Without this refinement, the game’s lifespan will be severely curtailed because running through the same outdoor scenes over and over again will get boring. The outdoor areas in DII had just enough variation to keep things somewhat fresh, but this is lost when the player is forced to run through the same narrow path every time.
A game world that repeatedly shuffles the player along a narrow corridor will not have the same replay value as one that allows him or her to get lost in a large, randomly-generated outdoor environment. These environments help create the illusion of a world that has yet to be fully explored. Sure, it can be frustrating when you take the wrong turn and need to backtrack, but that is a small price to pay for the feeling of existing within an expansive setting. Static outdoor areas only work to predefine and ultimately limit one's conception of the setting. While this may be acceptable in a game that is designed to be played through only once, it will not serve a game that is designed to be played through countless times with friends.
Perhaps outdoor randomization could be implemented on a limited scale. It could be used for special areas of the game where it would make sense for the player to get lost. You could have randomized forests or deserts that would only have to be crossed once to get the waypoint. Since such areas are naturally full of repeated patterns, it shouldn’t be too hard to create random maps for them. Even this small-scale implementation would do much to create an illusion of horizon within the player’s imagination. For many of us, the creation of this illusion is the main appeal of video games.
Last night, I logged into Diablo II and ran around the first act for a while. Although it all looked very familiar, I was still observing combinations on the levels layout that I had never seen before. In a way, I visited a unique dimension within Sanctuary that had never been explored. A decade later, part of what keeps me coming back to DII’s iteration of Sanctuary is the idea that perhaps I haven’t seen everything there is to see, the idea that perhaps there is something new just a screen or two away. Will people be able to have this experience ten years from now when they log into Diablo III’s first act?
Will any beta testers comment on how much variation they have seen on different game sessions? Do the outdoor areas remain exactly the same every time? Blizzard has stated that there will be random events that occur in the otherwise static outdoor environments. How extensive are these “events”? Hopefully, large blocks of the outdoor maps change from game to game.
Random map generation was a defining feature of Diablo II and it should be in the third installment. Without it, the game will not have the same replay value as its predecessor.