I have always been perfectly upfront about how I feel about using Random as a game design tool.
To catch anyone new up: I hate it. I think it is a terrible idea. It’s a terrible crutch.
The entire point of a designer is to sculpt the experience for the player. To create the world for them to interact with. To make something amazing for the player to play in. Using random takes the control away from the designer and puts it in the hands of a program.
So by this extension, I wouldn’t even try Diablo. It’s a randomly generated world, with randomly generated enemies, with randomly generated loot. Good lord, it’s a trifecta of bad random. But I love Blizzard and I had fun playing the beta, so I knew I would play the game.
How does Diablo 3’s randomness make me feel? Like I was right all along.
1. The Problem with Randomly generated gameplay spaces.
First off, Diablo 3 doesn’t use randomly generated levels everywhere. And to be fair, their code is much better at creating spaces than it was in Diablo 2.
BUT. Diablo 3’s random maps all suffer from the same problem: Jogging simulation. If you don’t head the right direction, and there are a bunch of branches in the path, you can and will find yourself backtracking over huge portions of terrain. For a game that is all about fast paced action and demon slaughtering, this leads to some very boring lengths of time in the middle of your fun.
Even worse is when you have these huge sprawling dungeons, where the named enemy you are supposed to be killing spawns three rooms over from the chest of loot. Way to protect your treasure man.
2. Random Enemies – oh god or yawn.
The idea behind the enemies sounds good. Each enemy has a modifier. Vortex, Frozen, etc etc. The idea is that when an enemy gets created, it has 2-4 of these modifiers which gives it abilities and makes it more interesting.
A good idea, in theory. But in practice shows the painful problem with random modifiers like that. Some modifiers aren’t that scary or dangerous to the player. Many are extremely dangerous to the player just by themselves. If you get a monster with two of the weak powers, they are a one finger pushover, almost on par with standard enemies. If you get one with 2 of the powerful modifiers, you are toast.
Add this to the random placement of enemies, in randomly generated terrain, and you get serious gameplay problems. I zoned into a basement area, that had an enemy with the modifier that lets him freeze me in place, and the modifier that lets him create arcane orbs that generate a beam of death that moves in a circle. Both of these abilities are combated by moving away from them and kiting the bad guy. But I was in a basement. Not only that, the boss’ trash mobs with him managed to corner me and block me from moving at all. I got thrashed repeatedly, because I couldn’t even get far enough into the room to not be completely surrounded and have collision preventing me from moving away from the stuff I knew was bad and I shouldn’t be standing in.
3. Random Loot – Good thing we have the auction house.
I have a level 42 Wizard in Act 3 of Nightmare. I search every corner, every dungeon, kill every enemy. I pick everything up. I just bought the third tab of my stash. I like to loot.
Over the course of the game, I have probably gotten 40-50 rares. Of all these rares, I have been able to equip about 5 of them. Only one actually had stats that made me want to equip it. I haven’t equipped a drop since I was level 15.
I get all my gear from the Auction House. Period. I sell things I get that are decent, but I can’t use, and I buy things I can use.
If not for the auction house, I would be sitting around farming some boss or other hoping for rares. Only 1 in 50 of which I will be able to use.
Boy, that sounds like fun. (Or not so much.)
Would it really change the game that much to have the rares at the very least be ones I can equip on that character? Even then you have the second random of it getting stats you want/need, but must we double roll to get anything? Actually, triple roll, because not all bosses drop rares all the time!
To recap: The boss has to drop a rare, which might not happen, you have to be able to equip the rare, which might not happen, and then the rare has to have useful stats on it, which my wands with strength on them prove doesn’t happen. Yay. This is fun. *said in Simon voice*
I get that all of this is kind of the “point” of Diablo. That’s the base of the design. But really, it just means that here I am, in Nightmare, already sick of the game. Already ready to go back to WoW, where at least I am fairly certain a boss will drop something useful, even if I can’t use it.
I feel that there is a possibility for a Diablo like game (in the base game play idea) that doesn’t rely on random or at the very least mitigates the negatives of using random. Loot may be randomized, but at least have logical limits placed on them. (Like all wands have to have Int and Vit, but the secondary stats, and the amount of the primary stat can be random. Also guarantee that at least 1 rare item off each boss is equip-able by the character playing, though in multiplayer this could be any one of the characters playing.) Monsters may be randomized, but their powers weighted, so you never have an enemy with more than a 10 difficulty rating and then you give all the worst powers a 6 so they never appear together. Levels shouldn’t be randomized. I mean honestly. Use modular pieces, and throw something together. Anything designed by a person will be better than a computer.
It’s worth a shot huh?