If you listened to the most recent installment of The Diablo Podcast, you heard Azzure expound his theory that the radical changes coming to skill runes will non-item them. His theory is that, at least partially due to the massive inventory spam issue, runestones are being changed to some sort of skill attuning system, where all the effects will still be available, but that the “items you find” sense of runestones will be removed from the game.
The newly-reduced stash size seems one piece of evidence for that, and a new tweet reply from Bashiok seems to hint at the same conclusion:
The skill and rune systems are still in development as you’re aware. We’ll let you know as soon as we’re ready. —Bashiok
Skill runes, in terms of items that you find and stick into skills to give them new effects, have been one of the longest-lasting features in Diablo III; so I’m not sure if this hypothetical change is surprising, or overdue, the way every other major system in the game has changed form multiple times during the past few years. That said, it’s a big damn change.
Part of Azzure’s theory was that items will remain part of the runestone system; perhaps as consumables. These aren’t his words, but the theory is that you’d find something like a Level 4 Training Scroll of Obsidian Runestone, and “use” it to grant your character a higher ability in that runestone effect, on a given skill. That keeps item finding in the system, adds back something of the character building/customization system D3’s no-skill points and auto-attributes removed from the game, and helps to solve the problem of inventories full of runes, as well as the awkward issue of what happens to item-style runestones when you respec skills — do they stay in the skill you’re no longer using? Do they pop out into your inventory? Do you have to carry a bunch of spare runestones to stick into skills when you change them around for a new situation?
I’m sure this won’t be exactly how the system is run, but removing skill runes as items does seem a pretty logical step, to solve a variety of issues. Plus this way it won’t be so confusing when Blizzard puts item-socketable runes and runewords back in for the first or second expansion.
What do you guys think? Can you imagine a whole new style of runestones that aren’t items anymore? Got any improvements over Azzure’s concept? Or do you like them as items and think the inventory issue could be easily solved by just adding another inventory tab that only holds skill runes? (Which isn’t totally crazy, as there were inventory tabs for different types of items in a much earlier version of the game.)