To begin, I’m going to get a few things out of the way. I have never stepped onto the PTR. The one time that I tried I found the download of the client to be way too large (Over 10 gigs by itself? Really?) and honestly I would rather spend what time I have to play actually progressing with my character instead of doing things that won’t matter in the long run.
My only real experience with the PTR came in the form of a guild I was in grinding nearly to a halt because many of the key raid members decided they would rather get a sneak peak at Ulduar. To be fair, we were pretty much done with 10 man Naxx, and really had no intention of going into 25 man. However I personally still had a few little tweaks and things that I wanted to see on my character before 3.1 hit. Another thing that really annoyed me was that my guildmates decided that nothing else was worth doing, and that we were going to stomp right through Ulduar.
Time for the reality check. At the time, we couldn’t consistently complete Eye of Eternity. I knew that if we couldn’t get people so coordinated that they not die while on top of a dragon spamming two buttons, that we were going to be getting reamed in Ulduar. However, this is a topic best saved for another day.
We’re talking about the PTR! What do I like about the PTR? I like that there are people who have the massive amount of time it takes to go into the files and mine the crap out of them to tell me what I can expect from a new patch. It really helps create a strategy for what to do, especially for someone like me who doesn’t have a lot of time to play in the first place. I also find it funny that the new races of Cataclysm were totally discovered by the community, while Blizzard made the announcements like nothing had happened. I also like that the hardcore raiding guilds and other, “PTRers,” have no problem posting strategies for the new content. It saves me a lot of time and frustration.
Now let’s talk about what’s lame about the PTR. While it’s true that the PTR really has little impact on my overall game experience, there is one glaring issue I have with the PTR. I know that it’s a public test, and it’s meant to work out the kinks and all of the business of supposed balance. However, it really gets annoying whenever a patch hits, and it’s completely different from the changes that we expected, due either to balance or some kind of bug. I understand the reason for changes, but there have been some patches that are completely unrecognizable from the original intentions. I would just rather not know anything at all than to have to relearn what’s what five different times.
At the end of the day, the PTR isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t impact my game experience in any massive way. Is the PTR the realm of the hardcore guilds that want to kick the crap out of the new content immediately? Maybe. I’m sure that it helps Blizzard implement new content and fixes with a great deal of ease, and I’m glad that I get to play a complete patch instead of a long series of hotfixes and, “Patch x.x.01a.” Star Wars Galaxies (Pre-Everyone Gets to be a Jedi-Days) was really bad about that. It felt like there was a patch everyday, and really looked bad on the developer’s ability. It doesn’t feel that way with Blizzard, despite the complaints of bugs and extended maintenance on patch day.