The Diablo 3 development team announced several big revisions to their action RPG today. The skill and rune systems have both been reworked to provide a smoother gameplay experience.
D3 now organizes your character skills into categories, such as Primary Attack, Secondary Attack, and Defensive. When you're selecting skills to put on your action bar, you'll be limited by category. For example, the left and right mouse buttons have to be Primary and Second Attacks, while the 1 key must be a Defensive ability. Blizzard notes that these restrictions are optional, though.
"We hope the new, more guided interface will give you an in-game heads up as to the intent of each skill -- and maybe even be the way you play through the game in Normal -- but if you eventually have a build that simply can’t be accomplished the way we’ve laid things out, you’re free to pop on Elective Mode and take the skills you want," said D3 director Jay Wilson.
Runes, meanwhile, have been renamed "skill runes." They're no longer items that you must find. Instead, you earn them simply by leveling up. Furthermore, they no longer have ranks.
"Our goal with the rune system has always been to provide additional character customization by allowing players to augment or completely alter their skills in new and significant ways," said Wilson. "Originally, we tied this in to the itemization system because it felt like a good fit, as Diablo is all about the item drops. But with around 120 base skills, that meant there were around 600 rune variants; on top of that, each variant had five quality levels each, meaning ultimately there would be something like 3,000 different runes in the game… and we knew we were heading toward a problem."
The good part about making runes tied to character level is that it makes leveling a bit more rewarding. The first rune will be unlocked at level 6, and you'll unlock at least one skill or rune every level until the cap of 60.
These changes were incorporated into Patch 13 for the D3 beta so you can test them right away if you were lucky enough to get in. Blizzard is inviting players to the beta in waves so there's still a chance to get in.
Blizzard expects to release D3 in the spring or early summer. In the mean time, they've been making big changes to the game's systems, including the inventory and character statistics.