A fan posted about act length in Diablo III, and asked if Act 4 would be shorter than the others, like it is in Diablo II. Bashiok says yeah.
We looked at act length in Diablo II and came to some of the same conclusions, “They ran out of time”. But when considering it further the intent of the act structure actually got shorter as you went, intentionally rocketing you toward the end of the game. It’s one of those things that makes game design hard to relate. It’s… it’s sort of like a movie score. If done right emotional music can make a scene feel ‘better’ or raise whatever emotion is being portrayed, but if you start scrutinizing the individual components, or just lose the immersion, it can come off as cheesy.
In any case I think we’re estimating a longer game than Diablo II right now, regardless of actual comparable act size.
Interesting his wording there, eh? “We looked” and “They ran out of time.” Speaks of the complete turn over between D2 at Blizzard North and the current Diablo 3 team in Blizzard Irvine. It’s also inaccurate, as best I recall from various conversations with Dave Brevik and the other designers who I talked to about this back in 2000 and 2001 at Blizzard North and E3.
From what I recall them saying back then, Act 4 was originally planned as a finale. They weren’t even going to have a town or waypoints. It was just going to be a straight rush from the portal ending Act 3, straight through several levels of Hell to the big showdown with Diablo. It was only during development that the act grew in size a bit, and gained minimal-service NPCs in town and multiple areas and such. I’m sure that wanting to be finished played some pat in their design, but they didn’t intend a full-sized act and then cut it down from time desperation.
I do clearly recall seeing the Pandemonium Fortress during our visit to Blizzard North in 1999, on the computer in Dave’s office. He was laughing about being stuck in the town, since there wasn’t a waypoint yet, and unless you killed Diablo there was no way out, or back to Act Three. I don’t recall why he couldn’t kill Diablo, but the whole finale was very newly-added into the game at that point, so probably there were some bugs, still. I will contact some of the D2 devs I know and see if I can get anyone to comment on the record about this, today.
In the larger scheme of things, it’s interesting that the D3 team is so closely following in the footsteps of D2. Why not make 3 huge acts? Or 6 smaller acts? How much of the act layouts are being repeated, beyond Act 1 Tristram and Act 2 desert? Do you guys like that D3 is in some ways a revision of D2? Or would you have been happier with them revisiting a few things, but largely going off in their own direction, in terms of locations and story and everything else?