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    Defiled Crypt variations.

    Defiled Crypt variations.

    Creating good random map generators is a difficult task in video games, and something we’ve seen done with relative success in all of the Diablo games. Diablo 1 had four dungeon types with quite different maps for each area, though all were just big squares with different arrangements of the pieces within them. (The Hellfire expansion added two tile sets, but both exactly reused the random map grids from Diablo 1 areas.)

    Diablo 2 diversified the random maps a lot, especially in the dungeons which could vary quite a bit in shape and layout. The surface areas were less varied, and were almost all big squares with some random pieces inside.

    Diablo 3 is both more and less randomized, and players have been debating the merits of randomized and non-randomized maps since the game’s release. In D3v almost all surface areas are non-random maps, which was a point of debate even pre-release. The devs argued that non-random maps let them do more cool art stuff and focus the player’s experience (especially in the early game), while fans feared it would result in boredom and a lack of repeatablility. I’m not sure who won that debate, since while the devs added randomization to the Act 5 maps… the huge random levels = slow quests = part of the reason no one plays Act 5.

    The dungeons in Diablo 3 are randomized, and much more flexible in layout than we saw in previous games. None are just big squares with different walls within, and they all have large chunks and set pieces to their maps. But those tend to be so large that they’re very obvious when they repeat, and they only fit into the rest of the jigsaw puzzle of level pieces in a few, predictable ways. That’s one of the things that was coolest when Rifts were new; just seeing some of the existing level maps (like the Act 1 Cathedral or Act 2 Dhalgur Oasis) put together in different configurations.

    Quote from Bashiok, explaining the design idea from 2011:

    So while the exterior is largely static, within that defined landscape there are literal square holes (from small to huge) and within those empty square holes a great number of possible pieces can be dropped in. And they’re chosen randomly. So you may play a few games and always see empty terrain in the same place, but on your next playthrough you’ll instead have a broken down wagon appear and a quest giver that needs you to go kill a unique fallen shaman who stole his tools to fix it. And maybe the playthrough after that the sqaure puzzle piece is a short dungeon to explore with a big chest or mini-boss at the end. Ideally it’ll encourage exploration of the exterior zones over and over, hoping to find that a rewarding adventure has appeared.

    Dungeons on the other hand are completely randomized, same as Diablo II.* All of the halls and rooms and all the bits are shuffled around and it’s all different every time. Some of the rooms themselves will offer unique quests if they’re rolled up, and in some cases individual rooms themselves have those square chunks missing and within those randomly chosen rooms a number of random events can occur.

    So I’m curious how you guys feel about the overall dungeon randomzation and design and layout… but also curious what you think of reused maps. Like Hellfire did with Diablo 1’s maps, some areas in Act 5 reuse maps from earlier Acts. The most obvious is the Ruins of Corvus, much of which is a reskinned version of the Act 3 Keep map. Another one I hadn’t noticed until I saw it in a recent forum post is DiabloWikiWhimsyshire/dale, which exactly reuses the Act One DiabloWikiCaverns of Araneae map. (Including all the annoying dead ends.)

    Whimshire vs. Caverns of Araneae.

    Whimshire vs. Caverns of Araneae.

    Level Dreams and Desires

    So, what do you guys want to see in maps and level layouts in future Diablo 3 areas? Pre-game everyone wanted bigger, more randomized areas… but look at where we actually play now? Rifts are all about the random, but before Rifts people mostly farmed Act 3’s less-random areas (which admittedly was mostly about monster density), and now we all spend our non-Rift time zooming bounties through the easiest parts of Act 1.

    It’s impossible to separate the DiabloWikiRoRG incentive from the ease of Act One monsters and the generally smaller size of the maps… but I’m sure if the RoRG only dropped from Act 5 Horadric Caches, the forums would be continually filled with bitching about how large and random the maps were and how slow the bounties were to complete.

    We all say we want large randomized maps when a game is in development, and then in practice we just play the smallest, easiest, least-random areas. (Basically what Malcolm Gladwell shows about human coffee preferences, where everyone claims they like a rich, dark roast, and then most people serve themselves a milky, sugar-filled, liquid breakfast dessert.) Every time I bring up “should RoRGs be Act 5 only” on the podcast, the guests immediately say “Yes.” Most fans talk about wanting more challenge and variety in areas, and more exploration… even as we all secretly enjoy the RoRG being in the Act with by far the quickest/easiest bounties.

    So what do you want in level design in the future of Diablo 3?

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