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Diablo 3 Forum Watch #96: The Promise of Runes

Posted 17 Jul 2013 by

We usually point to several interesting threads in a Diablo 3 Forum Watch, but this time I’m just highlighting one, with multiple quotes from it. The thread is The Promise of Runes, and in the OP and the 50+ replies a bunch of theory-crafting fans debate the lack of varied popularity in the skill runes in most skills in Diablo 3.

Here are some abbreviated quotes from the OP and some of the best points made in follow up. There are 52 replies to the thread now, so I’m not even scratching the surface here, so check out the thread if you’re interested in a lot more theory and criticism on this issue.

Yovargas: I decided to check out how many skills had at least 4 runes being used by at least 5% of players using the skill. The answer was pretty pathetic – there are only 4 such skills:

  • DiabloWikiWave of Light (Monk)
  • DiabloWikiTeleport (Wizard)
  • DiabloWikiPreparation (Demon Hunter)
  • DiabloWikiBola Shot – (this is maybe the game’s best balanced skill going by usage – 4 runes are used almost equally) (Demon Hunter)
  • The vast majority of skills are hugely dominated by a single rune (though only DiabloWikiZombie Charger has 4 runes used by literally nobody). The question is – does anybody have any realistic ideas of what could really be done about this? (As a side note – the Wizard clearly needs the most balancing help. A full ELEVEN of their skills are used by less than 3% of players, by FAR the worst of any class!)

    Bad Ash: I wonder if it would help if you could hotbar a skill more than once? This would allow people to use the same skill with a different rune on its own cooldown. I could see this being game breaking in C.C. but maybe leave C.C. skills out of it?


  • 1) >Some rune effects are holdovers from when the system had “colored” runes that caused a similar effect for each skill
  • 2) Some rune effects are clearly wacky and gimmicky
  • 3) There was clearly no thought given to actually balancing some of the runes for what players would want to accomplish while playing the game — in other words, some runes are the means to ends that don’t exist
  • 4) Some runes probably would’ve scaled better than they did when there were rune ranks, but shoving everything to rune rank 3 or 4 really gimped them
  • 5) I think this is the most important one — because of some kind of art assets / programming complexity crunch in alpha, beta, or some other pre-launch phase, there ended up being too many generic runes that bore everyone to sleep

  • Themeros: Runes as item drops with levels seemed like a great idea at first, but now I understand how much of a hassle it would be. Some runes would be so expensive and, due to RNG, so limited in supply that normal players would just end up using whatever runes they had, which would lead to frustration and rage. — I want my dual lazors!!!

    IvanE: I disagree that the skill system doesn’t allow any expression – no one is forcing you to use a cookie cutter build except your own internal comparison with everyone else. It’s perfectly fine to do something quirky and less effective, if that floats your boat. I do think, given my earlier posts, that both the itemization and the specific skills / runes themselves are not out-of-the-box enough to really give players a complete sandbox to come up with crazy ways to kill monsters. But I think Blizzard cared too much about balance for that (and failed anyway).

    I agree with a lot of the observations made in the thread, but just to do my usual contrarian thing and re-examine the entire premise… do we want skills to be balanced? Obviously we want multiple options for DiabloWikibuilds and play styles, but for some things to be good, other things have to be bad less good. That’s almost the central logic behind items, and maybe it applies to skills as well?

    It’s impossible for every skill in a game to be perfectly balanced (at least no game with complexity great than that of Rock-Paper-Scissors has done it yet), but is it more fun if a game has some meh skills, a lot of okay skills, some good skills, and a few great ones? Doesn’t that make it more fun when you reach the level req to start using one of the great skills? Or are skills somehow fundamentally different than items, and with skills you want balance that yields variety, rather than the peaks and valleys of quality that make items fun?

    Tagged As: | Categories: Forums, Skillrunes, Skills