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:
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 Whimsyshire/dale, which exactly reuses the Act One Caverns of Araneae map. (Including all the annoying dead ends.)
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 RoRG 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?