Diablo 3: no-rune skills, chaff or not?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by pkt-zer0, May 6, 2012.

  1. pkt-zer0

    pkt-zer0 Well-Known Member

    Continued from the comments of article to avoid further clutter there.

    Summary: after making runes free, unlocked during level progression, the no-rune skill variants were left at their original power level, inferior to the rest. People have argued that this is indeed the right choice, and having all skill variants be of equal power would be worse. I don't think there's been a convincing explanation provided for why that would be the case, however.
  2. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    I thought I gave one? Many skills have their early runed variants as side grades and in the face of limited rune choices while leveling you may opt for no-rune for a little while.

    Every skill eventually has 1 rune that's a pure upgrade, but it's not always the first one.
  3. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    The way they did it is the simplest way, so your complaint makes no sense to me.

    1) get new skill
    2) get a mod for it
    3) get a different mod for it but you can't have both, just one
    4) get a 3rd mod for it (still can only choose 1)

    This is exactly what I would expect as part of the learning process. And for testing purposes, it's nice you can turn off the mod if you want to do damage calculations. Your suggestion of there being no un-runed version sounds worse. I don't really understand why you think there is a problem in the first place. There is no chaff to sort through, the interface is very easy to understand.
    Aesa, Avatar Z, Ehrgeix and 1 other person like this.
  4. -Y-

    -Y- Well-Known Member

    So first thing that came to me - Would it work in a MOBA?
  5. zem

    zem Super Moderator Staff Member

    I think also, as you mentioned in a comment, having a baseline of the no-runes one is good as a reference point. so all the varied effect mods don't have to start with "-20% damage, but"
    Ehrgeix likes this.
  6. Ehrgeix

    Ehrgeix Well-Known Member

    Seems like a learning process/"feel" thing. I think the feel is really important for a lot of people: you grow more powerful and are able to put runes in abilities and make them better! Also, I think it does not detract from the rest of the game (more options are not necessarily better).

    e: zem's post above is also a really good point.
    zem likes this.
  7. LoneKnight

    LoneKnight Well-Known Member

    I feel like it coming with a base-rune wouldn't be too confusing.

    BTW, don't think it'd be that bad if each rune would be with a tradeoff. Not all with "dmg-20%", but maybe cast time +1s or CD+1 or something. Though, I guess the opportunity cost of not using a different rune works. Would still mean that "no runes" version of the skill is as good as runed.

    Of course it doesn't matter that much. It's really the feel the players get that counts and that seems to be fine.


    I actually remember making this post related to Kongai and chars with items. Runes seem to be easier to access though.
  8. galefrost

    galefrost Member

    While I do agree that having skills start with no runes seems better from a player-learning and flavor perspective, zem's issue can be easily fixed by having each skill start with one rune unlocked.​
    With that said, when playing the beta, I wasn't really satisfied with how it often seemed better to switch off an unruned skill that I liked for another skill that I liked less, but had an available rune. I'm not sure if there's a way to fix this issue without making design sacrifices elsewhere, though.​
  9. banewlf

    banewlf Well-Known Member

    Strict side grades really cheapen the feeling of progression in a leveling game. Whenever you level up and unlock a new ability (or, in this case, a rune) you want to feel more powerful. I think the worst feeling possible is to unlock a new ability and realize that you don't want to equip it. Maybe it's okay to sacrifice some of that of that feeling for greater balance, but it should at least be taken into consideration.
  10. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    I don't really care about Diablo at all (well, aside from the design talk) but I think the trick here is that the gear you find still offers a ton of improvement and even in the old system you'd still often select things when you level up that you might not have wanted to use immediately or anything. I did kinda have the same though, but I think the trick is just setting a good balance between free flowing abilities and getting loot.

    Also the Nephalem Valor thing might be one of my favorite design solutions I've heard in awhile.
  11. PoisonDagger

    PoisonDagger Active Member

    Is the unruned skill technically chaff? Yeah. But it's obviously worse. You don't have to test it for an hour to realize it's bad. You simply read the runed skill descriptions and see that there's no benefit to an unruned skill.

    They could have gone the route of balancing the runed versions to be equal in power to the unruned version, but then you'd end up with the oddity of each rune having some random downside, instead of all of them just being simple, different upsides. I think it's simpler and better the way they have it now, as opposed to trying to nerf all the runed versions in some way.

    tldr: This isn't a problem wtf
    matt.lashof and zem like this.
  12. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    And heck, chaff is not a bad thing necessarily. General rule of thumb is if you can cut it without loss, it's probably a good idea, but not necessarily. Presenting false choices as real options is obviously bad, but having bad options you discard or is obvious is not. Should not wearing armor or wearing old armor be removed? You could say "Yes, maybe it should!" but the questions go like this...

    How many players will have their experiences suffer because of this?
    How many players might find enjoyment in this?
    How elegant is it to remove?

    So here, the amount of sufferers are... well, probably no one. How many people will enjoy this? Some hardcore dudes, probably. Same with being naked. How elegant is it to remove? Weeeeell.... You can made the unruned version stronger somehow, but then you lose a sense of progression and you also have to fill that space. It's basically like adding another rune -- which can be argued to be good or bad, but it is a thing... But if you then just remove a rune and make it the 'not rune' well, how does the progression work? Do you just start with more powerful skills? Does the base skill level up at some point? And then if you answer all that, does that really improve this non-problem all that much? Is it more elegant? No. Is it more intuitive? Most certainly not.

    Sometimes the most elegant solutions lead to a lot of 'empty' options. In games we can move in ways that make no sense at all. Whhhy would you ever wanna move in X way or into X part of the stage or whatever? Why don't we just do all this on rails or something! This might sound like a ridiculous example and maybe it is, but at a certain point a designer can say 'Players are smart enough and the system is intuitive enough that I don't need to make a perfect padded room for them' and generally speaking, games are better for that. While we shouldn't needlessly throw bullshit in the face of the player when we can help it, they are generally far smarter than people give them credit for and babying them isn't necessary. We can trust that they know that having a shirt is better than not having a shirt in terms of protection and don't have to protect players from their selves.

    I guess if you wanted to give not-runes a purpose, you could either say, give a limited amount of rune slots, though the interface would probably suffer a bit and the gains would be dubious (and more likely, loses). You could also say, have a buff that gets weaker based on how many runes you have equipped. It could be a little niche thing and, balance wise, it could work, but is the gameplay avenue that it opens up (having tons of shitty spells) fun? Well, I guess if the buff/spell was cool enough, maybe, but all of this seems like it's just over complicating things.

    It's kinda funny because a lot of the joy of learning a game is separating bad decisions from good decisions, but we accept this better when it's in the realm of nebulous gameplay rather than realizing that a shirt is better than a notshirt. A little harmless chaff can be a good way to make a player feel a sense of improvement without having them do much of anything. I almost feel like this could be a whole topic in it's self.
    Delha, Kicks, chinkeeyong and 2 others like this.
  13. pkt-zer0

    pkt-zer0 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, for the scant few (and temporally limited) exceptions.

    Considering you've written extensively about subtractive design and viability of options in the context of game design, that's rather surprising. Maybe you're already thinking in less simplistic terms, but the issue I intended to point out is really rather basic. Here's the two versions:

    1) get skill version A (choose one from: ver.A)
    2) get skill version B (choose one from: ver.A,B)
    3) get skill version C (choose one from: ver.A,B,C)
    4) get skill version D (choose one from: ver.A,B,C,D)


    1) get skill version Zero (choose one from: ver.Zero)
    2) get skill version A (choose one from: ver.A)
    3) get skill version B (choose one from: ver.A,B)
    4) get skill version C (choose one from: ver.A,B,C)
    5) get skill version D (choose one from: ver.A,B,C,D)

    See the extra step at the start? I don't see that as necessary (...or rather, I originally didn't, but you get the point)
    Instead of choosing to explain the status quo and why you're fine with it (which I already know), it would've been more enlightening if you gave your reasoning for the above sentence (which I still don't know).
  14. -Y-

    -Y- Well-Known Member

    Didn't he explain so that player learns how the spell functions on it's own? Plus a sense of progressions? If your start with a split projectile rune the player might be confused why when he/she runes another rune that doesn't create three projectiles anymore.

    That seemed the gist of it from the article. Not that I agree one way or another.
  15. IcyAirs

    IcyAirs Member

    For progression purposes, I think having a no runed-version is reasonable, but my personal issue with it is that very early on that UI real estate will be completely obsolete, but it will stay with you till you quit the game.

    Something that would solve my issue with it would be to move the boring/straight #'s upgrade runes to being the last thing you unlock, but have it replace the plain old Arcane orb and call it Mastered Arcane Orb instead of being another rune or something.

    In PKT-Zero's progression earlier, this would have Option D replace option Zero at the end game, at least in terms of UI.
    dzebra likes this.
  16. Kdansky

    Kdansky Banned

    No-rune is the tutorial spell. That's all there is to it. Having a tutorial makes sense, and putting "-20% damage" on 80% of all runes would not make anything easier.
    link6616, chinkeeyong and Zejety like this.
  17. Eji1700

    Eji1700 Well-Known Member

    False sense of progression moves units. Period. D3 is built on the idea that you level up, even if they finally figured out that there should be MORE than that, the series did just fine on that feeling alone. Any build that starts with, "yeah just don't ever touch that skill. The starting version is superior to the rune and non rune versions" would be just as stupid as the "yeah just pick this one and never touch another" skills.

    It serves a purpose, even if it's not a very lofty one.
    KayinN likes this.
  18. zem

    zem Super Moderator Staff Member

    I'm just going to hijack this thread to talk about something else I'm confused by in D3. First off, they got rid of scrolls/books for town portal and identify, which is great. Now town portal is just a spell you can cast (it takes a few seconds and behaves a little differently, so probably some people are unhappy about it, but I welcome the change). You don't have to identify "blue" items anymore, but for "yellow" and better items you have to identify them by right-clicking them and doing a short cast thing.

    Which raises the question – why bother, if they're changing the system anyway? I'm pretty sure everyone wants to pick up all yellow items no matter what (you can melt them down for crafting resources, auction them to other people, etc), so I feel like being able to see more about what it is before you pick it up doesn't change that behavior. The only thing I can think of is that it adds a bit of extra suspense between seeing a potentially good item drop and actually finding out whether you really want it or not. In that sense, I guess it's actually a bit better for that than D2, because you have a little wait time for each item individually instead of just talking to Cain and hitting Identify All. I guess that makes sense, but it still seems weird to now have this tiny little time cost to identifying an item.

    (if you don't know, you don't compete with other people for items on the ground anymore – everybody sees items drop from the chest or boss or whatever that are actually their own personal items. I think this is great, but I'm having fun imagining people complain about how much they've dumbed it down, and how it was much better when you had to clear out your small inventory so you could stand over the boss and jam your mouse button faster than everyone else to get the best loot)
  19. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    Auction House. Unidentified items have a higher mean value, but lower maximum value.

    Also it helps force you to look at the items you pick up which may have some impact on the psychology of how you view items. Without IDing and the high rate of item drops all the items may just feel like noise rather than a satisfying skinner box.
    link6616 likes this.
  20. zem

    zem Super Moderator Staff Member

    Ah, it didn't occur to me that you can trade unidentified items. Though, shouldn't their value settle to be exactly the mean value of all the things they could turn out to be? I don't know much about economics.
  21. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    It will depend on what the layout of prices looks like. I think videogame auction houses in early Diablo games and MMOs etc, tend to have a large number of cheap items, and a small number of extraordinarily expensive items. With some weird extra math to it depending on how many classes can equip a given item type, and whether each class values a different set of stats, etc...

    That kind of turns non-IDed into a lottery, and you end up with a price that's higher than the Mode of all possible items (people pay a premium for the chance of something better than average), but lower than the Mean of all possible items (because the prices tend to end up weirdly skewed and aren't going to look like a bell curve or any other normal graph).
  22. PoisonDagger

    PoisonDagger Active Member

    The loot system is the number one thing that actually made me angry about D2 (the skill system felt really inconvenient, but never resulted in rage for me). The fact you can barely carry anything, and everyone just steals the good stuff... what's the point of playing a loot grind game if you have to fight other players for your well-earned rewards?

    In general, action games that don't duplicate pickups for each player feel slow and inconvenient to me. In single player you just grab everything you want, but in multiplayer it always turns into a fucking discussion when we should just be racing forward to kill shit. I'm so glad D3 did it right.
    zem likes this.
  23. Barrelfish

    Barrelfish Active Member

    Not sure if anyone has pointed this out, but I think that we're not thinking about the actual choice facing Blizzard was. Developing and testing skill variants is a significant investment of time and resources. You can't assume that Blizzard would be able to add a new, interesting, and balanced variant to fill the unruned slot for every skill in the game (especially since the obvious upgrade of increasing the damage is frequently an option already). The actual choice is probably "5 runed variants + 1 obviously worse unruned variant" vs. "4 runed variants + 1 unruned variant of comparable power", where the number of reasonable options is the same in either case. It's not clear that the latter option is better, and in fact it's probably worse for a number of reasons (less sense of progression, less intuitive to compare skills, etc.).
  24. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Well I pointed that out (though in less words and detail), but the followup to that is that you can just 'offset' the options. Like, say, making the unruned version instead the first rune. Or having it upgrade eventually to the last rune. Of course the follow up for that is "is that really any better? It's probably just more confusing, just to fix an interface non-issue."

    So you're right, but I figured you'd wanna know the progression of that argument!
  25. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    Yeah this is a better way of putting what I was thinking.
  26. MyotisPrime

    MyotisPrime Member

    Also with unique and set items you know exactly which properties you are going to get, youre only identifying to set the numbers (i.e Unique Axe can have between 4-12% life steal and +10-100hp). So I think there will be a market for unidentified unique/set items. (unless that changed from d2)
  27. LoneKnight

    LoneKnight Well-Known Member

    So, are yellows going to be non-specific? Like, can diablo drop ANY yellow or just a set of yellows or something? Just asking because in that case, you simply ID the things you got from the boss that drops the phat loot and non-ID the yellows that didn't get dropped by that boss.... or something. I honestly can't recall how it worked in D2.
  28. MyotisPrime

    MyotisPrime Member

    There are no specific yellow items, they are all random.

    In diablo 2 rare items have between 3-6 propreties. So when you identify a rare you roll 3 to 6 from a list of available properties which all have a minimum level and a range of value. The level requirement is for the monster that drops it. So a zombie lvl 10 could drop a rare sword with +6 hp but Diablo lvl 30 would drop one with +50-100hp. Also some effects were restricted to unique items or magic items(only 2 properties). I remember that +300% dmg (highest) and +3 skill (highest) was restricted to magic items so they had some use.

    You knew what items dropped where because each item had 3 version of it: normal, exceptionnal, elite. Monsters that dropped exceptionnal and elite were high level enough to have most of the properties unlocked. Also if you were hunting for a specific effect it was better to kill monsters of the level that it unlocked for a smaller pool of effects to roll from.

    The only advantage to kill bosses was they had a higher % chance to drop rare/unique/set, but the actual items were not better. There was good farming places with no bosses. Good because there was lots of monsters in there and they were high level enough to have every drop available.

    This is what I remember from D2 but... knowing all this might be useless. I don't know how it works in D3 :(
  29. matt.lashof

    matt.lashof Well-Known Member

    This is changed. Because of this they are now called "Legendaries" instead of "Uniques". Check out this weapon:


    That's a legendary which will probably drop ~act 3 Normal. It has a lot of fixed properties like you mentioned, but it also has "+1 Random Magic Property", so you can get potentially many different things added on. Most Legendaries are like this in D3.
  30. Warskull

    Warskull Active Member

    No rune is a progression state. Yet, even in their no rune states some skills are superior to the runed skills you have unlocked. Monk is a great example, you acquire Crippling Wave at 11, but don't acquire a rune for it until 17. Even in its base state it is superior to fists of thunder and deadly reach. It just has a better arc and hits more stuff.

    You are arguing for having the skills come with at least one rune, which is fine. However, half the gameplay is the progression and loot lottery. So milking the progression probably isn't a bad move.
  31. MyotisPrime

    MyotisPrime Member

    The "no rune" option could disapear after you've acquired one rune for a skill. Just like the normal attack skill is gone as soon as you get a second spell at lvl 2.
  32. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    I do have to admit I am finding one annoying thing about the no-rune option. When I only have 1 rune for a skill it's easy to forget about it when shuffling around skills and then end up using a skill with no rune.
  33. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    I very much disagree with this statement. Fists of thunder gives you increased mobility off the teleport (at that level), and deadly reach gives you the ability to attack from outside melee range if you desire. Crippling wave replaces neither of those functions.
  34. MyotisPrime

    MyotisPrime Member

    But a no rune skill will never be superior to the same skill runed.
  35. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    So what? He's complaing that if "X+ no-rune" > "Y + rune". Then Y isn't properly balanced, and won't be viable later on.

    I think this would be terrible. Maybe "no rune" could disappear after you have all the runes for a skill. But the first rune is a pretty huge change on a handful of skills, and it would totally reasonable to avoid it. (Example: monk's kick move, appears to go from a cone AOE with small knockback to a circular AOE with gigantic knockback with first rune. In a solid co-op group the latter is worse for dps since it just spreads enemies out unnecessarily)
  36. Shiri

    Shiri Well-Known Member

    This was probably already said, but I just want it to "remember" the rune I had in that slot last rather than defaulting to the unruned version if I'm trying to check another skill, then switch back and forget to re-set the rune.
    Logo likes this.
  37. MyotisPrime

    MyotisPrime Member

    Monk is the only class I haven't played but so far I've never used a skill without a rune when one is available. Rearranging a couple of runes for the monk would fix your problem. I mean at the end of the day the no-rune option is just a minor thing. But like I said, from my experience it's always inferior to using a rune.
  38. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    It was just an example, I think every class has some. Barbarian's first bash rune replaces knockback with stun (not necessarily desirable... although I personally used it). Witch Doctor's gargantuan gets reduced damage + cleave on first rune, not good if you want him damaging big enemies.

    I haven't played demon hunter enough to find examples, and Wizard actually might be an exception... more because wizard's first runes seem to be straight upgrades (more damage/more slow/whatever) most of the time, instead of utility runes like the other classes.

    I'm sure I could find even more examples if I looked for them instead of just trying to remember off the top of my head.
  39. Turbo164

    Turbo164 Well-Known Member

    Gargantuan base is 25, the Cleave rune *increases* it to 32. The only Garg rune with a penalty is the third one.
  40. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    You're right;; How about poison dart then? I think unruned is technically better than splinters if you're willing to alternate targets while the poison damage ticks?

    Although actually that raises some interesting questions. I don't understand how the witch doctor poison abilities stack. Like do infected bite zombie dogs attacking the same target just constantly refresh a single debuff, or each cause a poison debuff? It was really confusing and hard to spec witch doctor effectively because stuff like that isn't spelled out, and debuffs don't appear to be visible, so I'm not even sure how one could test it?
  41. zem

    zem Super Moderator Staff Member

    yeah, I'd like to know that too. if dot damage ticks show up when you turn on all the damage numbers, you could do some pretty controlled experiments with unruned poison dart or barb rend or something. I'm not sure dot damage does pop up though. i'll check later today if no one else has.

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