This question appeared in last night's Twitter Dev Chat, and I feel is worth repeating:
Q: What change are you most excited about?I highlight that last sentence for a reason. It is increasingly clear that Blizzard are pinning a great deal on Cataclysm, not simply as a means of pulling new subscribers into the Game but as a way of keeping those of us who are old enough to remember 15 Man UBRS (Need Key) as the pinnacle of Casual Game Content tied to their subscriptions. As more and more information falls from various places, whether it be talents or zone previews, anyone who knows the game well is getting a sense that we are on a timer. The Old Game will cease to exist come the Expansion, for better or for worse. If the Devs are now prepared to go on record and tell us we'll want to reroll, I think we need to grasp just how much of the game could be disappearing for good.
A: We are changing the old zones probably more than most players realize. A place like Stonetalon is virtually unrecognizable. It has all new quests and item rewards and dramatic changes to the landscape. A zone like Western Plaguelands has actually been updated to reflect the fact that the Scourge are in retreat (which is not to say that the zone is without its dangers). Everywhere you’re going to see something new and surprising. I think a lot of players are excited about the level 80-85 experience (as they should be!) and the goblin and worgen zones (which if anything are better than the death knight starter zone, if you can believe that), but I think a lot of players are going to want to reroll new character of existing races and classes just to see how much everything has changed.
Outland and Northrend will stay as they are, one assumes in all this, but basic changes to levelling and talents/masteries/archeology will also resonate through these places, but you know I doubt anyone will care. As it's pretty much been confirmed you'll be able to mount up and fly across Azeroth from the word go, the possibilities for exploration are pretty much endless. I'd argue you'll be seeing a huge increase in flying-related quests generally as a result, which is great news for some (not me, I suck at bombing, racing or Aces High, just DON'T ASK) One hopes that by learning about latency issues with places like Dalaran and Shatt over the years Blizzard will give us more than two starting zones this time around as well, that they'll spread the load across two continents. Add to that the mass levelling that will occur with the Worgen and the Goblins and suddenly everyone will be replaying the game in one form or another, and all in the same place. Last time with the Space Goats and the Belfs they got to have Azeroth to themselves as they powered towards Outland... it's going to be far more crowded this time around.
The brilliance of Blizzard basically destroying the game to create it anew it has been commented upon elsewhere. The significance of that this actually entails will only now begin to become apparent as we roll towards The End of the World As We Know It. It makes me realise just how much stuff I would like to do before it all gets swept away in a flood of volcanic lava and angry Elementals. Most importantly of all, it will pretty much seal the fate of the game, because if they do this wrong... we all know what happens when you reinvent yourself badly and it goes Pete Tong. You have to hope they know what they're doing after five years... right?
The proof is coming that they do. It's whether an increasing proportion of the in-game population die of boredom beforehand first...