I just want to start off by saying thank you ANet for recognizing the need for new strategy and taking initiative to address balance issues. I'm cautiously optimistic about the new systems team and I think new directions can solve many issues with balance changes. However I still felt that there are still significant risk of unable to test new changes, predominantly due to understaffed or insufficient data from internal testing with the new changes. So I think now is the chance to urge you to consider beta-testing servers.
As many players reflected across forums I think the biggest issue ANet faces when balancing classes is establishing new goals for specs/builds and fine tuning the change. Quite often we see two outcomes from new changes: they either doesn't address core issues with a overpower/underpower spec, or classes get double whammy/gifted so much that they reach ridiculous lows/highs. A good example is druid's current undesired state in PvP given old nerfs still lingered after you address some core issue with celestial avatar; Or weaver in PvE raid with its repeated nerfs happening alongside some significant changes to heavy hitting skills. While the intention to "balance so no spec is towering other" is good, quite often players felt you're struggling with fine tuning and achieving the "right balance". This also translate to community culture where meta builds in high-end contents are volatile and players often need to multi-class to be desired in pug, due to mere difference between meta and off-meta.
Given that current balance schedules are usually months (with ANet saying increase frequency from quarterly), I think it can benefit greatly if you involve community in new changes for 1-2 beta testing weekends before each balance patches. This would be similar to what we had back in HoT BWEs, thus giving developers necessary statistical data for fine tuning new buff/nerf. In these beta-testing weekends players can experience and test out newly changed features, what's valuable will be their actions/build decisions rather than online posts. Then base on these statistics from community effort you can fine tune the numbers without changing/rewriting the functions and put extra stress on balance team. I'm sure the amount of information you can generate from 48 hours of community effort is much better than few dozens hard working internal testers, and those overused or underused skills/traits/builds will become immediately obvious to the analytics.
This could occurred in controlled environment for all three gamemodes, where players are limited to beta-server only. For example PvP players are limited to beta-player locked customized arena and PvP lobby; WvW players are limited to EotM; and PvE players are limited to Aerodrome's Special Forces Training instance (with squad features to invite players).
I think two big things to emphasis in these community events is that whatever players see in beta-testing servers are subjected to change, and given the proximity of these testing weekends to actual balance dates it is important to stress that only numbers will be fine tuned. And functionality changes are reserved to hotfixes schedules. In this way players can actually understand ANet balance directions better few weeks prior and give feedback, thus creating a more understanding cycle rather than people feeling left out.
[RED] Crimson Sunspears...your small family guild since 2015.