They’ve Runed It! Diablo III’s Runestones

He's about to give them a DEMONstration. Which is like castration, but oh never mind

Crikey, kudos to Blizzard for releasing a hundred and sixty eight screenshots of Diablo 3 on the official site and all, and I do hate to be picky, but it’d be nice if could release just one or two that didn’t look terrible.

We’ve got some sizeable Diablo 3 news today. Blizzard have done a big post on the game’s new system of Runestones. Where in previous Diablo games you were able to plug gems into sockets on your equipment to alter it slightly, Runestones do much the same for your skills, altering precisely how they work and even what they look like. There’s some serious work that’s gone into this- in short, each of the game’s hundred plus skills will five additional variants. I can’t even conceive of trying to balance that for competitive multiplayer.

The five varieties of runestone, Crimson, Indigo, Obsidian, Golden and Alabaster (which is, coincidentally, exactly what the middle class family up the road from me named their kids) each appear to enhance skills in a consistent way. Crimson boosts damage, Indigo affects the greater area around you, Obsidian is vaguely protective in an offensive way, Gold appears to sort of buff you and Alabaster seems to stun and slow enemies. Or something.

I’m taking all of this from the examples they provide, which I’ve pasted below. It’s not a clear-cut system, as you’ll see. See if you can figure it out.


Whirlwind is an iconic Diablo II skill, wherein the barbarian spins furiously and damages any enemies in his path.

* Crimson – Shoots bits of rock and gravel in every direction, dealing area effect damage.

* Indigo – Barbarian spawns smaller whirlwinds which deal direct damage.

* Obsidian – Provides the barbarian with immunity to immobilizing effects.

* Golden – Reduced Fury cost.

* Alabaster – Critical strikes confuse enemies, forcing them to attack their allies for a short time.


Sweeping Wind is a combo skill that lashes out against all enemies surrounding the monk, creating a vortex of damaging wind that increases in damage and radius across three stages.

* Crimson – A flurry of blades increases Sweeping Wind’s damage.

* Indigo – Expands the area of effect and strikes enemies with additional fire-based attacks.

* Obsidian – A persistent whirlwind surrounds the monk, dealing damage to any foes that come into contact.

* Golden – Increases Spirit regeneration.

* Alabaster – A powerful sandstorm billows with the monk’s attacks, damaging enemies and knocking them back.


Ray of Frost is a wizard spell that damages and freezes enemies caught in the beam, slowing their movement and attack speed.

* Crimson – Beam increases in damage the longer it remains in use, to a cap.

* Indigo – Wizard is surrounded by a swirling vortex of sleet, damaging any foes that come into contact.

* Obsidian – Decreases beam damage, but increases reduction in target movement and attack speed.

* Golden – Arcane Power cost reduced.

* Alabaster – Enemies slain by Ray of Frost have a chance to leave an area of ice on the ground where they die, damaging other enemies if they move through it.


Cluster Arrow is a powerful demon hunter tool, as it fires a cluster bomb which explodes on impact, releasing smaller bombs which explode shortly thereafter.

* Crimson – Increases the damage of the explosion at the point of impact.

* Indigo – Fires enemy-seeking missiles instead of grenades.

* Obsidian – The Cluster Arrow is launched high into the air and rains down grenades.

* Golden – Instead of grenades, the skill spawns shadow creatures that attack nearby enemies and leech life to the demon hunter.

* Alabaster – Adds a stun effect to the grenade explosions.


Acid Cloud is a witch doctor skill that summons an acid-spewing spirit, raining caustic, skin-dissolving death on the unfortunate enemies below.

* Crimson – Causes immediate damage instead of a damage over time effect.

* Indigo – Increases area-of-effect radius.

* Obsidian – Spawns slimes that attack nearby enemies.

* Golden – Afflicts enemies with a disease effect that deals damage over time.

* Alabaster – The witch doctor belches forth a directional pool of acid.


  1. CapitalDave says:

    My inner (or outer) pedant has arrived, sorry. 2nd Paragraph, 6th Line, 1st Word should be “variant” instead of “varient”.

    Feel free to abuse me now, internet.

  2. po says:

    For anyone still playing WoW it’s become pretty obvious that the terms ‘balance’ and ‘competitive multiplayer’ are mutually exclusive when it comes to Blizzard. In fact ‘not giving a shit about PvP’ would probably be the best way to describe them.

  3. Rii says:

    The game looks great in motion. Screenshots, not so much.

    • Stevostin says:

      I like it actually. It’s simple, clear, soft and not flashy. I can feel a huge to work to get visuals well fitted for the game.

  4. Spacewalk says:

    Balance is for chumps anyway.

  5. cairbre says:

    I’m a chump!

  6. Jumwa says:

    I want to be excited for this game, as co-op RPGs are my bread and butter, but I just can’t seem to brew up any enthusiasm for it. None of these screenshots really make it look fun to play. The endless customization for skills and such is fine, I guess, but it doesn’t really set me off on the path to excitement.

    The only thing that even perks my interest at all is that they don’t seem to give a crap about competitive multiplayer balance. Awesome, because that invariably means more uniform, dull PvE class mechanics.

    • Nevard says:

      Surely that means the opposite?
      Attempting to balance for both PvE and PvP forces the designers to cut out many impressive abilities that would be useful and fun in a single player game that would be simply unfair if used against other players in a competitive scene.
      Unless of course that was sarcasm and my detector completely failed me

    • Jumwa says:

      I think you misread me (or I expressed myself poorly), because my point was exactly the same as yours. : )

    • mouton says:

      I am saddened so many people are still excited with this franchise and its clones. It is so unbearably -dull-… I mean, I finished Diablo 1 and 2, but seriously, why would anyone want more of the same? To each his own, ofc, but I am so out of it.

    • Kdansky says:

      @mouton: You might have to admit though, that D1 is a significantly more accessible game than Nethack, and that D2 is a significant improvement upon that. If D3 can step it up again as much (which we all doubt), then it will be incredible. But then again, it could be like Hellgate: London (just messed up) or Torchlight (kinda neat, but oh-so-boring skills and items).

      Speaking of Torchlight: There is no decent mod that reworks most skills, is there? Most of them have zero trade-off, they are just variants on “do X damage to Y enemies”, and completely redundant most of the time, or take boring micro-management (such as scrolls that buff you for 15-30 seconds, requiring recasting them every two rooms). Boy do I prefer Bloodline Champions (no mana) and Guild Wars (commitment of mana for buffs) by now.

    • mouton says:

      I agree, D2 was quite an improvement over D1 and, in many ways, remains way more interesting than most of its clones (titan’s quest, torchlight). Still, it was an improvement over quite barebones D1 and after Starcraft 2 I am not certain Blizzard is still in the “innovation” business, really.

    • Nesetalis says:

      D1 was a pale immitation of nethack D: -still plays nethack… hasnt played d1 in a decade- though I still play d2 on occasion…
      the whole cheating thing in d1 really ruined it for me.. especially with how evil the PVP was (I played hardcore characters most the time.)

  7. pakoito says:

    Wasn’t there another diablolike that did/will do this announced not so long ago?

  8. lunarplasma says:

    The parents in that middle-class family up the road work for Blizzard. :)

  9. lunarplasma says:

    This Runestone system is vaguely Guild Wars 2-ish… doncha think?

  10. kororas says:


  11. kyrieee says:

    Why does “Cluster Arrow” not involve arrows?

    • svge says:

      I assume the bomb is fired with a bow and arrow.

    • Nevard says:

      You ever played Legend of Zelda?
      Just tie a bomb to your arrowhead! It’ll work just the same, but clearly your (usually fuse activated) bombs will detonate when they impact a surface!

  12. Althilor says:

    Witcher 2 is better.


  13. Scatterbrainpaul says:

    Are click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click click, click, click, click, click games still relevant?

    I remember having a lot of fun with Diablo 2 about 10 years ago, but surely things have moved on now

    • Steven Hutton says:

      I had great fun with torchlight recently. I think that I can see myself having a great time with this provided I can convince some of my friends to schedule a regular play-time.

    • sneetch says:

      How do you mean “relevant”? If you mean do people still like and play them? Yes, although they’re not as common as they once were. I personally like the control scheme.

      I’m personally glad they didn’t re-create Diablo as yet another third person cover shooter or FPS (like the upcoming XCOM).

    • Urthman says:

      You’re referring to First-Person Shooters when you say “click click click click” games? Or Telltale-style adventure games? Or maybe Minecraft? Civ 5? The combat in Batman: Arkham Asylum?

      Oh, of course, you must be referring to RTS games that measure skill in clicks per minute.

      Yeah, of course everyone’s sick of those games. That’s why we’ve switched to “mash mash mash mash” games like Street Fighter IV.

    • luckystriker says:

      At least as relevant as people who automatically dismiss Blizzard games before release, I should think.

    • Rhin says:

      Are adverbs still relevant in modern writing? I remember back when Shakespeare was breaking some major ground in that area, but I figure we’d have moved on to better things by now.

  14. magnus says:

    I have painted my living-room black to compensate for the excessive colour pallette and have taken to looking at the screenshots with a fixed scowl to save myself the cliched disapointment people will feel on release. A disapointment so deep they will be forced to download a torrent of it to get over their grief at haviong to spent money,actual money, on a game..

  15. lhzr says:

    >>>I do hate to be picky, but it’d be nice if could release just one or two that didn’t look terrible.

    well, i don’t see any reason to be surprised by the crappy screens, the last trailer (companions related, iirc) also looked awful.

    dungeon siege looks better. perhaps even grim dawn. which is indie..

    • Tatourmi says:

      Actually I am pretty convinced, from the screenshots, that Titan Quest looked way better, both in terms of art and in terms of polish. Which is pretty frightening. (But then again Titan Quest looked incredible and still does)

    • lhzr says:

      i didn’t mention TQ because i thought it might be just me misremembering it, but yes, the graphics stil hold up well.
      it’s weird that a company that has the kind of resources that blizzard has can’t spectacularly outdo their rpg competitors, especially those from some years ago.

    • Wulf says:

      Why bother spending money on proper artists and art direction like those ArenaNet chumps? We have a legion of trained monkeys who’re going to buy anything with the ‘Blizzard’ name on it, anyway. If it’s ‘Blizzard’ and ‘Diablo’ then we could essentially mail them an aged ham with ‘Diablo III’ branded into it and they’d be happy. Am I right?

      The first time I saw Diablo III, the very first time, I thought it reeked with that sentiment. A trailer and a bunch of screenshots later, I still don’t think that’s changed.

      I look at Guild Wars 2, then I look at this, and realise that both are meant to be run on machines from the same era, and I think to myself… there’s just no excuse.

    • Thants says:

      You’re just angry that you have to play as a human.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      What Wulf said.

      To expand so I don’t waste precious posting space:
      Starcraft 2 looks better.

      Starcraft 2 is already out.

      WTF Blizzard!?

    • Urthman says:

      The environments aren’t that great, but those spell effects sure look pretty. I wish Magicka’s beams and lightning bolts looked that good.

  16. voidburn says:

    What’s with the fireflies on the lower right corner of this screenshot here? Are they turning it into vertical scrolling shooter? Will larger fleets of insects drop these runes you’re talking about?

    Jokes aside, I’m less and less convinced about D3… It went from an instant buy when released to a “maybe”…

  17. I LIKE FOOD says:

    Looks too much like WoW for me especially in that leaked video some weeks back. Starcraft went from dark and gritty to WoW gfx in SC2… :(

  18. Morphey says:

    Don’t see the problem with the game looking average. Diablo 2 , WoW , Starcraft 2 never did anything impressive with graphics, yet they all were great games. Just shows how important art and visual style actually are.
    They are not balancing PvE game for PvP?! What’s next?! MMO where grinding is not the most effective way of advancing your character?

    • abremms says:

      agreed, Blizzard has never been the “omg amazing graphics” company. and thier games never look great in still screenshots. its thier attention to detail and art direction that makes them stand out visualy. SC2 is a great example where every unit has like nine different death animations depending on what killed them.

      also, yeah, not balancing a pve game around competitive pvp is jsut a smart move. I’m glad they had the common sense to realize that trying would only hurt the over-all experience.

    • Wulf says:

      I respect your opinion but at the same time I vehemently disagree and I think that your opinion is harmful.

      To say that games don’t need art direction is exactly like saying that films don’t need decent plots, or that bands don’t require songwriters. Sure, you can do without, but the overall experience will suffer for the lack thereof. And you can’t subsist on films with the intelligence of Last Action Hero forever, can you? Well, maybe you can, I don’t know. But I can’t.

      There’s a marked difference between graphics and art direction. What Diablo III lacks is art direction, because the engine actually doesn’t look too bad, it’s just that the art assets its displaying are absolutely terrible, they grate on my eyes. Now, go and play Guild Wars from 2005, observe how jaw droppingly beautiful it is, and then look at this and tell me how art direction isn’t important.

      To be kind, this looks noticeably inferior to Guild Wars, a game released six years ago. It looks inferior to Torchlight, Titan Quest, or just about any action RPG that you could mention. And that’s nothing to do with the graphics, but because there’s no art there. Part of an action RPG, for me, is beautiful settings. I like seeing the next one, and that drives me on. That’s why I enjoyed Darkspore, the worlds had art direction coming out of every pore, it was breathtaking at times. But this? This is just plain ugly.

      If I look at a game and it’s completely ugly, then I feel no compulsion to continue. If the plot of a book is written by someone who hasn’t taken any courses in literature and has no world experiences to speak of, I lose interest. If a film has no plot and gets by purely on special effects alone, I lose interest. If music is written by amateurs that fail to understand the most basic concepts of rhyme, then I lose interest. If a game has no art direction and is genuinely ugly, then I lose interest.

      I’m very caught up in things being beautiful. That doesn’t have to mean real world pretty, because I thought that Morrowind was amazingly beautiful, but I want to see artistic effort there. I want there to be things that I will stop and look at, and appreciate. There were plenty of things like that in Guild Wars and lots of other games I’ve played with amazing art direction.

      So let’s not mix up graphics with art direction. Graphics aren’t important, no, but art direction clearly is.

    • Thants says:

      No one’s saying that games don’t need art direction. They said that because of Blizzard’s good art direction their games don’t need the most technically impressive graphics.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      I am utterly aghast that you could mention “Diablo 2, WoW, Starcraft 2” in the same sentence without loudly proclaiming how Starcraft 2 looks better than any other Blizzard game ever made including Diablo 3 which is BEING RELEASED AFTER IT.

      Because, seriously, it does. Starcraft 2 looks like a modern (high-budget) PC game SHOULD look. It’s probably the ONLY Blizzard game that’s going to be released until Starcraft 3 that’s going to have decent graphics.

      Diablo 3 can be the best damn Diablo game ever released with its runes and whatever, but personally, I will never, ever be able to get past the fact that its graphics look like a game that should have been released 10 years ago.

    • mwoody says:

      Waaait, what? Blizzard are known as the kings of low-end graphics with excellent art direction to make up for it. WoW managed to look outstanding with a poly count just this side of minecraft. So while yes, the screenshots aren’t super mind blowing after The Witcher 2, they’re still very pretty, and they’ll do it without turning my computer into a space heater.

      I should note, also, that I was among those who lamented the early screenshots looking less “dark” than Diablo 2 (noting that I, like many, meant that in terms of tone not color palette – a fact often misrepresented). I see here, though, chewed torsos of humans who have dragged themselves across the floor to die in a corner, which makes me happy. Uh, in this context.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’ve noticed a very recent trend of people complaining about Diablo 3’s supposedly crap graphics. To which I can only say: huh?! I’ve been following nearly every shred of information about this game since well before it was even announced, and this is the first time I’ve seen any real complaints about the objective quality of the graphics, rather than the style.

      Now, I’m a terrible judge of these things; I’d happily play a new FPS that looked like Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001). But it’s worth noting that I’ve never seen anyone who’s actually played the game make these sort of complaints. And some of them, like Flux of, are relentless critics of anything they don’t like about D3.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      Recent, you say?

      I can’t speak for the rest of the Internet, but I’ve been ragging on its graphics since its announcement.

      I expected it to at least *match* the quality of Starcraft 2. Instead, we got something more primitive than Titan Quest, released ages ago (2006!). I will grant that the animations and spell effects are pretty good, but those alone can’t make up for flat, boring lighting and character models that are very clearly from the same artists that did WoW’s (with similar polycounts, even!).

      I was not among those ragging on Blizzard for making the game “too bright” or “too colorful”. I just can’t believe they’re releasing a game in 2012 with graphics on par with WoW. Or worse, even, considering it’s an isometric perspective! I will never understand the thought process that led them to this…

    • Thants says:

      I really don’t know what people are talking about. It looks pretty good to me.
      I mean, if you can honestly say that this looks worse than this or this, then I don’t know what to say.

    • UncleLou says:

      That’s a pretty bad/weird screenshot of TQ you picked there, TQ is still an great looking game, with insanely detailed and varied environments. That said, I am with you, I think Diablo 3 looks beautiful. I only wish metal would look a bit more like (glinting) metal and less dull. I like my loot shiny. :)

    • Thants says:

      Fair enough. I haven’t played Titan Quest, I just grabbed an image off google.

    • UncleLou says:

      If you have any interest in the genre, do yourself a favour and pick up TQ and the expansion. For me it was the best loot-em-up since Diablo 2, by some distance, and the amount of general content (and unique, insanely detailed loot) is staggering. Loved it to bits.

      I know some people didn’t like it, but seeing how cheap it is these days, it’s a risk with taking I guess.

  19. mwoody says:

    Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck I am so excited about this game. I’ve been playing Diablo 2 again – for about the 50th reinstall – and it’s still better than any attempt at a sequel that followed. Like X-Com, everyone tries to best it, and sometimes people think it’s happened, but only because they’ve forgotten how good it actually was.

  20. satsui says:

    At blizzcon they mentioned there was something like 1 billion different combinations, and that many different animations for weapons.

  21. outoffeelinsobad says:

    /nerd rage

  22. MythArcana says:

    This game had better shine like the brightest diamond on Earth when it’s released. That’s all I have to say.

  23. rocketman71 says:

    They already ruined it. Same way they ruined Starcraft 2.

    • Thants says:

      In that they didn’t?

    • Srethron says:

      As far as singleplayer and multiplayer *gameplay* goes, I agree with you. They didn’t ruin Starcraft.

      As far as the singleplayer story, the Ubisoft-like DRM, the Facebook-esque menus, the issues that have kept the best Korean Broodwar players from moving over, and the other standard complaints that have already been ridden into the ground (LAN, etc.) I don’t agree with you. Rue-eened. But mostly it’s just the letdown of the story. We waited 12 years after that cliffhanger for this?! And not even a new race to play? Father Blizzard, I am disappoint.

      But I got over it. I love watching and playing the multiplayer. In that respect (as well as the length+fun of the singleplayer) I probably owe Blizzard extra money at this point. However, I’m not looking forward to the expansions for much beyond new multiplayer units now, whereas before I was looking forward to more of something that had given me a story experience like that of the original Star Wars.

  24. Jonny Miles says:

    Perhaps I’m the only one, but I think a lot of the environment art is fantastic. Overall the style isn’t very directed, it hasn’t got a huge amount of character, but a lot of those hand painted textures are absolutely beautiful. Especially around the shot 100 mark with all the dusty sandy dungeons. The geometry isn’t bad either, when it isn’t painfully low-poly. Those gnarled trees are particularly nice.

    I think it falls down most when it comes to the character design. Most of them look messy to me, both the model and the texture, and the anti-aliasing looks pretty bad. Again, extremely low-poly, and noticeably so.

  25. vodkarn says:

    “I can’t even conceive of trying to balance that for competitive multiplayer.”
    I would assume it’ll be like most Blizzard things and be: “There are 50 options for ‘x’, but only two are worth it and everyone will use them.”

  26. mda says:

    What I’d choose:

    WHIRLWIND: Obsidian
    SWEEPING WIND: Alabaster
    RAY OF FROST: Crimson
    ACID CLOUD: Golden

    Weird that all the ones I’d use are different runes?

  27. DigitalSignalX says:

    What? No RAY OF FROST +2 ??? This will not stand.

  28. Kdansky says:

    I am now downloading Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup again. Damn you guys.

  29. Game-Distribution says:

    I like it. They have’t ruined it.