If you ask someone to describe what makes a Diablo game, you will get a lot of different answers: interesting combat, quick experience gain, a ton of builds, thousands of items, trading and more. Most of the answers you get are gameplay elements directly or indirectly derived from the enemies we slay. But shouldn't Sanctuary, the world that houses all of these enemies, get some credit as well? In this Chronicle, I will try to cover the evolution of the areas that Sanctuary is comprised of, from the dungeons and vast deserts to the towns and safe-zones. In addition, mechanics such as Waypoints and Stamina that affect traveling and general movement are worth mentioning. Without further ado... the story begins back in Diablo I with a familiar town called Tristram...
Tristram was the very first town players visited and the central hub for everything that didn't involve slaying demons. You could find NPCs with important services like Griswold the Blacksmith, quest givers like Ogden, and other people that you could talk to if you wanted to hear some gossip or were looking for a service. The purpose of the town didn't change at all from Diablo I to Diablo II, but there was no longer one central hub you always went back to. Instead you went to the town of that act, located in the very beginning, just like in Diablo I.
The Diablo II towns:
As far as we know, there are no big changes coming to towns in Diablo III, but players will no longer be returning to them as often since Waypoints are now the only way to return as far as we know. There is also less of a need to go back to town with the removal of spammable potions, the addition of the http://diablowiki.com/Scroll of Wealth" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Scroll of Wealth"/> Scroll of Wealth that can be used to sell items, a bigger inventory, and the http://diablowiki.com/Nephalem Cube" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Nephalem Cube"/> Nephalem Cube that can be used to salvage items into smaller crafting materials.
New Tristram, a town built near the remains of Old Tristram from Diablo I and II. It appears to be (from looking at the minimap) a quite small town with not much in terms of interesting architecture. What you can find here is not entirely clear, but a few things can be determined from looking at the images and videos. First and foremost we have the http://diablowiki.com/Artisans" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Artisans"/> Artisans (the Blacksmith is seen in the full image to the left) that will be there to provide us with items and services after we have earned their services. There is also a chest and something that is believed to be a Waypoint, and also a quest giver seen at the top of the mini-map. There are more NPCs as well (seen in this image) but their purposes and identities are still unknown.
While the only NPC that followed the character around in Diablo II was Deckard Cain, this time there will be at least the three Artisans and Leah as well. Jay Wilson shed some light on Leah's role in an interview by www.inDiablo.de:
"Q: So let's talk a bit about lore. In the first trailer we saw that girl named Leah. What role does she play? She got a lot of airtime for being a totally unknown character that we wanna know something about."
Official Blizzard Quote:
Jay Wilson: Leah is the adopted daughter of Deckard Cain. As Cain is a lot older in this game, we felt that we needed another character to kind of play some of his roles but also be more active. We wanted a character who was out in the world with the player who would occasionally interact and help the player out. So she's kind of a quest giver and sometimes a companion.
One of the things that made the first Diablo so re-playable was its massive dungeon. It was located right beneath Tristram and consisted of four areas with different layouts, each with four completely randomized levels. This meant that no play-through was exactly like another since you would fight through a different dungeon with different enemies each time.
The second area: CatacombsObviously it would be way too boring if the players had to walk all the way back through the levels each time they wanted to go back to Tristram, so there were four shortcuts leading to level 5, 9 and 13 that could be used once they had been accessed from the dungeon.
Diablo II didn't consist of a single large dungeon, but rather there were a bunch of smaller dungeons scattered around the world. The boss dungeon levels and the dungeons containing quest objectives were often static, while the dungeon levels leading to these areas were often randomized and maze-like in their structure. Both the randomized and static dungeons had some upsides and a few downsides as well. The randomized areas had high re-playability but were often frustrating to navigate through because of the labyrinth-like structure that most of them had. The static levels were usually more detailed with more planned encounters, but re-playability suffered since these areas provided little variation. This was especially a problem when it came to the highly repeated boss areas like the http://diablowiki.com/Throne of Destruction" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Throne of Destruction"/> Throne of Destruction, the area that provided the most experience for high level characters.
Baal in the last part of the Throne of DestructionThe shortcuts of Diablo I also got an upgrade in the form of Waypoints that could be used to travel to any other activated Waypoint. Each Act had one in the town and eight (Act IV only had two) scattered around the dungeons and the overworld, with most being in more or less random positions.
Blizzard has made various changes to the dungeon layouts in Diablo III. They are still completely randomized, but they are working harder to make sure that they don't feel generic, as opposed to the square rooms and hallways that most of the Diablo II randomized dungeons consisted of. The http://diablowiki.com/death mechanic" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - death mechanic"/> death mechanic has also changed (Keeping the Action in ARPG) from dropping all your equipment on the ground and re-spawning in town to simply re-spawning with all your gear at the previous checkpoint (for example at the beginning of the dungeon level). Enemy encounters have also been given a massive overhaul. In the previous games you would always find enemies that are simply standing idle somewhere in a dungeon. While you will find those enemies as well in Diablo III, a lot of encounters will instead be the demons sneaking up on the character, crawling up from a nearby ravine or jumping down from a cliff.
While not a dungeon example, this screenshot illustrates how enemies can approach you in different ways.
The increase in dungeon quantity for Diablo II was a pretty big change, but was very much dwarfed when compared to the addition of the huge overworld that connected them all. The progression was still linear for the most part with one overworld area leading to the next, or to a dungeon section, with the few sidetracks being no more than one area away from the "main path". The most important difference between dungeons and the overworld from a combat perspective was that the latter was mostly very open. You couldn't pick off single enemies in doorways or kill off the entire group with a well aimed Bone Spear, your enemies had too much freedom of movement for that to work. On the other hand it was also very easy to kite your enemies because of the ability to escape and approach your enemies from any direction.
A typical overworld area. Very open with few things blocking movement and line of fire.
Overworld areas varied in randomization similarly to dungeons, but the actual changes to the landscape were not as noticeable because of how open the areas usually were. However, the randomization did affect the placement of exits and Waypoints well enough to make most players search for a while, especially in the http://diablowiki.com/second Act" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - second Act"/> second Act where you would find the particularly vast and empty deserts. Some players welcomed the search while some found it boring and a waste of time.
http://diablowiki.com/Chaos Sanctuary" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Chaos Sanctuary"/> Chaos Sanctuary being the exception, are not good farming areas when compared to the available dungeons. Once you take the Waypoint and finish the quest in an overworld area you rarely go back, so they weren't re-played even if the re-playability was there. The overworld areas were more like one-time experiences that you could use to prepare yourself for the challenges in the dungeons, but that is not to say that they were boring. The overworld areas had some very interesting scripted events such as touching the Cairn Stones in the right order to trigger some flashy lightning effects and open a portal that led to the old ruined Tristram where you would rescue Deckard Cain from a cage.
As I said, the Diablo II overworld was for the most part random, but that is not something that will apply in Diablo III. The overworld connecting the dungeons is now static for a number of reasons.
- Carefully crafted scenes that can't be made with randomization.
- Tailored encounters and scripted events.
- Rewards experienced players by allowing them to navigate easily by memory.
A section of the Act I overworld in Diablo III.Of course the static map means that each time you play through the game with a new character you will face the exact same enemies in the exact same places in the overworld areas. http://diablowiki.com/Blizzard" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Blizzard"/> Blizzard understands that this will get boring in the long run and have implemented a system that has been referred to as Events or Adventuring to ease the repetitiveness quite a bit. You could say that they have cut out holes in the overworld and created various pieces that they can place in those holes. One time you pass by one of these areas you might see a caravan under attack by bandits, and the next time a dungeon, and the next time a mini boss. These pieces are especially crafted for these holes so you get close to the quality of static content, but at the same time there is randomization since these pieces are pulled from a pool of possibly hundreds of different pieces.
Besides the entrances/exits there were a few other ways to travel faster in Diablo I, most notably the Town Portal skill.
Using the skill opened a portal that led to Tristram. Once back in town you could enter another portal which would take you back to the dungeon. This spell was also available as a http://diablowiki.com/Scroll" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Scroll"/> Scroll, and as a http://diablowiki.com/Shrine" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Shrine"/> Shrine in Diablo: Hellfire. The problem with this mechanic was that it allowed players to escape almost any danger.
Diablo II didn't have a Town Portal spell, but it did have Shrines and http://diablowiki.com/Scrolls of Town Portal" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Scrolls of Town Portal"/> Scrolls of Town Portal which could be stacked up to twenty times in a single http://diablowiki.com/Tome" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Tome"/> Tome. They were very frequently used before dangerous areas since that allowed for a quick return to your corpse if you died, and a quick escape route as well. It was also a good way for people that just joined your game to catch up with the party, since party members could enter each others portals.
Blizzard didn't like the way this mechanic allowed players to easily avoid danger, and also how it could be used to slowly kill way too difficult enemies by going back to town many times during a fight to buy potions. Therefore they removed Town Portals from Diablo III, at least for now. However, @Diablo recently gave us a tweet with this to say in reply to our very own AcidReign:
"AcidReign87: We've been discussing Town Portals at Diablofans recently. Are they completely out of the game? Or are they in, with restrictions?"
So it is still possible that they will be in the game in one form or another, perhaps with restrictions or through http://diablowiki.com/Shrines" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Shrines"/> Shrines.
Another notable movement mechanic is the Sorceress http://diablowiki.com/Teleport" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Teleport"/> Teleport skill which instantly moves the character to the cursor location while ignoring all obstacles. Problems with this skill appeared in Diablo II where it was used to basically skip content completely and rapidly. The common usage was to teleport through all the "pointless" enemies to then open a Town Portal for the party to step through when the desired area was reached. This allowed characters with access to Teleport to farm experience and items many times faster than characters without it, meaning that Sorceresses became by far the best PvM characters. That was true until Lord of Destruction introduced the Enigma Runeword which gave any character access to the skill, thereby making other classes useful again.
Blizzard didn't like how Teleport allowed players to skip content and in other ways give the Sorceress (Wizard) far better mobility than the other classes. Instead of buffing the other characters mobility like Blizzard North did, they gave it a cooldown and a maximum range instead. On top of that they also removed its ability to move the character through obstacles (not including enemies).
Finally we have the Run/Walk system, introduced in Diablo: Hellfire as "jogging". It was a toggle that could be used in Tristram to make your character move faster. This mechanic was expanded in Diablo II to be usable outside of towns as well, and Stamina was added as a regenerating resource that drains while your character was running. This was a bit frustrating in very low levels (most of the Normal difficulty) since you ran out of Stamina so quickly.
There might be no Stamina in Diablo III, judging from the lack of Stamina bar in the gameplay videos and screenshots, and the lack of an http://diablowiki.com/Attribute" class="wiki-link">http://media-diablofans.cursecdn.com/attachments/16/736/wiki2.gif" alt="DiabloWiki.com - Attribute"/> Attribute that adds Stamina. They might add it later in the development, or they might have chosen not to show it yet, but for now we don't know. Personally I believe that Stamina is gone while the run/walk toggle simply hasn't been shown yet. It would probably have caused confusion if someone at BlizzCon by accident pressed the toggle key and didn't know how to switch back.
That concludes this Chronicle about Maps and Movement. Hopefully some of you gained some additional insight into the past of the Diablo franchise and the current state of the Diablo III development. If you are also interested in the small trinkets we commonly place in our characters gear, then you might want to check out my previous Chronicle about Socketables as well. Until next time: Feed your inner Archivist!