that was introduced by Blizzard started to get them more monthly subscribers and as a business, it's something they wanted to keep a hold of.
25 man raids were then introduced, for the guild seeking a harder challenge. Some steam-rolled their way through them, gearing up to go hit the emo-elf himself. They were well designed, with interesting mechanics, graphics and cool looking loot. The people that saw the content loved it, those that didn't, moaned. Once sunwell came out and Muru so fucking hard his nightmares were scared of him, the guilds that were seeing current content started to moan. Blizzard had to listen, they wanted to keep their subscribers and therefore money rolling in and made everything a little bit easier and yet, everyone moaned about that.
I didn't mind the changes. It meant that the guild I'm in could see more stuff, I loved raided and it actually gave others interest in it. By the end of TBC, after being a 10 man Karazhan farming/Zul'Aman pooning guild, we'd started fielding regular trips into 25 mans, such as Tempest Keep, Serpentshrine Cavern and even Black Temple. Yeah, we hadn't downed the end bosses but still, we'd had a great time and couldn't wait to get started in Lich King.
Naxx-that-is was at first, a little bit hard - fresh faced 80's in their heroic epics/blues against massive spiders and pissed off women. But soon, the loot came in thick and fast and Naxxramas wasn't a challenge anymore. The gamers demanded more content but we were impatient, with only a few raids to keep us entertained we wanted something new and Blizzard were under pressure to deliver. Ulduar came out and it was awesome...once all the glitches were fixed.
People pissed and moaned about the Ulduar glitches but what can you expect? It's like moaning to a waiter in a restaurant that your food isn't there yet - you'll get it faster but you cant guarentee that he wont have spat in the soup just to piss you off.
Now-a-days, Blizzard have started to introduce faster raids, splitting things into wings and making heroics and the like more and more accessible, people the people playing the game are growing more and more impatient of waiting and Blizzard has to develop to keep it's MMORPG crown. Loot is easier than ever to get and it's pissing a few people off - hell, it annoys me that some folk that clearly dont deserve the gear get it and make fools out of themselves thinking their gearscore automatically means they have skills.
When I was asking Ercles questions, he ended with "I like stuff better now but I'm not happy." Blizzard definitly aren't doing bad but they could do so much better. Heroic modes were made for the more adventurous but have become unused, as they're not needed to progress - why carry a sledgehammer up a hill to hit in a peg when you can put a hammer in your pocket and do the same job?
Blizzard wont change things drastically in cataclysm, they wont make having intelligence to raid a requirement (although, I wish they would...). Let's just hope that our own impatience wont be Blizzards downfall.
Edit: 10 points who can tell me what god-awful Oasis lyric would be the title! :)