I have been spending a good deal of time exploring all the changes brought about by the Sundering, the physical game-changing layout of the old world to herald the updated content to be released with the Cataclysm expansion this December. What I find remarkable is that a MMO is built on the concept of a persistent world, and here's Blizzard deciding to change everything. Well, most of everything. A lot of the world has remained the same, but there are many areas that have become highlighted with giant chasms and crevasses, or where there was once wilderness there are now signs of habitation and civilization. Implementing the technology and code that allows for "phasing" where after you complete a quest, there's a change to the game world, cities can fall under siege, forests can be felled and new roads laid down where there was once nothing, and all this is wrapped around a more streamlined questing experience, leading players to the next area where they can find new quests, easing them into the staples of what the WoW experience will be like.
What I happen to like is the precedent this establishes for the future. The game state can be advanced and changed, a story can be told that unfolds, moving factions and loyalties around with but a patch. I am excited at the potential for stories to unfold. One example of drastic change is the loss of Alliance held points within the northern part of the Eastern Kingdoms continent. Granting the Forsaken Horde characters a more streamlined leveling experience included the utter destruction of Southshore, an Alliance bastion for years in the Hillsbrad zone. I would like to see in the months down the line some kind of reprisal for this humiliation and slaughter, where the Alliance decides that turning the town and its folk into green goo would not be tolerated. There is so much potential and I hope Blizzard sees fit to utilize it to the utmost.
As a player who has been with the game for 4 years, I may not have known it since the time of launch, but I did endeavor to exploring as much as I could, taking whatever quests available and witnessing all the sights for both factions. This Sundering gives me all that I once knew with a fresh light. There are many familiar quest chains, but more there are new ones in old areas, and best yet, old chains with different outcomes, giving me a smile that Blizzard gives nods to folk who may have done a quest a hundred times to see its most recent form has a twist to let the players know, "Sure, you've done this so much it's stale. So here's something new for you to have." I think that sort of sums up the idea behind the Cataclysm and Sundering before it. A game that's six years old is going to feel stale unless it gives the players something new, and here it doesn't just tack on a new area and give a series of quests, it reinvents its own wheel, adapting and changing the old with what they've developed for the new, and applying it in a manner that lets us know what was old is new again.