1b. Does # of players in a raid or battle matter in MMO’s?
Size always matters, but I also believe it is relative to the content that is being attempted. Expect me to edit this reply. I am very tired tonight, but it is long overdue that I post a reply to some of these questions. Hopefully my answers make some sort of sense.
PvE – I have spent a lot of time on the EQ TLPs and this question made me think of some of the experiences I had on these raids. EQ being so primitive with raid scripting and with the boosted player power on TLPs almost 99% of the fights are simply zerg kills. I don’t think this provides the individual player with much immersion. You had your cleric and warrior rot and everything else was just don’t do something stupid. However, on the TLPs I was a member of guilds that started splitting the raid content as many thin as roster allowed. This is where my entertainment from raiding reached new highs. Every single player and class in the raid was required to be playing at 100% or everyone in the raid would know exactly who was slacking or struggling to understand their role. The content was not challenging but splitting whit as low as number provided a challenge. That gave the true rewarding feeling of defeating the content.
PvP – For PvP part of this question I found myself thinking about some of the Planetside 2 battles I was part of that had near 500 people involved. I personally loved it! I would be running to the front line and would reach the top of the last hill and see a massive battle taking place. it was just incredible!! However, if the player is someone that wants to have the glory if changing the tides of a battle, when battles are too large that is just impossible. More times than not the victor is determined by zerg, who ever brought the most bodies to the fight. I did however absolutely love every minute of Alterac Valley in WoW. Tons of content to manipulate the tides of the fight.
1c. What is excessive?
I mostly covered this in my 1b answer.
In the end i think a variety of content that requires a variety of numbers would be ideal. Have that boss mob that is determined unkillable in era that guilds unite to attempt (makes sure it has a loot table! lol). Have content that takes 1, 2 or 3 groups. I don’t think size determines the success of a game or players fun. What matters most is challenging well scripted content. I would also have to add I believe majority of content designed for 1 group would provide the player with the most fun and rewarding experiences.