We actually spent a bit of time talking to the designers about this very topic, and it's something they're well aware of and realize isn't always ideal.
Some changes in 4.0.6 and/or 4.0.6a were just wrong.
While there was feedback from the PTR on what is broken, overpowered, underpowered, etc. there simply wasn't enough data and real world proof for us to make changes.
The third point discussed was that we have an obligation to deploy hotfixes when we feel we're making quality of life-improvements, fixing errors, or simply making good balance changes. Good balance is very much debatable among who you ask, of course. ;)
they also have an obligation to not use the live realms as a balancing laboratory.
It's nice to hear you've been talking about it. As you point out, it comes down to a lack of balancing testing done on the PTR. Seesaw hotfixes are expected on the PTR. But they're annoying on live and show a lack of testing or at least number crunching.
Nobody wants to go 6 months before a fix (or years in the case of things like the druid hitbox or the combat enrage bug). And you're right that you can't make decisions from QQ posts. But if you're only going to give your changes a few days or a week on the PTR (or release stuff that was never on the PTR), of course you don't have data. Take some time to gather the data you need. If you don't have the time, then at least don't try such drastic changes without testing. Also consider that while player feedback may not be justified in numbers, player dissatisfaction isn't just about numbers or data. Communication and transparency
are the other part that has been lacking. Players are more likely to be OK with changes if they a) know about the change (missing patch notes, unnanounced changes), b) know your reason behind the changes, and c) know you actually tested the changes in real encounters, pvp fights and/or the PTR. Hiding from the forums or deleting dissenting posts en masse does not build a better player community.
And at the core remember that we play this game because we find the game fun
. If you need time to get balance right and keep the fun factor the take the time. If changes done for the sake of dps meters or arena representation end up making people not enjoy the game, the changes failed. (And no, I'm not saying you should leave classes overpowered because people find overpowered fun).
A few recent feral examples come to mind:Swipe changes
In WotLK swipe patch notes suggest a 25% nerf. The actual change was more like 75%. We are told this is intended. We point out that this means that bear tanking will be horrible until level 81 when we get thrash. No further communication on the matter to date.
Result: Patch notes were wrong or the CM who said working as intended was wrong. Low level bears are still much worse at AE tanking. The tail end of level 80 was a grind for any place a bear had to pick up several adds. Still zero communication or follow up.Thick hide changes
Bears get more armor. So some tanks rage at the extra armor and how powerful it makes bears. CMs say it's just a tooltip fix. Bears point out that a) it's not a tooltip fix and our armor did go up and b) it's largely offset by an unannouced change: the removal of the phantom Natural Reactions talent for most bears.
Net result: CMs didn't understand the change. Patch notes don't explain the changes. Devs may or may not have understood the combined effect? No communication with the players until players point out the reality of the situation.Single target threat changes
At the same time Blizzard thinks that bear single target threat is too high. They reduce single target scaling about 20%. Bears point out that one of our moves (lacerate) already scales so poorly that that move didn't need the hit. They also point out that most bears took a large threat hit due to the phantom talent remove. We get a hotfix to undo some of the double nerf. Bears point out that bear AE threat was already a little low and was also affected and hasn't been addressed. So far we've had no communication about that aspect.
Net result: Another change that wasn't explained or in patch notes. Devs didn't consider or test the combined effects on our single target threat well enough. We still haven't heard about the change to AE threat. We still have very strange scaling differences between our single target threat moves.PvP changes (will some pve spillover)
Blizzard decides we're too powerful in pvp (not sure why). GC says they're moving away from hard counters and feral hard counters a few classes. The combination of our mobility, ability to break fear and ability to bleed kite is too powerful.
Rather than make a change or two or make measured adjustments, they instead make many large changes simultaneously.
Net result: We go from the hardest to control / most mobile to the easiest to control / least mobile. We are now 'hard countered' by several classes. Outside of a pocket dispeller / trinket, we are left with no tools for any form of hard CC. We are left with the least productive actions to take while rooted. Without constant dispels feral pvp before very un-fun.
A better approach would have been.
1) Communicate what Blizzard is trying to balance related to pvp (1v1, battlegrounds, arenas, all of the above?)
2) Test some measured changes like:
a) Some bleed damage moved towards direct and/or dispellable damage.
b) Shapeshifting incurs a huge mana cost so that it cannot be chained to break CC.
c) Berserk breaks fear but no longer provides long term immunity.
d) Glyph of roots no longer provides instant root but does something useful.
3) Do some testing. Get player feedback including results and the feel
of the changes. Adjust and repeat 2 and 3based on data and its relation the #1 and player feedback.
And it's not just feral. I've seen several players from other classes who love this game who have been quite frustrated with the roller coaster ride we've been on since near the end of WotLK.
So yes, more testing would be appreciated. If changes aren't going to be tested that well, more incremental changes would be nice. And while I can sympathize that you want to avoid QQ flame war threads, more communication is required. If it's not going to be a back and forth, at least document the changes in the patch notes so we can understand all of the changes.