Suggestion: Runes & Focus Reworked

This post is split into two sections, in the first section I discuss the current issues with the Rune & Focus System. In the second section I talk about how the Rune system can be improved upon so it has more depth.

The One Rune To Rule Them All, the existence of Meta Runes

With over a 100 different runes to choose from you would expect players to come up with various build designs. Players mixing and matching runes to suit their preferred playstyle, or use particular runes for certain situations. Sadly, this is NOT the case. People default to spamming 1 singular rune into infinity and beyond.

Here is why it happens:

  • Focus is a limited and shared resource which all runes use.
  • A Focus-Neutral state can be achieved.
  • Runes have no cooldown.
  • Runes lack mechanical distinction and advantages and or these distinctions are irrelevant during combat.
  • Runes can stagger.

At first I thought that removing focus gain on rune usage would fix the problem. But, I’m now of the opinion that the problem is much larger.

Focus being a shared and limited resource does NOT lead to players thinking about which runes to use. Instead, it incentivizes players to simply use the ‘’best’’ rune. This is further enforced by a Focus-Neutral state existing. This is a state where players can gain an equal or greater amount of focus relative to the amount of focus they spend on using a rune. In essence, this creates an infinite cycle. Now, this wouldn’t be an issue normally. However, runes have no cooldown, can stagger and have limited mechanical distinctions. This is what creates the problem.

Here is my first set of solutions:

  • Give runes SHORT cooldowns.
  • Cooldowns are shared between weapons.

This prevents people from spamming the same rune over and over. However, this alone is not enough. Since, people will simply find the next ‘’best’’ rune and chain these together into infinity. For example, people can slot 4 throwing runes onto a weapon and create a similar effect albeit less effective. Shared cooldowns between weapons prevents player from cycling through weapons.

Furthermore, having Focus-Neutral builds existing is problematic since it implies that you are only experiencing combat at full potential when you achieve this. Combat should evolve in a more healthy way.

The issue still remains that people will try to optimize their focus expenditures. What is the most cost effective way to spend my focus. Rather than, what would be the best rune to use in this situation. Focus being a shared resource creates competition between runes and creates a balancing issue. Focus creates the existence of Meta runes, since using one rune over another is a trade-off. Runes should be complementary in functionality.

Second set of solutions:

  • Remove Focus as a resource for runes.
  • Focus as a stat remains attached to runes but gets a different purpose.

This might seem very controversial, but, it solves a lot of issues. And, prevents issues from occurring in the future with balancing and PvP. I think runes having ‘’time’’ as their only resource and cost is enough, if the cooldowns are short enough to incentivize reactive play and lengthy enough to still validate basic attacks and dodging.

Combat in Wicked is dynamic and visceral. Having focus as a limiting factor limits quick decision making and reactivity of the player due to being limited by focus. This is super frustrating when it happens. Since certain runes are reactive in design, think of the evasive runes. You want to use them immediately when in response to a situation. Being limited by a resource is counterintuitive when combat is this reactive and dynamic.

Managing cooldowns becomes the new resource management. This creates more incentive to use certain runes in certain scenarios. It also adds more depth to combat and PvP when it is released.

Think about competitive PvP in MMORPGs. Players use abilities in reaction to each other and time these. Runes shouldn’t be a push and pull dynamic since combat is reactive in nature. It hinders the combat fluidity. Runes should be similar to a Swiss army knife, a tool for each situation and you can use them when the situation demands it. You now have to manage your cooldowns rather than your focus.

The final set of solutions:

  • Runes become a tools to deal with situations rather than finishers, thus, reduce their damage accordingly.
  • Runes have more mechanical distinctions and these are incentivized during combat.

Runes are now an extension of your toolkit rather than a finishing/spammable move. They are used reactively to deal with situations without being overpowered. They should add to the combat loop rather than override it as they currently are doing.

Some examples of rune mechanical distinctions:

  • The Echo Knight uses his plague bolt, a wizard counters these with a Rune that works similar to a spell shield reflecting the plague bolts back to The Echo Knight.
  • The Echo Knight uses his trample ability with his mount, a tower shield user counters this with a Rune that braces himself behind his shield. Fully blocking the attack and adding stagger to The Echo Knight.
  • The Echo Knight uses his ability where the player creates fire beneath himself, a dagger using rogue activates a Rune which cloaks him in shadows evading all these attacks naturally.
  • A mob uses a dash ability to distance himself from the player, the player uses a leap ability to catch back up.
  • A mob uses a dangerous ability, the player uses an evasive rune to dodge the attack.
  • Various mobs attack the player, the player uses an area of effect rune to deal with the enemies.
  • A boss has been staggered, the player uses an enrage rune increasing attack speed and damage for a limited time.

There are already a lot of mechanical distinctions in the runes that exist. I just think they need to be incentivized more. Furthermore, allow for chaining runes together into your own unique combo. I think overall these changes makes runes more interactive and used more. Whilst removing some of the cumbersome issues. There should still be an opportunity cost for which runes to slot. Runes should not be able to deal with too many or all situations.

As a final suggestion I would say to take a look at V Rising Brutal Difficulty Bosses and watch how players fight these. I think it is the closest thing there is to Wicked reaching full potential, in terms of combat. Abilities feel super reactive.

Rune Customization & Interactivity

A few days ago the poll in another topic closed.

UPDATE: Poll Results, What WE want the MOST in WICKED!

Out of the 81 voters, 64% wanted more options to build your character and 30% wanted a more in depth rune system. These options can be combined with the following even:

This builds upon the 6 suggested changes I mentioned earlier.

This is my suggestion for an in depth Rune System:

  • Unlock more rune slots with higher Tier weapons. A T1 weapon has 1 slot and a T4 weapon has 4. This adds a sense of progression to the game.
  • Make 3 out of 4 rune slots regular rune slots with the last rune slot being an ultimate rune slot.
  • Players should be able to freely swap runes in and out of the rune slots without destroying the weapon.
  • Rune slots should be able to be modified and increasingly so as you progress through the game.
  • Have a branch of the talent tree devoted to runes.
  • Focus should buff runes in some way.
  • Runes should be craft able.
  • Runes should have a detailed encyclopedia.

This leads to more customization of runes and more interactivity. Players are able to work more on their weapon and customize their runes in the way they want. The list below are little enchantments to the rune which players can add.

Some rune modification suggestions:

  • Adds +X charges to the rune (tapping a rune releases 1 charge, holding it increases the amount of charges released similar to a channel)
  • Reduces the rune cooldown by X%.
  • Add a Heat effect to the rune.
  • Gain a health shield after rune usage.
  • Gain increased movement speed after rune usage.
  • Each hit of the rune triggers an Ice Explosion.
  • If this rune kills it’s target reduce its cooldown by X%.
  • This rune gains X% life steal.
  • Projectiles now trigger an explosion.
  • Increased animation speed by X%.
  • Adds X stagger to the rune.
  • Increases duration by X%.
  • Add a snare effect.
  • Creating a Healing Aura after rune usage.
  • Buffs all players within range with X buff after rune usage.
  • Increase damage mitigation during channel.
  • Removes all negative effects after rune usage.
  • The next basic attack after rune usage heals the user for X%.
  • This rune consumes the plague effect on an enemy to create an explosion.
  • Heal the target for X%.
  • Enemies hit become more vulnerable to Lightning damage for X amount of time.
  • Increase Strength by X% after rune usage.
  • Your next dodge consumes no stamina.
  • Your next 3 basic attacks become enhanced.
  • Enemies that are affected by the lightning status effect shoot lightning bolts to nearby enemies with each hit of a rune.

These rune modifications are unique, meaning they can only be slotted once in a rune slot. Some modifications can only be used on certain runes. As you progress you can add more modifications to the runes. Ultimate rune slots can be modified but in a limited manner. These should not conflict with affixes and talents, but should create something unique together. Overall, the effects should be fairly small and not game changing. Well, some can be but not all.

This allows players to tinker more with their build and add effects to their runes, customizing their playstyle. It’s important to ensure that the rune modification effects interact in some way with the other systems to promote their usage. People should not fully rely on runes.

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There’s a lot to unpack here. I’m going to try and comment where I see fit.


Current Rune Problems

I agree on most of the listed issues. Runes are inherently powerful and can be used with reckless abandon. This is further exacerbated by existing enchantments that incentivize specific runes, trivializing encounters regardless of what the enemy is. I don’t think it’s bad for runes to be powerful, or inflict strong Crowd Control. There has to be a suitable cost to it though.

For example, runes being able to stagger I think is splendid. You can hold onto your rune for a strong attack you know this enemy does and interrupt it. The problem arises when you don’t have to wait for this moment and can stagger them ad infinitum which removes any decision making. I think this is furthered by another aspect I don’t see mentioned very much. Too many runes are allowed in a general sense. We have obvious limits on “spells” being used for only Staves but plenty of runes are only required to be on a one-handed weapon instead of a specific weapon type.

Rune Cooldowns

I will agree this is a symptom of runes being general in their requirements. I believe this can be mitigated if runes have more restrictions on the weapon types they are allowed on. I will admit I think cooldowns can help with PvP balance especially with potentially problematic runes like Blink. Any spam players are concerned about would be nipped in the bud with this and PvP becomes dramatically easier to balance.

I do know there’s a good amount of players that are “cooldown fatigued” because many games rely on it. ARPG players loathe it for various reasons, a major one being it encourages a passive playstyle in those games. Removing the reliance on Focus also removes the freedom of chaining together the runes you want and takes away the “comboing” Moon was going for. I don’t know how to improve the Mage fantasy either with cooldowns like this.

On the flip side, cooldowns would help remove the idea of having “buff weapons” in your other slots and encourage you to take different gear so you can adapt to the enemies along your journey. I don’t know what future support runes we’ll get but it would also prevent spamming of them, or even spamming the current Heal Aura in groups. I won’t deny cooldowns make balance much easier.

Purpose of Runes Change

I don’t think it’s inherently wrong for runes to be used as finishers. It can ultimately be what you will want more: damage, defense, utility, etc. Do you want to be a glass cannon in your setup? Go ahead and put on some more offensive runes. Want to be a wall for your squad? Shield runes. What’s important is striving to make sure they can all be used and not feel like you’re missing out too much. I do enjoy some of your mechanical suggestions however.

Rune Customization

The community is coming to a similar conclusion I think. I know Path of Exile has a similar system which might be fueling this from others but it’s not bad. There’s potential for this as long as it doesn’t go too far into it, we want to tread carefully in our potential power.

I won’t disagree with the progression but what of White rarity weapons then? One of their strengths is they already have four available slots. Not to mention too many runes can to be too powerful on enchanted gear. I don’t think this is the route to take with it.

I’m “eh” on this one. I don’t think we need to introduce ultimates into this game. It doesn’t feel like the place for it. The rest of the suggestions I can get behind though. They’re all pretty solid.

I like the idea of these effects. I don’t know yet if there’s any I’d like to see as an enchantment but I do like having them available somewhere. It’s another layer of customization for buildcraft that I think we need. As always though, I’m wary of too much power but nothing has to be set-in-stone.

Great write-up. I’m not completely against cooldowns now, haha.

Mission Passed!

Respect +

I will say though, for the second part I was running out of gas a bit. I’m going to rewrite it a bit later today. Since, with Tier weapons I meant it literally, the weapons you find before Warrick are Tier 1 and you can upgrade them to Tier 2. I didn’t mean White/Blue/Purple/Gold. I need to be a bit more clear with that.

For the mage fantasy I think a lot boils down to number tweaks, short cooldowns, investing into focus for rune damage/cdr or something and then having charges on a rune. Whilst adding other modifications, issue is, it all sounds very hypothetical.

Ultimate’s I’m not sure about myself. There is a rune called Eruption, and no you don’t start a guitar solo. But, it costs 150 focus, has a lot of i-frames, you levitate into the air and then drop down and do an attack similar to nova but for two handed weapons. Damage is poor though for the cost. This felt to me like an ultimate for some reason.

Also, thanks for always taking the time to respond in a well articulated manner!

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There’s so much to unpack here and so instead of breaking down every point I’ll rather give my perspective and am happy to discuss further.

First off this game is in the ARPG genre (but has a strong souls influence); both games have a meta of which is completely irrelevant. Players will play what they want, full stop. Some players will gravitate to what’s most effective, some players will gravitate to what has the lowest skill ceiling, some players will gravitate to what they like, and some people will just make odd builds, etc.

No matter how people play the game it will be at their own pace and I feel strongly it’s more a developers job to give the players access to as many “tools” as possible without trivializing the games mechanics.

So farm my playtime has been heavy spent on knife/Bow and sword/Bow so far. I’m egar to try other weapons more than I have so far (aI have tried them for the record) but I’m just not done with experimenting on what I have at the moment. I’ve tried every arrow rune currently available and they all have an identity aside from burning/plague which seems to have major overlap. So yeah runes should have an identity and I believe they do. Some will be just about damage, others status and damage, some utility, etc.

(Side bar, I think reactions between elements would be a cool addition to the game while we’re on the subject of runes/focus).

The way I see it runes are an extension of the weapon type (because some are restricted) that gives the player tools beyond a normal attack to deal with different problems in real time. In addition to the multi weapon platform this means we have access to more than one set of tools at a time. And it feels great to play, fun is important in a game after all. I’ll add that with more tools in the players hands it opens the door to more challenging fights for the developers. It’s not a one way door to “everything is OP and the game has no depth”.

Runes don’t need a cool down, all you’re doing is removing a way to play the game.

Runes can stagger… Yes and? That’s good. The solution to this has been in other games already with great success. If there is access to too much CC then simply give enemies a resistance to all hard CC after the status from the hard CC ends for “X” duration. Eliminations a healthy amount of cheese without removing the use for CC skills in the first place.

I think it’s in the community and developers best interest to allow as many play styles as possible. You could simply put more of an buff to heavy attack weapon scaling if you want that to be more inline with damage from some focus abilities. Which would be cool because you can lean towards builds that completely ignore focus if they so choose. IMO they feel best in combination with one another, but that’s because that is how I see the game and enjoy it.

Lastly I think the current design for focus makes sense. Currently if you want strong access to focus you need to make use of ring slots and gear slots to strengthen both your access to focus and rune ability damage. Investment should be rewarded that’s one of the pillars of making a build viable.

TLDR
I strongly disagree with all of your solutions, full stop. Runes have an identity, there will certainly be some overlap for different elements and weapons (IE, several options for nukes, CC, mobility, buffs, etc). We don’t have the full game, more runes to come so I can only imagine we get even more tools/skill identity. IMO focus is handled as well as any other stat, you invest in it a d gain access to more damage and more range of skills. Further the amount of focus in gear does not exclude access to other valuable stats so why remove it from runes?

Side note, 3 pieces of focus Regen and as close to 90% focus gain as you can get feels really great when combined with focus on damage delt. Really smooth gameplay.

I’m not quite sure how to respond to this, and I mean no disrespect. But, you seem to disagree with everything I typed, yet I don’t see a lot of arguments to respond to. And, the arguments I do see get disproven by my OP, in my opinion.

Again I mean no disrespect, but, it seems that you are either largely unaware of the issue or have no qualms with it. If it’s the former then it’s fine, but if it’s the latter then I’ll refer you to one of the biggest discussion on the forums:

[Moon Studio] What is the intended experience?

Souls or Diablo Combat? You can’t do both

This mostly stemmed from the Rune Spam builds that are seen a lot.

  • Throw runes for two-handed weapons.

  • Cone-shot for bows.

  • Flurry runes for daggers.

Since people want the visceral combat but the rune spam overrides that feeling, simply put.

That’s kinda misconstruing what I 'm saying. Runes being able to stagger is fine. Where it becomes an issue is when you both have no cooldown on the rune and have a Focus-Neutral build. This results in a perma stagger build where you can defeat The Echo Knight in 30 seconds in a corner. There is simply too much discussion/controversy on this matter for it to not be an issue.

I think we all agree with this, but I do feel like we are too far apart on what healthy playstyles are; since we disagree on the fundamentals.

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Not going to touch your first response. I’ll only mention I have seen and read through those topics.

I gave you a long standing solution from other games which you’ve ignored in the second response.

Third response is what it is and seems pretty back handed. It doesn’t strike me you have any idea what I think the fundamentals are to begin with.

So you strongly disagree with my entire OP, and provide no arguments for it.

Instead I should have a discussion based on your perspective, which my OP largely addresses.

I still respond, but you tell me I ignore 1 solution, when you ignore my entire OP.

The fundamentals which I refer to are what facilitate unhealthy playstyles like rune spam, as addressed in the OP.

Which you would have known if you read the OP, since you misinterpreted it.

To me this seems extremely disingenuous to say the least, so I bid you farewell.

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I agree that runes and focus should be reworked, I personally hate when players are allowed to just spam one ability over and over because I don’t feel like the player is truly engaging with the mechanics on offer.

I would like to see a cooldown to runes, I think that would be an easy fix but could also potentially just be a band-aid to the bigger issue.

I think it would be really cool if not all runes relied on focus. Some runes could “corrupt” the player, leaving them with less health/stamina etc. but giving the player a chance to pull of a powerful move, almost like a one-time special attack which would then have a long wait time, this then incentivises strategic play where the player must find the right moment to pull it off or they could lose the fight, almost like the player having a contingency plan but with the added depth of risk and reward. Emphasising that it shouldn’t be used sporadically and players should be cautious but whilst also giving the player hope that they can still win a fight even when the odds are against them. (e.i. fighting multiple enemies)

You also state that focus should be removed as a resource for runes, would focus remain but be utilised differently or would it flat out be removed? If focus wasn’t utilised for runes then I would find it interesting if it was used as a damage buff; depending on how much focus the player has whilst using a rune then the more damage is dealt.

Interesting ideas! I‘ll try to comment/give my two on all proposals.

A baseline arbitrary Cooldown for Runes can feel restrictive and unfun.

Possible alternatives/ improvements:

  • Cooldowns get longer for the same Skill if used in succession
    → Bursting is still possible, spamming gets prevented
  • Cooldowns are tied to the Style of Rune used (offense/defense/mobility/utility/buff/…)
    → Diversity and flexible builds are promoted
  • No Cooldowns but Focus Costs ramps up
    → Spamming is still possible, but only with major investment and only for so long

Possible. Already commented on that proposal kn another thread. ^^‘

Finishers that are too costly to spam are fine.
100% agree on Runes focussing on mechanics. People will always find the best damage/cost efficient Rune. If Runes are truly different in their use, there wont truly be an objectively best Rune, just options.
Already made a Thread: „Mechanics Need Love!“

Hope this helps :slight_smile:

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Yes, absolutely. The current state of the runes allows the player to freely spam without any tension or risk at play. Emphasising that players should think tactically about when to use a rune is very much needed when it comes to encounters. Adding a cooldown that gets longer the more the player uses that rune would be a perfect balance and it also enables players to not just spam one rune but try out their other runes.

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The question then would be, what would happen to people stacking similar runes - all the different types of throw for example?

I think there is a lot of untapped potential with runes and their usage. I do think we all want the same, more varied rune usage and less one rune spam.

@Astont36

Cooldowns will be a band-aid solution if there is a lack of mechanical distinctions with the runes since people will default to the second best rune. If runes have varied uses and these are incentivized, or if there are unique combo’s between runes then it becomes a good solution. It is contingent on other factors.

Would be cool if there was a vampirism effect where runes would cost health. And then you have this interaction if trying to get lifesteal to counter the health cost.

My main issue is just that focus is a shared resource between all runes. It thus creates competition between the runes. If it is removed it could influence runes in a different way. Like damage/cooldown scaling on runes.

I think overall the destination is the most important. And for me that is incentivizing varied rune usage with mechanical distinctions. It would make combat feel so much more fluid and reactive.

@Evocator1000

Sure, cooldowns can feel restrictive, but, I do think it is a matter of numbers tuning. Personally, I feel like anywhere between 6-9 seconds would be healthy. I just want combat to feel more responsive and reactive.

How about multiple charges for the same rune, so you can unload multiple runes at once by ‘’charging’’ it or just tapping it and then unleashing them.

Cooldowns for the same Style of Rune, I can 100% get behind. More incentive for varied rune usage I am all for.

Also, I’ll check out your thread on that.

I do think for countering the multiple throwing runes we could limit it to 2 runes of the same ‘’type’’. Cycling 4 throwing runes doesn’t seem healthy either :joy:

Edit: I’m also quite happy with the persistent focus nerfs, I hope cooldowns and more mechanical distinctions between runes are next.

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