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Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

Discussion in 'Diablo 3 General Discussion' started by Flux, Jul 6, 2010.

  1. Flux

    Flux Administrator

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    Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    Spurred by the ongoing randomness thread, I've given some thought to randomness in D3 in the level layouts.

    http://www.diablowiki.net/Levels

    There was unhappiness when we first found out that the surface levels in D3 were not going to be random in their overall shape. This seemed lame, after all the randomness in D2. In retrospect though, did the randomness of the D2 surface levels serve any purpose? Sure the stairs/bridge to the next area usually moved around, but nothing in the levels was every very different. You got the same scattering of random monsters/bosses/shrines every game, and almost always the levels were roughly square/rectangle, with the only variation the exit on the left or right. The "randomness" of them didn't actually affect the gameplay; you just ran around the outside until you found the stairs, assuming you weren't maphacking. Random exit locations and their internal dungeon level entrances beat non-random, but it was a fairly minor difference in the play.

    A few levels were actually noticeably different on their layouts; the River of Flame in act 4, for instance, varied a lot in the layout. Even there though, the layout didn't really change the play style; you still had long, semi-narrow paths to explore with wider ends to the various cul-de-sacs.

    Compare the known D2 to the promised D3, where we're told that the outlines of the surface levels won't change, but that the events within each level will. All of the events and mini-quests and such cycle every game, and each time you enter a level, you'll soon learn that location A might have a boss, a sparkling chest, an NPC escort quest, or open space. Location B, elsewhere on the level, will have the same options but sometimes it'll also have an entrance to a mini-dungeon as well. Location C can have chests or open space. And so on.

    The entrance/exit to the level won't vary, and most of the area will be covered in D2-style random monster spawn, but there will always be several spots on an outdoor level in D3 that will actually change the gameplay, in much more impactful ways than the D2 option of running left or right to find the stairs.

    Thus I'd say the D3 levels are more random and varied than D2's, even though they aren't "randomized" in their layouts.

    (Also consider that the D3 levels can be more artistic and pretty, since they're all hand done art on the borders, rather than just interchangeable connecting shapes that have to be fairly regular in design to work with the layout engine.)


    For a final question; would the D3 levels be better if their shape/exits were slightly random, as in D2, plus hosting the varying elements within them? Or would the shape changing and slightly varied exit locations just be annoying and force extra running around? (In theory that's what the dungeon levels in D3 will be like, so it's worth wondering why they made the surface areas pre-designed, instead of shape randomized also.)
     
  2. Slevinn

    Slevinn IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    Now, I try to keep up on my Diablo 3, but I don't catch every bit of info... But my impression of the surface levels were kind of like.. A part of the story? Maybe to get to a town or something, and so I didn't imagine that they would be just "another random dungeon". Kind of like Chaos Sanctuary. It was static, because it was "part of the storyline" in a sense. Maybe there are very few surface levels, and so they are meant to be static for a particular purpose we are not yet aware of?
     
  3. permaximum

    permaximum Banned

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    But there is a big minus for static outdoor areas. You will see the exactly same locations for years. I think we will become bored quickly only because of that. Diablo 3 won't be an MMO and mods won't be supported. The content will stay same.

    I hope those randomized events will make it worth.
     
  4. Pyrohemia

    Pyrohemia IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    I think that static surface levels are a great plan. In Diablo 2 the area that is closest to being truly random, the act 3 jungle, is also many players' most hated area of the game. There are many sneaky locations for the exit to the flayer jungle. Sometimes you have to go through some of the great marsh, other times the great marsh is a complete wild goose chase. There is a potential exit by taking a bridge where the trees are arranged in such a way that the exit is almost invisible on the minimap. I think that there is another possible exit where the flayer jungle is only connected through one of the side area clearings meaning following the rivers will get you nowhere. The paths connect and diverge and the bridges frequently try to trap you. Altogether it makes for lots of backtracking and can even make the exit a difficult puzzle to find. Players like simple, just like act 1 with its paths leading the way through the outdoor areas.

    Hand planned outdoor areas will definitely allow for less obvious level barriers. Having to place stone walls everywhere, act 1, or stone ridges, act 2, or cliffs, act 4, is jarring, monotonous, and constricting. Part of that is from the generally square level outlines. Hand planned outdoor areas allows the border to be more ragged and use a much wider variety of barriers. This will allow the environment to feel more natural.

    I think that Blizzard have the capability of making for intricate randomly generated outdoor areas, but I think that players enjoy things more controlled. They are playing less to explore new frontiers and more to kill monsters and collect loot. Another problem with random intricacy is that you are likely to end up as convoluted as the act 3 jungles.

    I don't think randomizing the exit position is a good idea unless there are subtle hints built into the map that change to guide an astute player in the correct direction.

    In Diablo 2, if two areas have the same tile-set then they feel identical. With a designed top-world two areas can be made from the same pallet and feel completely different. I'm not entirely sure what that can achieve, though, as you still don't want duplication of assets, especially in a static world.
     
  5. Apocalypse

    Apocalypse IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    act 1 was considered random but it was pretty much the same every time. only real issue like flux said was where the exit was and of course finding the stupid tree/stones locations. way points were something to find early on in d2 but eventually people just skipped them in favor of rushing.

    i do not think that non random out door maps will effect my replay factor at all. i played through several of the D&D games numerous times and those games are as far from random as you can get.

    to be honest i kind of like a static outdoor enviroment. gives the world a feeling of actually being a world and not just a monster spawning factory
     
  6. Leugi

    Leugi IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    I'm a bit thorn on this issue but...

    Outdoors being not random is not a bad thing, because that gives Dungeons (which are random) a lot more importance, and after all, Diablo is more about dungeons than outdoors...

    Also, if people believe replayability will be a problem... I disagree, I still play many static games because they are fun not because they have a degree of randomness...
     
  7. NASE

    NASE IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    I think it's the opposite. In diablo 2, you constantly see the same things. The whole ourdoors of act 1 are identical. Act 2 has some small differences but are almost identical aswel. And act 3 is identical again.

    I see much more repetition in diablo 2 then I can imagine in diablo 3. You can make things much more interesting and tell as story in a static outdoor.
    If they do it right, static outdoors will be very good. Certainly as they aren't completely random IIRC. There are still quite a few random tiles.

    And lets not forget:
    Couldn't have said it any better myself.

    I agree. Already lost count of how many times I replayed nox or soulbringer.



     
  8. permaximum

    permaximum Banned

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    Playing in the exactly same areas for years. I could take it for a few days while i was playing Titan Quest. Means i beat the game and expansion. That's all. We'll see how it will turn out for D3. The thing is, complicated and hand-drawn areas are easy to remember. For example, I know we'll even memorize a small rock in act 2 in stinging winds. Still, i think promised random events will be so important to limit this dejavu feel.
     
  9. Flux

    Flux Administrator

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    But that's my whole point in the OP. D2 most of the surface levels felt identical after a few plays, since the only thing that varied was the exit being left or right. That randomness forced you to explore some more, but it was usually a boring, exploration, since each level was the same in every direction. Just random monsters/shrines/chests, etc. So the levels were different, but the same.

    In D3, at least from what they've said so far, the levels will actually have different contents, with the varying events in each of them. Plus there are more destinations worth visiting; super chests, always a boss in some corner, etc.

    Players will surely wind up memorizing the best patterns in each level, eg: "run left to the 2 chests, go to the middle right for the event, top left for a boss corner, then top middle for the exit," but at least the elements in those locations will vary somewhat. More than they did in D2, where you had to look for the exit, but where you almost never found anything you didn't expect along the way.


    Also, it may be more interesting to see how the dungeons work, since those will have randomness and random events. Best of both worlds?



     
  10. Apocalypse

    Apocalypse IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    do we know yet how much we will be outdoors vs indoors?
     
  11. Leugi

    Leugi IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    Hmn... BTW, considering Blizz is going for achievements and stuff in the new Bnet... Well, they might as well add some secret areas with certain events (like a eternal monster spawn) or something, and in fact the areas might be only unlocked after playing once or twice the game...
     
  12. Ephraim

    Ephraim IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    Randomness doesn't actually ensure replay value. Variety ensures replay value. Randomness is often lauded for producing variety in game design, so we often drop variety from the equation. However, randomness and variety are two different things, and we should note the distinction.

    D2's level design is an excellent example for this. Surface areas, like act 1's surface areas, are very random. It's highly unlikely for any of us to have played through the exact same setup twice. However, playing through the surface areas of act 1 has never actually been a new experience for me (except for the first few times I played through the game, when the randomness was still a novelty). The only time Act 1 overworld's level design has been remotely interesting is the occasional bridge entrance replacing the traditional strange garden-wall entrance.

    Overall, I think Blizzard was a little lazy with Act one's overworld - why did they wall everything off with those weird 6 foot walls? Were the rogues trying to set up a wildlife preserve? A national forest, perhaps? The devs could have easily set up Act 1 similar to Act 3 and used the trees that were three feet behind the walls as the boundaries.

    [​IMG]



    If D3's system (random events) is random enough that I can play through the game 5 times without reencountering many events I've seen before, that'll be enough variety for me. Personally, I'm glad that the surface areas are going to be pre-made. The scenery can be made much more interesting and realistic.


    Too long; didn't read? While D2's system was very random, it did not produce much variety. If D3's random events aren't recycled too much, D3's system should do a much better job with the surface areas than D2's. Pre-made areas also have the added bonus of looking better because they can receive a little extra love from the artists.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2010
  13. Srikandi

    Srikandi IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    Well, I may be in the minority here, and obviously I've already lost the argument as far as Blizz is concerned, but I'm gonna stick up for outdoor randomness.

    I got interested in Diablo in the first place because of its ties to Nethack; and Nethack was a game I played over and over for more than a decade, and it never got old because of its random levels.

    One thing I've seen the D3 devs quoted as saying more than once is that they want players to have reason to play the WHOLE game, and not simply rush to the boss that has the drop you want over and over again. The right kind of map randomization can help ensure that, by requiring you to explore to find the way out. Act 1 in D2 sucked at this, as several folks have pointed out. But IMO Act 3 got it exactly right. It was my favorite act by far, partly because of the fact that you had a reason to do a full exploration.

    In other words, the randomness in D2 failed due to insufficient randomness, not too much randomness.

    As for the whole "artistry" question -- let's forget for a moment tile-based random level generation like D1 and 2 used, and think about something much more up-to-date, i.e. procedural generation like you see for planets in Spore. In that game, you get a complete landscape with natural-looking geological features, landmasses and water, plants and rocks and vegetation, surface texture and water color, all randomly produced. You don't get the repetitive feel you get from seeing the same tile over and over, like you do in D2; each planet has a feeling of coherence and integrity, and it looks convincing and natural, but no two spots on its surface are the same. When viewed from creature-level, there are still unexpected vistas and scenic spots, as well as "set piece" regions such as ancient giant bones and areas where elites spawn.

    If Spore had had the kind of actual gameplay that the Diablo series has, it could have been a great game ;)

    I'm not suggesting, btw, that a Diablo game should mimic the cartoony LOOK of Spore. Obviously you'd want a very different kind of art, and different kinds of elements in the terrain. Just suggesting the same kind of procedural tech could be used.

    Some thoughts on other games:

    Daggerfall (or TES2) had a massive world consisting of random terrain, towns and dungeons... which, like parts of D2, pretty much failed to convey a real sense of variety, because of the whole tile problem. In Morrowind and Oblivion -- TES 3 and 4 -- the dungeons are all handmade... but they might as well be random, because just as in Daggerfall they're made from limited tilesets that lose their variety quickly. Titan Quest had the same problem: the dungeons weren't random, but they might as well have been; they were no more interesting than random ones, without the advantage of forced exploration. IMO, IF you're going to use tiles anyway, with the sacrifice of variety that that entails, you really ought to make your dungeons random, for replayability.

    TL;DR: Random is great; it's tiles that are the enemy. But it's possible to do random without tiles.
     
  14. NASE

    NASE IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    Is act 3 from diablo 2 even relevant?
    The general consensus here (or am I wishful thinking?) is that diablo 3 will be dungeon based rather then surface based. Act 3 clearly is surface based, there is hardly anything interesting in the dungeons.

    So eventhough act 3 might have things right, it's unrelevant as it's an example of a surface based act rather than dungeon based.


    And even more, who says we will lose the full exploration thing. Wasn't the whole to have randomness in a fixed world? Forinstance, isn't the idea to have the dungeons entrances, the random quest and the bosses random in the fixed map?
    If they do this right, you will still feel encouraged to explore the whole map as you want to find these things. Though rather then running through a strange world that doesn't feel natural (like diablo 2) you get a world that really looks a like world.
    kinda like the whole explorer/rare encounter thing in dungeons and dragons online.

    That seems awfully lot of work, if it even is possible for a game like diablo.
    And to gain what? I think it doesn't add much to a dungeon based game.



     
  15. Flux

    Flux Administrator

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    The general consensus is irrelevant, since what we want or expect isn't necessarily what we'll get in the game. I do not know what the ratio of surface to dungeon will be in D3; if they've commented on that I don't recall hearing it. If anyone can point to a quote I'll be happy to read it.

    There is a LOT more concept art of surfaces than dungeons; if that means anything.

    In the builds we've played so far, there's been much more surface area, in total.

    The debut gameplay trailer had that long dungeon with the Barbarian and Cain at the end, but it was followed by a huge surface area of roughly equal duration (and it wasn't completely explored, unlike the dungeon).

    Blizzcon 2008 build had a large surface component in the town of Tristram and some wilderness around it, but the dungeon was larger.

    Blizzcon 2009 was at least 85% surface area, including a few desert surface ruins and the Cultist-filled town at the end of the demo. The only dungeons were a pair of small, desert tombs below it that were just one level each.

    How representative these areas are of the final game, no one outside of Blizzard can say. They were all specially designed for their demo purposes, so while we'll see some of those areas in the final game, their size and how they'll fit together will probably be very different.

    Personally, I've always liked the outdoor areas, especially when there's some terrain and variety. I like the more open spaces, and was most eager to run around the Act 2 desert when I first got to play it in D2; after all the narrow, confining, subterranean levels in D1.
     
  16. Slevinn

    Slevinn IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    My knowledge of the terrain is what I've seen from the trailers they have released and SOME unofficial footage off of youtube from BlizzCons, but my GUESS would be that it's going to be a pretty good mixture of surface:underground ratios. I think you might play 30 minutes underground, pop out for 10 minutes to the surface, maybe drop down into a dungeon for 15 minutes, hit the surface for a long trek for 45 minutes, stuff like that. If we had an idea of what the storyline was going to be, we'd have a better guess.

    I kind of hope we return to the Worldstone Chamber, or whatever crater is left of it. I think that could be a BEAUTIFULLY artistic location for us to revisit, and the WC could be both surface and underground. I think both surface and underground levels are going to be part of the story.
     
  17. Zarniwoop

    Zarniwoop IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    I don't really mind this change.

    It will make magic finding in the outdoor areas a ton easier also.

    I think the larger problem is the dumbing down of the game. Stunned that no one else appears phased by it.
     
  18. Sass

    Sass IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    It's been balanced by being harder.
     
  19. Cattleya

    Cattleya IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    I'll be honest, I've always found the randomly generated maps to be mostly annoying. They don't really add anything to the game. Perhaps it's because they aren't "random" enough. The Cave 1 might have a randomly generated map, but I can still almost always know which corner Coldcrow will be coming out of.

    I guess what I'm saying is that in order for random to add something meaningful to me, it would have to be significantly more complex than the D2 system. However, since there are other ways to make replaying the game more interesting, I'm not sure it's where I'd want the development time spent. I'd rather have a better questing/event system than random maps.
     
  20. Srikandi

    Srikandi IncGamers Member

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    Re: Surface Levels: Non-random D3 > Randon D2?

    To add to what Flux said... nothing in my post was actually exclusive to surface levels :) I'd love to see real procedural rather than tile-based generations for dungeons too. Surface levels aren't the only kinds of levels that get very repetitive when they're made over and over from the same few tiles.

    Sure, it wouldn't be easy. Whether it would be "too hard to be worth it" is something that neither you nor I could answer. It's obviously not impossible, though. The Spore Galactic Adventures EP put planet randomization, editing, mob, vehicle and quest development tools in the hands of non-technical players, and while you certainly couldn't build a Diablo game with their noob-friendly system, I played with it enough to be pretty clear that a real developer could generate random levels with constraints that would allow meaningful placement of mobs, questgivers, scripted events and so on.

    And it would push the genre forward, the way D1 did -- unlike yet another set of repetitive fixed alternating with repetitive tile-based levels ;)

    IMO high-quality procedural world generation is the holy grail for RPGs and maybe gaming in general.


     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2010

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