If sockets are separated from other affixes, it would not take away affixes from from the item, which means more affixes that can spawn on an item.
Imo all items should also be able to get the maximum amount of sockets possible on their item type. Whether be that via crafting, an artisan or that they by default drop with their maximum amount of sockets, regardless of item class (white, magic, rare, legendary, unique all could have the same maximum amount of sockets).
This adds even more customizability.
Just throwing some ideas around here for how many sockets could be appropriate for each item slot:
- Helmets: 3 Sockets max
- Chest Armor: 4 Sockets max
- Belt: 2 Sockets max
- 1h Weapon: 3 Sockets max
- 2h Weapon: 4 Sockets max + 50% increased Power of Gems in that item
- Shield & Off-Hand: 3 Sockets max
- Rings & Amulets: 1 Socket max
… for all item classes (white, magic, rare, legendary, unique).
Yes, to optimize your char there will only be one “right” way to sockets them correctly, but not everyone plays to win. Some people may prefer to play with higher attack speed, even if it is not the best thing to do, or some people may just like to play a char with high Crushing Blow, etc.
If necessary, only one gem or rune of the same type c(or maybe two) an be sockets into an item, both for balance reason and to encourage customizing the item.
Customization is fun, and that is why I plead for sockets being separated from other affixes and having more sockets on items. D2 mods like Median XL already have this feature.
For those who wonder how fun the theorycrafting and the customizing of such white, magic, rare, legendary and unique items in D4 could be, I recommend to have a look at this video where a YouTuber is customizing the D2 Unique Axe Rune Master.
Video starts at the theory-crafting and customizing part.