Written by Kevin Chow Tuesday, 21 February 2012 12:00
Blizzard recently released a new patch for the Diablo III beta which included a number of changes. Some of these changes include the interface for skills, runes, public chat, and adjustments to monster health and damage.
Diablo III Skills User Interface
The skill UI is now broken down into categories, along with hotkeys assigned to each category. The first category is the primary attack (unlocked at level 1 and assigned to left-click). These skills are primarily used to generate resources to be able to use special attacks. The second category is the secondary attack (unlocked at level 2 and assigned to right-click). Skills here are the ones that cost resources to use and are more powerful than primary attacks. The third category is for defensive skills (unlocked at level 4 and assigned to the #1 key). These skills are generally the ones that are for crowd control or debuffs. The last three categories are different depending on what class you play, but they are unlocked at levels 9, 14, and 19, and are assigned to the keys 2, 3, and 4 respectively.
For those who don’t like this kind of automation and prefer to be able to assign skills to the hotkeys manually, there is an option called “Elective Mode” in the gameplay options. This ability allows to the player to modify skill and item placement on the action bar.
At first, I didn’t like the idea of making the skill interface even more casual than before. It felt like they were dumbing down a game that is already casual enough. After the patch went live, I finally got a chance to see how it is first hand. It actually felt like the new skills UI made the game a lot smoother and streamlined. It makes it harder to see every skill at once, but the new UI looks a lot cleaner.
Diablo III Skill Runes
They were formally called runestones, but due to them not being items anymore, they are now called skill runes. Skill runes are runes that can be attached to skills to make them more powerful. They are unlocked automatically as the character levels up, starting at level 6. Because of this, there is pretty much something new unlocked every time you level up all the way to level 60.
Because skill runes are not actual items anymore, there is no itemization involved. This means they are less unique among players because they will have access to the same runes automatically. This also means there is no economy for runes since they can no longer be sold.
Diablo III Public Chat
Another new feature for this patch is public chat channels. This feature still needs a lot of work, especially with the UI. It’s currently in a small window on the bottom right, and all text is white. It’s nothing like Diablo 2 where it’s fullscreen with character models on the bottom for each player. There are currently eight different channels (one for each class, and one for hardcore, trade, and looking for group). This is the first patch where they released public chat functionality, so don’t expect it to be polished.
Miscellaneous Notes on Diablo III
Also with this patch are a lot of balance changes, but I won’t be covering that because they will most likely change again. However, I will say that monsters now seem to have more health and do more damage, especially elite monsters. It was way too easy before, so this feels more like the difficulty it should be. There are also rumors that there are items with rune affixes, but I have yet to see any.