At last year's BlizzCon, the Diablo II team made a big deal about the power-customising rune system, but this year it was strangely absent. We asked game director Jay Wilson where the runes went.
Diablo III's rune system, as we explained last year, is an ambitious feature in which every skill for every character can be modified using various runes, changing the way the skill affects enemies. One rune might simply add an additional attack to a skill, while others have more profound effects.
"We can't really do any runes for a skill until we've locked a skill down, and we're notorious for redoing things. When we do finally decide to lock a skill down, that's the point where we say, 'Okay, now we can develop the runes for this.' So we design out the runes for it, and we do those last."
So the system, itself involving a massive amount of brainstorming and design work, is dependent on having skills set in stone. With four characters revealed and a fifth and final one still waiting in the wings, it feels as if a fully-realised Diablo III is a long way off, no matter how polished the demos were at the show.
Jay continued, giving us a status on each character. "The wizard and the barbarian both have runes—the wizard has the most, and the barbarian has some. The witch doctor has a few as well."
After running into confusion with internal testers over why some powers had runes and others didn't, the team decided to turn the feature off until they could deliver a more complete version of the rune system.
"It was a big disappointment that we couldn't show the runes off in their entirety, but hopefully the next time we do a big unveiling of the game they'll be there."