If I was designing the mob strength in Cataclysm, I'd make it so a level 80 in quest greens wouldn't have too hard of a time taking them down. Blizzard has not tuned mob difficulty for the top tier of content in the previous expansions, but instead tunes difficulty (in my opinion) somewhere around dungeons blues or the first tier of raiding. That makes it slightly more challenging for people in quest greens, but not ungodly difficult, while still allowing people who have worked for gear to feel like they have a leg up with the level curve.
When Wrath hit I had a warrior tank in T6.5 gear and a mix of T6/6.5 DPS gear -- I absolutely plowed through all the content; it was a joke. I've since leveled toons through Wrath that have had outland greens through T5 -- all haven't been overly challenging, but it wasn't a wash either.
Blizzard could implement internal mob strength variables that overtuend the mob's difficulty at Cataclysm's release, and then backed the difficulty down after a while -- but I doubt they'd do that. They want people to level their alts, and I know that as soon as my paladin (or hunter, haven't decided which I'll level first) hits 85 I'll begin immediately leveling other toons.
I also think that 251/264 gear will probably be enough for the first tier of raid content. My tier 6/6.5 gear let me go into Naxx without any trouble, and I would expect the same thing in Cataclysm. Blizzard said a BlizzCon 2009 that Icecrown Citadel gear will keep you happy through the initial level 85 content; to me that means the first raiding tier at 85.
"I know, based on the articles posted over the past few weeks that soon PvP currencies are going away. But do Stone Keeper Shards count as a PvP currency? Have they been removed on the PTR, or is it just the Marks of Honor that are being eliminated?"
Stone Keeper Shards are still around. I doubt Blizzard will be removing them given that you can buy heirloom items with them, and they'll still be relatively easily obtainable in Cataclysm through the weekly PvE-like quests in Wintergrasp.
"Since the 4.0 patch will likely contain all the data that we need for Cataclysm do you think Blizzard will give people the option of not buying a disk and buying just the activation code? I would certainly prefer to have an email sent to me at 12:01 AM on the day Cataclysm comes out with an activation code than to stand in line for hours waiting for the physical game."
I wish they would do this. They won't be, however. The press that Blizzard gets for having millions of nerds stand outside in lines at midnight around the country is something they won't let go of.
Make me eat my words though, please. I'll even make a promise. If they let Cataclysm be purchased, downloaded, and activated entirely online at release in addition to or in replace of all the midnight store pickups, I'll give away something cool on the site. Maybe a pizza or something fun like that, so you can eat it while you sit in front of the computer on release night.
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