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Deep Dive: Improving Runes

Written by Marc “Tongbei” Chang on September 02, 2015

Hi there! I’m Marc “Tongbei” Chang, and I’m here to talk about Runes, what they are, and how they’re changing.

In WildStar, Runes are the bite-sized pieces of equipment that let you customize your stats, and even some of your abilities. Available as a Hobby—no Tradeskill required—the Rune system could get pretty complex and time-consuming, and so as we looked to iterate on Runecrafting for the Free-to-Play update. We focused on making it more accessible to new players, less painful for veterans, and just more fun in general. The vast majority of these changes will be testable on the PTR.

Earth, Wind, Fire... and Other Things

First and foremost, the stats that Runes provide have been converted to match the recently announced combat stat changes. But Runes are special; there are some stats that you can only acquire through itemization from Runes. For example, Lifesteal Runes will allow you to recover health proportional to the damage you deal.

All stats have been divided into WildStar’s six Primal Powers: Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Life, and Logic. For example, Critical Hit is a Fire stat, which means that if a Rune has Critical Hit it’s a Fire Rune. If you want certain stats, you know what Rune element to look for, and if you have certain slots, you know what stat options you have. It’s straightforward and simple to understand.

That leaves us with Fusion, which is no longer being treated as its own element. Instead, Fusion indicates ALL elements; a Fusion Rune can be placed into the slot of any element, and a Fusion slot will accept Runes of any element.

Specials Getting More Special-er

Some unique items in WildStar used to come with "proc abilities"—temporary bonuses that could be triggered by certain combat events. We called these Specials, and sometimes a Special was just so powerful that it made the item irreplaceable. In a game where progressively getting new and better items is a big part of the fun, it was definitely something we wanted  to improve.

To keep Specials awesome—but still ensure you’re able to get and equip more and more awesome items as you play—we’ve moved all Specials* onto Runes. With this change, if there’s a bonus you really want to hold on to, you can extract the Rune with the Special you like from your old gear and slot them into your newer, shinier loot. Also as Runes with Special proc abilities are considered Fusion Runes, they too can be placed into any Rune slot.

*With exceptions! Some special-sauce items will still have inherent Specials, like Artifact weapons.

It’s Complicated

With the old Rune system you could have upwards of 80 Rune slots, which is a bit much to manage—especially when they all vary in power. We’ve addressed the complexity of Rune slots and power variety in two key ways. First, a Rune’s power will no longer be dependent on the item it’s placed into—each Rune will provide a static bonus that you’ll know up front. And second, we’ve reduced the maximum number of Rune slots you’ll have at any one time to about 35. But that doesn’t mean your items are getting weaker; we’ve rebalanced Rune power so that it’ll be comparable to where you were before.

Rune slots will now only appear on your armor pieces and weapons. That’s seven pieces of gear, with 1-4 Rune slots on each, depending on quality level. Only the item’s slot elements will be randomized.

To help streamline the ability to match Rune and slot elements, Flux and Module items will no longer be used to reroll and add Rune slots. Instead you’ll use gold to reroll the element of a slot, and there’s no limit to how many times you can reroll it. You’ll also be able to add a Rune slot once per item, also with gold, which will add a random elemental slot, and which can also be rerolled as much as you want.

Oh, and lastly, Rune slots will also never be locked—if you see a Rune slot, you can use it immediately.

Setting You Up for Success

We’ve also made some major changes to Rune sets; the biggest change being that they’re now wholly completed within each individual item. Of course this means Rune sets are now a lot smaller, but it dramatically helps explain what’s contributing to a set when you are getting and equipping new items. Now you can get upgrades and replace items more freely without worrying about breaking up a Rune set. Plus, every Rune set will have powerful versions of individual Runes that contribute more to set completion. And if you really like a particular Rune set, go ahead and slot it multiple times across multiple items.

For the truly dedicated we have a whole new batch of class Rune sets, and they can do some pretty amazing things - and entirely change some class mechanics.

Since so much about Rune functionality has changed, we still need to make sure they remain fun, fair, and balanced, and so the rules for equipping them have also been updated. In addition to needing to match a slot element, Runes can also have level or slot restrictions. The required level of a Rune refers to the minimum level of the item it can be placed into, not the player using the Rune. And any stated slot requirement refers to the item type a Rune can be placed into: weapon, helm, etc.

Runes On the Go

Some people never knew they could equip Runes while out adventuring, so we’ve updated the interface to make this easier to see and use. Runecrafting stations will still be used to craft Runes, and we’ve added filtering to help you find the exact Rune you want to make.

What You Gonna Do With All That Junk?

So then what happens to all of your old Runes? When you first log in after the Free-to-Play update you’ll find you’ve been provided with equivalent Rune Tokens, which you can then exchange for any of the new Runes. You’ll get a regular Rune Token for most Runes, and Exceptional Rune Tokens for high-powered Runes. Plus, if you managed to acquire the special Runes from Initialization Core Y-83, you’ll get Augmented Rune Tokens to exchange for their newer, better versions. Just look for the Rune Exchange vending machines near the Runecrafting Station (previously Engraving Station) in the capital cities.

If I Never Have to Type “Rune” Again...

That about sums up the Rune changes coming to WildStar in the Free-to-Play update! As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on these and other systems improvements, like the recent combat stat revamp, over on our forums. And while you’re here don’t forget to sign up for the Free-to-Play beta!

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