"We Know These Hotfixes Snuck Up On People"
Blizzard has apologised to players who discovered that their Diablo III characters and builds had been nerfed overnight, defending the hotfix strategy as a way of 'quickly reacting to critical design and balance issues, bugs, and other problems.' Future tweaks will apparently be applied by larger, fully-announced updates, such as giving a "straight-up buff" to legendary items.
In a recent developer blog post, Blizzard explained that balancing some specific skills (such as the Wizard's Force Armour and the Demon Hunter's Lingering Fog) became first order strategies in Inferno Difficulty, meaning that players were concentrating on specific skills rather than class diversity. The developers took the decision to balance these skills immediately via hotfix.
Inferno is intended to be extremely difficult, but with some specific skills, a few classes were simply able to progress far more easily than intended.
This made the [other] classes, which were about where they were supposed to be, seem very underpowered. It also created the perception that the classes doing well were intended to rely on specific runes in all their builds, and the other classes were just broken.
This is the opposite of what’s true. If any single skill or rune feels absolutely required to progress, it means that skill is working against our goal of encouraging build diversity — and those “required” skills need to be corrected.
Blizzard will be "keeping a close eye" on Inferno, especially in terms of the damage taken by players that tends to barely scratch or kill outright, and plan to fix this in an upcoming patch. Going forward, Blizzard intends to keep the community better informed about hotfixes in the forums, preferably during the brainstorming stage.
We know these hotfixes snuck up on people, and it took us a day or so to communicate that they had gone live. However, our intent moving forward is that when there are circumstances where a hotfix is necessary, we’ll communicate changes that could impact your ability to play your class through ‘Upcoming Changes’ posts in the General forum. Ideally, we’ll let you know as soon as we even have the idea that we want to make that kind of change.
In terms of future patches, v.1.0.2 will include a number of service improvements, while the following v.1.0.3 update will deliver a slew of balance fixes. Expect a "straight-up buff" to the power of legendary items and a reduction in blacksmith training and gem-combining costs, amongst plentiful Inferno tweaks.
Still on the fence? Why not check out our Diablo III review?