Skill Runes and Skills = Complicated


DiabloWikiBashiok returned to a thread from a couple of days ago, with numerous additional point by point comments sharing some theories on character builds and skill design, with a special emphasis on the interactions with DiabloWikiskill runes. As always, the blue are Blizzard quotes while the white are the player comments/questions, with some added illustrations from the skill runes page in the wiki.

1) Regarding Skill Runes – Have the developers implemented any restrictions regarding possible rune/skill combinations? In other words, are there certain skills that you CAN’T put a Multi-Strike rune into? I realize that the current state of this system is iterative, as are all/most of the systems, but I’d be interested to see what the devs have tried.

I think a rule like this would contribute to the “cornered builds” issue, since a player may really enjoy a particular skill but then realize they can’t modify it the way they want to – “What?! Whirlwind is already so powerful that I can’t put a Power Rune in it!! I protest!”

Bashiok: This is tough to answer because skill runes have changed a bit and we haven’t really given any information out about them (nor intend to right now). I will say that skill runes are not always specific to the types of bonuses they provide. So there’s no such thing as a multistrike rune, but that type of effect from a skill rune is still possible if the rune/skill combo means it is.

Sorry to be so cryptic.

1a) Secondary to Runes – do their functions have to be defined programmatically or can the engine make any sort of “decision” regarding what will happen? I liken my question to something I saw in an interview for (I think) Crysis, where the devs defined the basic rules for say, physics interactions, and then were stunned when they saw the possible chain reactions. Like mentioned above, this is an issue of emergence versus scripting. Now that I think about it, I guess these would have to be statically defined possibilities due to the animations involved.

Bashiok: They are fully designed and balanced for every rune, for every skill. And again, there’s no set effect for any one rune.

2) Regarding the “cornered builds” resultant from synergies – keep in mind that synergies were also an attempt to reduce skill point hoarding, and they boosted the usefulness of lower level skills.

Bashiok: I will keep that in mind!

3)I agree with this statement, but there are examples we’ve seen already, whether or not the designers planned for it. For example, in D2, a whirlwind barbarian only has a few options if he gets Iron Maidened:
1) Whirlwind anyway and die (counterproductive),
2) Run away until it wears off (time consuming, just get recursed anyway),
3) Switch to a low-damage, high-crushing-blow weapon (requires extra gear), or
4) Put a point into Berserk to deal magic damage.

That last option is the one we’re interested in – sure, all it takes is 1 skill point in Berserk to be moderately effective in the given situation, but is the player effectively handicapped if they choose NOT to purchase this skill? And suppose they are a Double-swing or Frenzy barb – that would require 4 skill points to unlock the “necessary” skill. I’m not siding one way or the other, but the issue is on the table.

I fully realize that the above example is modeled after NOT-Diablo 3, but it’s an illustration, not a prediction. And there will always be popular builds, I suppose, but I guess that’s the developer’s (hard) job of balancing skills to the point Bashiok mentioned –

Bashiok: II’d say it’s really too early to say what all creature abilities are and the give and take between them and player skills will be. But in general we don’t want stories where a character is unable to deal with a situation because of the build they chose. There could be exceptions if someone really wanted to limit themselves in dramatic ways, I suppose.

Resistances and immunities can be interesting in creating situational awareness. But ideally that’s simply an issue to overcome by thinking about the situation and not one that stops someone dead in their tracks because they chose a specific build. But again, we really can’t know right now what those situations could be or how they could be resolved. We have a general outlook on not screwing over the player though, so hopefully that’s comforting.

It stands to reason that the passives have been cut down a bit?

Bashiok: If it stands to Reason, then who is Reason to cut it down? And does he have the upper body strength.

There’d be a crapton more drops that way, if each individual skill got its own rune instead of a “generic” rune. Good way to foster trade.

Bashiok: That would be a lot of runes… yeah…

Let’s say hypothetically that every class has around 20 skills, and let’s say hypothetically that there are 5 types of runes even before separating those out into the varying levels of rarity/power. That’s 500 runes. I don’t know man, I think that’s probably an unmanageable amount.

It’s interesting though, and pretty much the system that WoW uses for Glyphs (clearly a rip-off of Diablo III skill runes!) They get around those number issues by only have a single glyph for any one skill, and also not every skill has a Glyph.

Meanwhile all of our skills can have runes attached, and not just one type of rune, but many.

Bashiok, I still hope you guys are able to go back to the “themed” runes (multi-strike, power, lethality, etc). I understand the difficulty of making all skills altered based on a template, but it would be so much more polished.

Bashiok: Runes still have general themes.

As Bashiok says, it’s a big issue and one that will require a lot of balancing and testing. At this point there’s not much we fans can do other than wait and wonder and hope. Skill runes were available in the 2008 BlizzCon demo, but they were only enabled for the Barbarian and Witch Doctor, and only a few of them were available. They were not present in the BlizzCon 2009 build, since the system was being revamped. Let’s cross fingers and hope that we’ll get to play around with them a bit come Blizzcon 2010, this October.

For the current discussion… is anyone *not* interested in skill runes and eager to try them out? I think they’re one of the niftiest new features of Diablo 3, and think it’ll be a lot of fun customizing skills for the situation. If you’re playing against a lot of mobs, you’ll want a Hydra rune so your big skill will hit multiple targets; if you’re killing a boss you’ll want a Power or Lethality rune to up the damage of your biggest single target skill, etc. But maybe that’s just me. Maybe someone doesn’t like the concept of skill runes and wants them to die? If so, here’s your invitation to tell us why…

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Game Features, Items, Skills

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