As boubouille has made an entire list of all changes that have been announced (as well as what was scrapped again), I am not going to make a repeat of the entire listing. Instead I am going to pick out the more interesting systems and make some basic assumptions and notes.
Removal of the Path of the Titans and demasculation of Archeaology
One of the biggest things to trigger my interest was the Path of the Titans. Instead of boring glyphs to improve your abilities, discovering the secrets of the Titans using the Archaeology secondary profession would give you access to a specific set of unique glyphs, tied to one of the Titans itself.
Alas, it was removed and replaced with the considerably more boring “medium glyphs”. Medium glyphs, easily the most boring feature ever, will be giving cosmetic modifications to the abilities we have. In other words, green flames like warlocks have been pining about since Classic. Finally they have a spot to put the Polymorph: penguin in I guess. It’s nice, but I don’t see any use for those medium glyphs.
Without Path of the Titans, Archaeology has turned from the Spartacus of all professions to Caspar, the friendly gold sink. As a secondary profession, it will now allow you to scour the world for ancient artifacts, discovering ancient lore or unlocking vanity items. While this may be a lot of fun (ancient pets, outfits or a fossilized dragon mount), it is nothing compared to what it was once made to be. It now adds arbitrary “fun” instead of an actual game mechanic.
Changes to Glyphs
Scribes will now be wishing that these Medium Glyphs are made by them, and they are most likely counting their profits at the funeral of Path of the Titans. As the casket slowly glides into the sallow dirt, they are however up for a rude awakening: Blizzard is considering making Glyphs permanent. Without the continuous influx of cash from the Auction House as glyphs only sell once, and with the Sons of Hodir shoulder enchants having become Bind-on-Pickup, Scribes had better be getting something really good in Cataclysm, or their number is likely to drop.
Death to communities, guilds are what it’s at!
Blizzard has also scrapped the guild talent system, replacing it with a more manageable leveling system. There will be 25 levels to each guild, and rewards you have unlocked are based on the Guild’s level. Once you have, any member can purchase the benefits (mount, tabard, whatever) using gold based upon their “Guild Reputation”. Leaving the guild causes the items to disappear.
This is a wonderful system, very clear and easy to manage. There’s just one thing added that kills it for Communities, like the one I am in:
You grind reputation with your guild based on (for instance) what bosses you kill in raids, and this is based on how many people of your guild are in the raid. 7/10 or 20/25 need to be guild members or it does not count. I am screwed, because I raid with Unity, but not with my guild. My contribution goes to another guild instead, while I gain no benefits.
All my alts will be able to buy items, because they raid with my guild. My main, however is left out in the cold. This is a serious problem for me. I will be working very hard to down heroic-mode bosses, but all I see is loot and emblems. Many of the other members of the raid will also get nice items from their guild. My guild however does not reward me, because I have not done any heroic bosses according to my guild. FML.
Removal of reforging as a player initiative
Reforging, the ability to convert stats on your gear into other, more desirable stats, has been removed as a function of crafting skills. It will now be done by NPCs at the item’s gold cost. While this is a benefit for all players, it removes a unique benefit from the crafting skills themselves. Since Blizzard will also remove specializations, it will matter even less what crafting skill you have.
This is a good thing to make sure any character could have just about any trade skill (altough a Paladin with tailoring would still be…weird) but removes more of the unique feel of each profession. At least Engineering remains unique, which is ironic considering it being bemoaned as one of the hardest and least useful professions.