These runes were small objects that were placed in skills

The names and function of the stats changed several times during development as well. Ironically, after experimentation with up to five attributes, including a system where each attribute granted more or less identical bonuses to each class, the developers returned to the classic four attributes of Strength, Vitality, Dexterity, and Intelligence. The bonuses provided by these four differ considerably from their Diablo II form. Another system that underwent numerous changes during development; skill runes were items for most of Diablo 3 development. These runes were small objects that were placed in skills, each of which had one socket.

Once seated, the runestones changed the function of the skills, always improving them, in five different ways. Those runestones were called crimson, alabaster, indigo, golden, and obsidian. Though the skill rune effects remained, the item-based runestone system was entirely removed during the beta, and replaced with a system where all of the rune effects are built into skills. They are thus part of the interface, and are “unlocked” one at a time, usually around 5 to 9 levels apart. Thus a base skill such as the Demon Hunter’s Vault is unlocked at level 12, and the rune effects become available one at a time at levels 23, 31, 40, 48, and 53.

Early overachievers played very long hours, forcing themselves through Inferno and scoring amazing loot unfindable in other difficulty levels. Those items entered the Auction House, other players bought them and did their own item finding in Inferno, and soon enough any player could farm gold for an hour or two at level 40 or 50, and earn enough to buy an item that would grant vastly higher damage than they’d have ever found on their own, barring weeks of grinding to find it. This seemed great, but many of those players soon grew bored with the game, as all challenge was gone with their great gear, and they had no joy of finding new gear since they already had quality equipment.