By now everyone and their grandma have heard about the registration of Cataclysm by Blizzard. This has lead to several speculations about what it means and what it will imply. The most interesting would be the speculation about Cataclysm being the next expansion of WoW. And that it's effect would be... well, cataclysmic.
Tobold wrote a nice piece about player impact in MMO's, something which I have ventured earlier. I think Tobold is correct for the majority of the thinking, but he forgets one way of going on with the impact driven need of the players: storyline driven dynamic MMO.
I've discussed about this earlier: make a railroaded story for the world and let players play and think they have caused changes into the world itself. The arch-enemies of the world should be so hard to kill that they would need the concentrated effort of the whole population to take down. And they would be gone, when they had been downed. When the story advances through these checkpoints, the world seems to be changing and everyone has made the difference.
(and this combined with the list Tobold made earlier, it could really work... where the expert crafters would be of extreme need and so on.)
To combine these two up, there is a possibility.
Cataclysm which would happen to Azeroth could well be the launch for the Blizzards new so secret MMO: It would effectively wipe out the Old Game and replace it logically with the New Game. The Characters who would miraculously survive the destruction would be new and naked, and in a completely new world.
Talk about paradigm shift.
All that has been broken could be repaired. New lore could be deviced.
Just a thought.