World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion was… divisive. In the case of the Barrens, it was literally divisive—cleaving the once-beloved levelling zone in two. A landslide of other changes to old world content meant that, while The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King were pretty well-received, Cataclysm is the red-headed stepchild of Warcraft's earlier history—and that's to say nothing of its endgame content and patch cycle.
But, according to an interview by PCGamesN with executive producer Holly Longdale, the prospect of going back to Cataclysm isn't as unpopular as you might think. "Much like many players, [we] were like ‘Oh, God, are they gonna do Cataclysm?’ And we were like ‘why don’t we just ask?' … Then we got the survey data back, and it wasn't bad."
Longdale feels—like the player base, apparently—that most of Cataclysm's bitter reception came from some secondary factors, admitting that their first swing at the bat "could have been better." Which implies that, in the same vein as Classic's Season of Discovery, changes are on the table.
For example, Cataclysm Classic will play out over the course of a year. Back in the day, the expansion's last major patch dropped in November 2011. Mists of Pandaria would then be released September 2012—which is a pretty huge content gap. One advantage of retreading old ground is you don't have to scale the same mountain twice—Mists of Pandaria Classic, if we get there, can arrive pretty much whenever Blizzard feels like it.
Longdale was also surprised by the lack of negativity in the surveys themselves, saying there "wasn’t really anything that players identified that they didn’t like at all. Even classes themselves—we were expecting that to be an unpleasant response, and [there] wasn’t … I don’t know if we were colouring things with how hurt we were by the loudest [critics] in the room [during the original release]."
The prospect of Cataclysm Classic (Cataclassic?) is a strange beast, to be sure. While the original Classic run from Vanilla to Wrath of the Lich King could be considered a victory lap, these later expansions seem more like a chance to correct the mistakes of the past, unburdened by the stress of developing the next instalment, pumped up on the power of hindsight, and all based on player feedback.
We've gone from 'you think you do, but you don't' to 'you think you do, so we'll take your word for it," and the results are gonna be real interesting.