Diablo used to be about immersive action roleplaying, specializing your character, finding rare powerful loot to create diverse, unique builds, then slaying demons in masses, kill count, tiered difficulty, waves of monsters/hordes of demons and like in the original Diablo, the difficulty scaled based on each level of dungeon, the deeper you go, fighting bosses at the end of each dungeon, then fighting a final boss (Diablo, or in D2, any of the major bosses like Mephisto, Duriel, etc.) at the deepest level, but never should come down to being a 'timed trial' at a static selected difficulty, that turns the game into a racing game, which is what Greater Rifts are being the endgame in Diablo 3.
It is not the kind of infinite scaling we wanted (in my belief).
Ultimately what we wanted (in my belief) was, a scaling difficulty RNG dungeon based on levels completed or how far into the zone you venture with boss encounters, not one static rift with multiple levels but the same difficulty and a time limit to completing the static difficulty rift.
What it should be is a scaling difficulty dungeon with RNG maps and RNG monster combinations that tests the player's or players' survivability versus their damage/kill count, where you're not restrained a time window, but rather not dying to a zone/level/boss.
How it would work
- The basic way is to start out in Illusionists Descent 1, the difficulty is Normal. You complete the map, the next level Illusionists Descent 2, becomes Hard difficulty and so on.
- Another way as well is you have one very large, somewhat linear map with different zones, where the further you go, the harder/higher density the monsters become based on the zones, rather than a level.
But the only real difference is one is having levels laterally, with a boss at the end of each level, and one is expanding horizontally, with different zones having multiple difficulties, reaching a final zone with a boss.
So at the beginning of the map you fight normal monsters, but the further you go into the map into another zone the harder/higher density the monsters become, so the whole map actually has increasing difficulty itself.
Both ways work by itself, but you can combine the two and create a level with many zones and each zone progressively gets harder, with a boss at the end of the level, and the next level being the next progression of difficulty of multiple zones and the next difficulty boss.
This tests the player's or players' ability to defeat all the foes in that particular level/zone to move on to the next level of difficulty, there could be anywhere from 1-5 elites/champions per zone and a boss at the end of each level.
The boss mechanic would instead just be placed at the end of each zone/level, much like you see in the original Diablo 3 gameplay demo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEvThjiE038).
Imagine what's shown in the video being a randomly generated dungeon map with multiple levels down and multiple zones in a level, finally ending at a boss for that dungeon, giving you access to the next dungeon with the next segment of difficulty level and boss.
Now rather than having to finish the rift by getting enough 'orbs' or kill count to reach a boss on any random number of levels of maps cleared, it's about simply completing each level with many zones each getting harder, then a boss at the end of the level you have to beat to get to the next level with many more (even more than before perhaps) progressively harder zones with a harder boss at the end, scaling infinitely.
And if a player or group of players are not strong enough in damage they will never be able to do enough damage before being overwhelmed or can't progress further in that level, this is where the boss enrage could become useful again or just slowly grow stronger, or the boss could regenerate if they are not doing enough damage. If they don't have enough survivability they will be killed before being able to get to the end of the level.
This still allows for competition, but with a different objective that is not a race of speed, but instead true to Diablo, by defeating a boss/level/difficulty not by time, but by not dying.
The Leaderboards would just consist of difficulty cleared, this could be tuned so the difficulty levels are closer together at high levels so you can see a more distinct leader that is able to clear perhaps just 1 level higher as the number 1 on the leaderboard, so there could be many people that clear the same level, it would just then be based on who beat the highest first, instead of a race of time on who did it the fastest, and make the objective to clear 1 level higher to break the tie on level cleared and become the first to clear the next highest.
This would also more or less resolve the issue of rift fishing because it's less reliant on time and being lucky to complete it faster, but just focused on being able to beat that level and being the first to reach the highest level, which is still luck of RNG for being able to do sufficient damage and survive, but that is much more gear/skill/paragon based, no longer restrained by time, down to milliseconds, having to fish for lucky monsters that just give you a time advantage to completing the rift faster/in time.
Finally, for once in the game death is actually much more detrimental to the player in a way that is not annoying, but challenging to the player's survivability which is an important aspect of the concept of mortality in the Diablo genre and simply way better than right now.
No longer do we play to waste our time looking at the death screen and wait to revive over and over, maxing out at 30 seconds, because it's no longer about time, it's either simply your inability to progress further that stops you and death is just indefinite once you reach a certain level that will be a threshold, there could be a flat timer of just 5-10 seconds that is not a frustrating wait, or upon death or when all the players in the group are dead however many times, like with one resurrection for each player, you will be spawned back in town with the rift ended and closed allowing you to start again instead of having to abandon the game if you can't progress like right now.
In the case of hardcore, it would cause no issues whatsoever, once again, you would know your limit and only complete to the level you are capable of and that would be your record.
It would actually add even greater meaning to Hardcore mode, because the increasing difficulty itself is about survival and endurance, and the prime factor to hardcore is staying alive.
Like explained above, by making death more detrimental, it plays on hardcore players even more, but in a good, fair way, not by making it harder, but by making it more meaningful to stay alive instead of just beating a time, what they're playing for in the first place.
Lastly, this will allow there to finally be music and environmental effects based on the progression depth you've gone, closer to the boss, the louder more intense the music, ambient sounds, clattering, screams, echos, nightmarish groans, the lighting become darker and more contrasted, beacons of light of torches or infernal flames shooting out of walls, this is when the game can become immersive, what made Diablo so successful.