This opens up a slot in the profession mind-space in Cataclysm, so Inscription will be stepping up to fill that role. Inscription's getting an overhaul. There's good news and bad news.
Bad and good for Inscription
The bad news -- for profession hounds -- is that you will no longer have to replace glyphs just because you swap them around. What does this mean? It's still too early to know for certain, but it looks like Inscription might lose that particular money-making option. It's been traditional that players would swap and destroy old glyphs, then pay a scribe to get them remade. That will no longer be the case. The glyph change will probably look something like how we change talents in the current game. Still, while that sucks for scribes who'd been accustomed to selling glyphs mass-market style on the auction house, it's a nice convenience for other players.
The goods news is that there's an entire new tier of glyphs being added to the game. This "middle glyph" will add fun, cosmetic effects to your character. I feel like I should point out that's what we all thought glyphs were going to do in the first place, so it's awesome to see the idea get revisited.
Some examples of things we might see would include green fire for warlocks or maybe an angelic sound when paladins use their bubble. The sky is the limit for the coolness that could be created by middle glyphs, and I have to imagine the ability to tweak the look and feel of classes is an awful lot of fun for Blizzard designers. (At least, I hope it is; I firmly believe some of the features we've most had fun with in the game are things the developers had fun creating.)
Profession bonuses to be normalized
Just as importantly during this press event, Ghostcrawler (the lead systems designer at Blizzard) had an exclusive interview with Wowhead. He had some great news for crafters. When talking about what the future of professions would be in the expansion, Ghostcrawler acknowledged the issue that certain professions seemed to have an advantage for some characters. (We're looking at you, blacksmithing and jewelcrafting.) That's a problem, since it leads to frustration for players who feel like they don't have any choice. You take the "right" profession, or else you're just bad.
Another exciting thing that Ghostcrawler reported was that the plan is to avoid "crafting breaks" while leveling. If you've ever leveled from level 60 to 61, then you know you must pause your experience break to go finish "old world materials." That time sink really sucks. It feels like you're no longer moving forward and that you're being forced to go through the hoops created by the outdated engine. This period of getting your profession caught up to your character level is a "crafting break." According to Ghostcrawler, we won't have to "take time out of all your questing to grind up your trade skill a bit."
Ghostcrawler also hinted that some materials will be easier to come by. We won't have to go quite so far out of our way to obtain rare or difficult items to keep leveling up professions; the progression should feel more natural. I think this is probably going to be even a bigger benefit than not having to take crafting breaks. Farming particular items (like Azerothian Diamonds) felt like it could take forever or cost a small fortune on the auction house. You won't have to go to so much trouble to create items like Spidersilk Boots. With so many goblins and worgens leveling their way through the reforged Azeroth, that's not going to be quite as big an issue in Cataclysm.
Random stats on crafted items
Ghostcrawler also confirmed that crafted items would have somewhat random stats, determined at the time the item was created. The idea is to keep crafting a little more exciting and avoid some patterns' being so distasteful that no one ever actually uses them. I'm not sure that will actually work out, since most folks just create items to level their professions to the max. Drops are so easy to come by right now that crafting items can be okay, but not necessarily worthwhile. Still, I'm holding out hope that the itemization will make crafted items attractive, since that will be big business in the new expansion.
Overall, we're still not seeing a lot of hard specifics about professions, but it seems like not much is changing. Balance and particular stats are being refined and fine tuned, but we're not seeing a lot of major overhaul. The biggest crafting news is that we'll have a new "middle glyph" from Inscription, but that's a cosmetic change. We're many moons away from Cataclysm's release, though; there's still time. We might get a pony or a moose yet.
Each week, Insider Trader takes you behind the scenes of the bustling subculture of professional craftsmen, examining the profitable, the tragically lacking and the methods behind the madness.