Recent topic: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/7710221128
Request for feature on PTR: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/7709111016
I do understand Blizzard's original design intent where they wanted the player to be immersed in the lore and I have to agree that with the first two play throughs (Normal and Nightmare), I learned more about some things which I didn't before. I also admit that it got a little bit old having to repeat it again in Hell and Inferno difficulties.
I've been thinking about this and felt that any implementation of this, should have something more meaningful added (valued added proposal) besides being just a way to quickly move to different map zones and/or content, where it enhances the replayability of the game even further by providing an incentive for players to really explore this open world. I typed this out from the top of my head and haven't necessarily thought about all the different angles.
So I'm posting this to start some dialog since I believe there are many out there who have good ideas which Blizzard could consider for some future use if they see value in providing us such a mode. I've also tried to keep the proposals reasonable based on the current game design where code, graphics, game mechanics, and environments can be reused. I also realize there are technical issues such as increased server side caching and data storage requirements for each open world game compared to the current quest system (more map information needs to be maintained for each open world session for example) which could potential be one of many reasons for why they do not want to implement this.
Similar to Elective Mode, the player can check off an "Open World" mode in Options > Gameplay > Interface. The tooltip will provide a summarized explanation (of the following) of how this works. Note that enabling this does not automatically make the game world open, nor is the quest based game play mode eliminated.
This mode will only become available for actual game play use once a character completes all of the quests across all acts in that specific difficulty. For example, to have Open World mode become available in Normal difficulty, that character will need to have played through the complete story line for Acts 1-4 (rinse and repeat for Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno). I did think about the idea of providing such a mode on an account wide basis once one character unlocked a mode but I believe there is merit in running a low level character (which will in most cases be a different class) through the story line as a way to play around with various skills as they are unlocked.
Blizzard would need to re-design the waypoint interface when operating in Open World mode to be tabbed for each act like how it was in Diablo II. All cutscenes and cinematics would be disabled in this mode. You will also not have any checkpoints which means there would be a tradeoff if you die (on softcore). The "Change Quest" box on the main screen would be grayed out (it would say Open World Gameplay Enabled). Your navigation would be done in-game using the above modified waypoint system. If you are enabling it for the first time, your starting point will be in the town/camp of the last act that you were in.
Note: Part of the work is already in place. When you currently select the final quest in any particular act, all of the previous way points are accessible within that act. What would need to be added is the waypoint logic to be able to move between each acts respective waypoints. All bosses (mini and main) would also need to be enabled (sans cut scenes) but with a proposed twist for the 4 main bosses.
Private multiplayer play will have certain restrictions in place to maintain the integrity of the quest based storyline. If you are a player who has Open World mode enabled (and meet the above requirements), when inviting a player(s) to your party or game, and that other player(s) has not completed all quests for that particular difficulty, game play for that session will revert to quest based play. The quest you start from will be determined by the host (like before) if the invite occurred from the main menu. If the invite took place in-game, game play will start from that part of the game with the subsequent quest becoming the next objective. Once you leave that game, the next single player game you start will operate in Open World mode.
Opening your private game to the public can be done in either quest based or open world play (which means there will now be two match making systems). For a player looking to join a public game, when clicking the "Public Games" button, what is displayed will depend on which mode you are operating in. In the quest based mode, it will work as it currently does. In Open World mode, you will not see any quests to join. Instead, you will be matched into a public game after selecting an act (there would be 4 buttons: Join an Act 1 Game, Join an Act 2 Game, etc) for a particular difficulty and monster power level.
Main Boss Encounters in Open World Mode:
In order to make the whole concept of an open world mode more meaningful, I propose that there be a chance for one or more of the 4 main bosses to be able to also roam the open world as well. From a Diablo lore perspective, free roaming bosses would fit into the meta-storyline of the game. Chris Metzen (Blizzard's Senior Vice President, Story and Franchise Development) has been involved with the creation of the Diablo universe since the orignal version. This is what he said in an interview about Diablo III's story line and it representing the "end of a trilogy":
I see this as the ending of a specific storyline. It’s not at all the end of Diablo, the end of a particular age or era, but it is the end of a series of machinations that have been playing out on Sanctuary for the last couple centuries. If Diablo ever really had a plan to mess people up, to bring about doom and destruction, this game really illustrates how grand that design has always been. Before, we didn’t have all the information. This game shows just how smart and cunning he’s been over the arc of time and why he’s the series’ unique villain. In the first couple games there wasn’t a whole lot more detail to that character other than that he was a big red dude who kicked the s— out of people. So why is the series named after him and not Baal or Mephisto? Is Diablo stronger? I would argue that he’s just really clever, he thinks laterally in a way that his brothers do not. He’s not just one of the seven big Evils. He’s Doctor Doom. And Diablo III is the culmination of his machinations, even if it’s not the end to potential stories we could tell in that universe.
Playing on the above, Diablo's continual cleverness plays out in this open world/free roam mode. The 4 main bosses would be located in outdoor areas only (not in caves, cellars, side dungeons, etc). While loot quality remains an issue with many, the reward of finding and defeating these roaming bosses has to be tied into a significantly higher chance of getting a higher quality rolled item(s) (rare or legendary drop). The objective is to add variety and provide an incentive for players to explore the entire world. Yes, I realize this will not cater to the farming efficiency crowd (when it comes to these main bosses), but efficient farming can still be done in open world mode outside of these 4 main bosses.
In order to prevent quick run checks to each of these bosses chambers, I suggest that the mob density (something which is already on Blizzard's radar) leading to each of these chambers be increased signficantly; you'll have to fight through a thick wave of mobs (both trash and elites) to get to the chamber to see if the boss is actually there. The only exception would be Diablo's where you could either end up fighting the real one or a clone of Diablo (which you won't find out until after the battle is over). If it's not the real Diablo, you will hear the familiar, "Not even death can save you from me" at the end of the battle. This again plays into Metzen's view that Diablo is cunning and throws curveballs and twists at you in order to distract and waste your time.
When the Butcher is roaming the open world, you'll first meet a smaller version of him (reminscent of the Butcher from the original Diablo). Once you defeat him, you will then be temporarily transported to the actual chamber where you will fight the larger Butcher. When Belial is roaming the open world, you will encounter him first as Emperor Hakan where he will then transform into the smaller phase 1/2 version of Belial. Once you've defeated him, you will then be temporarily transported to his Imperial Palace chamber where you will fight him in his phase 3 form. When Azmodan is roaming the open world, you will fight him in whatever environment that you've encountered him in (alternatively, you could encounter a large wave of his minions spawning from Demon Gates which must be killed first before being temporarily transported to his chamber in the Heart of Sin in order to fight him there).
If the real Diablo is roaming the open world, you'll fight Diablo in the environment that you've found him for Phase 1. Phase 2 will occur in the Realm of Terror, while Phase 3 you'll be temporarily transported to the Crystal Arch. For Phase 3, open world Diablo will throw a lot more at you as part of an increased challenge to make this boss, which the game is named after, more meaningful; fire walls, fire novas, fire storms, cold touch, lightning attacks, bone prisons. Finally, once you've defeated Diablo, there is an extremely rare chance for an Uber version of Diablo to spawn (only on Inferno difficulty) within any of the other Acts except the one that you found him in originally. You will know this if the screen shakes and you see the message, "Diablo Continues To Walk the Earth" after you've defeated phase 3 Diablo. This extremely rare uber version of Diablo will spawn minions similar to the Act 4 keywarden, also have an Armageddon attack (raining fireballs), and have two of the following aggressive affixes (Arcane Enchanted, Desecrator, Fire Chains, Frozen, Molten, Mortar, Reflects Damage, Teleporter, Waller) for an increased challenge. I realize this part of the proposal will create significant development work and testing, but who doesn't want to see a Diablo that is more menacing and a real challenge worthy of the name of this franchise?
My idea of the reward for defeating this rare spawn is a "one-time use" plan item which can be taken back to the Blacksmith, where you'd be able to take one item from any of your characters/inventory, and pick one stat on it that you want enhanced (the ranges would have to be worked out by the developers since it would have to revolve around the rarity of the appearance of this uber Diablo) along with an undetermined amount of Brimstones, Demonic Essences, and gold. I believe this singular use plan should be something that players will want to strive for and I believe the enhanced item should remain tradeable/sellable and not be an account bound item.
In order to discourage players from only doing Diablo runs, one function of the appearance of this Uber version of Diablo will be tied into both the time spent within the open world as well as the total number of monsters (both trash and elite) killed. This also implies that it will be worthwhile to track down and kill all the 4 main bosses as that too will play a role in increasing the chances. These three numbers will be persistent meaning that over time, you're chances of getting this rare monster to spawn will increase. Again, the objective is to make an open world meaningful, to provide incentives for players to explore and clear out the demons infesting that world, while also finding a way to reward players over time.
Once he does spawn, all of these numbers will reset. This gaming mode also has a positive side effect from the physical infrastructure side for Blizzard since there will be reduced server load from players continually creating new games (which is currently the case with the quest based system). In this regard, the ability to reduce server load may offset the additional resources required for maintaining additional map data during an open world gaming session. - updated on 2012.01.25
Again, the above is just an idea that I typed off the top of my head. What I would like to see are more feasible ideas that addresses some of the things I may have missed or ones that are better than the above. I realize there may be some excellent ideas which may end up being unfeasible for implementation in the current game due to its design constraints based on the current underlying systems (example, items in this current iteration of the game are what they are so the ideas need to be able to workable within that context). Likewise, something like this may be best left for an expansion.