How do I get there?
In a lot of doom levels, you can look out of a window and see a special item like the chainsaw but you have to explore the map the find out how to get to it. Or In the earlier final fantasy games where you could see a treasure chest but had to traverse a maze like environment to get to it. They always added that extra little bit to the level design. It never seemed like a point a to point b type thing.
Then there is things like the secret doors in doom levels which can lead to lots of epic loot. Or when you go down a pipe in Super Mario and find lots of coins. It can be really satisfying and rewarding when you are surprised by these little secrets. It makes the game more fun.
It also means that when you replay the game, you still have new things to find in the level and it was just cool to know that I probably walked past 10 secret doors because this game is awesome.
Playing skyrim I noticed that when you take a puzzle at face value, it kind of sucks, but if you look at games like jedi outcast or legend of zelda, the puzzle is integrated into the level. So you are not just going from point a to point b, you are going to a number of different rooms to solve a greater puzzle, and maybe in those lesser rooms are other puzzles.
Of course some people don't like it and some people are morons, but it makes things so satisfying, well for me anyway. I'm not saying that all games should have these, or that they should have these on every level, but so often it seems that something is missing from the level design.
One of my favorite things to do in any mmo or open world game is to try and get on top of buildings. Why? I don't know, its just fun. Even just very subtle platforming elements can intrigue me. For example, in doom levels you have moving platforms which go up and down.
Just recently I was playing the swtor beta and they had these platforms which go up to transport you to other areas of the map. Why is there not more of this sort of thing? Why even have a jump button if there is no platforming?
Even having like a bunch of tree stumps or a broken tree to jump on while you are killing 15 wolves, can make exploration more fun and give the game depth.
This subject is kind of conflicting. On one hand you have a maze of death which isn't fun, and on the other hand you have call of linear-warfare 3. I guess it all comes down to moderation and how well the level leads the player to the end.
I know games like call of duty are designed to be more like a movie with a linear path with big set pieces but then look at the massive failure of duke nukem. That game was pretty linear as well, but its predecessors were definitely not.
If there is going to be little branching, there has to be a good reason for it. Otherwise it becomes boring, you need a vertical element, multiple interconnecting rooms, dead ends, secrets or puzzles.
So how does this all relate to diablo 3?
Well that is for you to tell me. So far the game seems linear but that is because it is mainly the tutorial area we are playing in. Some things to conciser are how randomization will play its part in level design and of course blizzards creation of the greatest easter egg known to man.