It's especially brave given the prevailing critical wind amongst the forum-posting contingent, which could most generously be described as savagely anti-WotC.
You can go and download the latest playtest packet from the Wizards web site right now. The process has been going on for almost a year and what's emerging is an interesting cross-section of D&D history with mechanics firmly rooted in 3E, satisfying nods to what 4E did best, and an evident strategy of taking the game back to the kind of fast, loose, frontier-rule of law that drove AD&D to such great heights back in its hey-day. It's all quite interesting, actually, more so than I expected as a fan and long-time DM of 4E who felt that the latest version of the game was being handed its hat even before the main course was being cleaned away, let alone after dessert had been served.
Hmm. Anyone else hungry?
Anyway, I think it’s possible to frame whether or not D&D Next is heading in the right direction by looking at what I like and dislike from previous incarnations of the game, and asking questions of the new rules. Does DDN embrace what I want, and minimise what I loathe? This is separate from the question of whether the game is actually any good. I assume it'll be good. What I’m interested in is whether it will be a good game of D&D.
For those interested in such things, I love 4E. I love how its designers tried to distil the essence of a session of D&D into a radicalised set of rules. I consider 4E to be a good model for D&D, even though 150+ sessions of DM’ing the thing have made me acutely aware of its flaws. You'll see 4E's qualities highlighted in the questions asked.
In short, I'm looking for DDN to be nothing less than a love-letter, personally hand-written, sprinkled with sweet perfume and covered in sparkly bits, from Wizards of the Coast to this DM.
Part 1 -- D&D Next: The 3E Connection