Well we have had patch 4.1 on the PTR for over a month now and Blizzard is still implementing more and more features. So much for smaller and faster content patches, I think it safe to call this new initiative a failure.
If Blizzard really wanted smaller and faster patch cycles they will really need to learn how to pair features back to the way they did them early on in Vanilla. To a point before I even started playing the game.
A three-month cycle like the following would be a better structure for a faster patch cycle.
1.5 months development no PTR
.5 months on PTR for initial testing of core new features or balance fixes.
1.0 month to react to PTR feed back and implement for release to Live.
At the point the initial build is opened to the public on the PTR all feature creep stops and the features of the patch are locked in.
The current cycle of 1-2 months no PTR, then 2-3 months PTR testing and implementation of new features requiring more testing is just the SoS, that they have said they want to get away from.
On another note I thought the new leveling in Cata was a needed improvement to the leveling process and in many ways leveling is much better. The only point of contention I have over the new phase to all hell process is that I can no longer just go to the quest hubs I like when leveling alts. The first 1 maybe 2 times the leveling on rails method was interesting, now it is just a pain in the ass and more boring than 100s of kill 10 rats quests.
What am I saying here? Simple if you are going to have a lot of phasing to tell a progressive story, great but at least do it in small independent chunks. I don’t mind 1 quest up lock away until all other quest chains are completed just have the required chains run in parallel and not linear. I don’t even mind a short quest chain to open up the initial set up hubs. However all of the new zones were way too linear in the storyline progression.
On a similar gripe the zones are either too small or the distribution of resource nodes was not well done. In Wrath and even BC there was a base level set of herbs and ore that were found everywhere. The higher zones usually had fewer richer nodes of the base when introducing new ore types but by the time you hit the level cap zones you still found nodes of the early resources. In Cata it seems like ok Zone A has PQR and that is all, Zone B has RST there is very little overlap and so what you have is a horde of farmers swarming 1 zone at a time based upon current AH prices. A more even distribution of resources and portals allows for a more dynamic player concentration balancing. A set of portals like in SW and Oggrimar should be set up in Darnasus and Undercity or all of the capital cities should be linked via portals, even if there is a level restriction to use them like 50 or 60 but they should still eventually be linked, and no I am not saying in patch 5.x I am thinking before 4.2 at the latest.