During the Q&A session with lead game designer Jay Wilson at Blizzard HQ Thursday, we were treated to a fairly lengthy discussion about the Skill Runes system. Evidently, runes will not come into play during the Beta test, which led a participant to ask when we’ll see them. Jay responded that Runes will first start dropping in Act II Normal and mentioned that Skill Runes were the only major game system that still had significant revision coming its way. This statement opened the floodgates on a new Rune system that they're hoping they can get into the game. Before I get into the specifics, Jay wanted us to mention:
Official Blizzard Quote:
By the way, this is all theory; we haven’t put this in yet, so this is the way we think we’re going to go, but it’s not solidified. So keep that in mind when you report on it, make sure you say “this is theory,” but I feel like it’s theory worth sharing, especially with the fan community… We haven’t tried it out yet. So it might suck. I’m gonna put that caveat out there, but that’s the one thing we still want to try with that system, and if it works, we’ll keep it. If it doesn’t, then the system works pretty well as it is.
Overall, this theory of Blizzard’s isn’t particularly earth-shattering. Runes will still be placed in skills to alter their functionality in the same way we’re used to. They’ll still be item drops off of monsters, but the team didn’t think that Runes felt like items in the classic Diablo sense. There was no variation, no randomization. A given Rune-Skill combination always produced the same result, so long as the level of the Rune was constant. In addition to this, when moused over, the UI for Runes simply displayed the effect it had on each of your active skills. During the internal alpha testing, they found that this became a nightmare point of comparison and, after a while, just got to be frustrating for the players.
To rectify these issues, they came up with the idea of having Runes drop “unattuned.” This basically means that when a Rune drops, it’s just plain and grey and doesn’t have any specific effect on your skills. Once you socket the rune into your skill, however, it becomes attuned to that skill, providing it a bonus based on the Rune type that it randomly rolls. In addition, they are considering adding an additional random stat bonus – much like the charm system of the now-scrapped Talisman – to attuned Runes. Bashiok had this to say about the new system:
Official Blizzard Quote:
Personally, I love it, and hope it finds a way in.
I'm not so sure about rolling to see which rune effect you get (it could still work), but I *love* the idea of random affixes. That you could have a end-rank rune for the skill you want, with the effect you want, but you still don't have ideal stats on it. That just makes the min/max item hunt that much cooler, and makes runes more important than... "Oh, I found another Crimson rune. Great. /salvage"
These features combine to add an air of randomness, familiar with most Diablo loot, to Skill Runes as well. Skill Runes of equal level can vary significantly from one to another, and high-stat or “Perfect” Runes will likely become incredibly valuable. On the other hand, if you socket a Rune into a skill and don’t get what you want out of it, they hope that it feels much more like any other piece of loot that drops that you don’t want and not like a let-down or a waste of a Rune (especially considering that Rune might be valuable to another player with a different build or playstyle).
Mystic to wipe effects off Runes.
This proposed system would also play into the new skill system. Since skills are now freely swappable, they felt they needed a soft mechanism to encourage the player to focus on their favorite skills rather than swapping them out for whichever skill was preferable for a given situation. The fact that Runes are permanently attuned to a specific skill as soon as they are socketed in that skill accomplishes this. Although Jay described Rank 1 Runes as “candy that you can throw out and experiment with all you want,” higher rank Runes will be much more precious. Socketing high-rank Runes into a skill will represent an investment in that skill, hopefully discouraging the player from swapping it out for another on a whim.
While the core mechanic of Runes would remain unchanged in this new system, Runes - especially high-level ones - will become a much more valuable commodity. Since each Rune is permanently attuned to a single skill, they will be much more build-specific and, with random stats, highly sought after Runes will be far more difficult to obtain. What do you think? Do you like the sound of this proposed new system or are you happy with Skill Runes the way they are?