Diamond Superstructure

Description

The Diamond Superstructure pattern is a way to give the player a feeling of freedom while still imposing a strict story. This common quest layout pattern consists of a single world state or “hub”, preceeded by a relatively short and linear introduction quest, and followed by a single quest that essentially ends the experience. The single quest hub does not have to represent an actual single location in the game world, only a single game state where all quests are available to the player.

The Diamond Superstructure limits how much impact the player's choices make on the game world. It can allow multiple endings or multiple openings, but the structure of the world between these two states is essentially static. NPCs may react differently, or some quests may become more difficult, depending on previous actions of the player, as it is with Alpha Protocol's reputation system, but the quest choices essentially remain the same.

In many uses of this pattern, like Oblivion's, there is a single main quest line running out of the one hub to the conclusion mission. There may also be a list of separate required quests that prevent the player from going directly to the final quest, as in Alpha Protocol's alpha missions. These design decisions force the player to explore the game world, and prevent any accidental stumbling upon the end of the game before the player is ready. One exception to this is in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, where the player can go directly to the final quest and beat the game in minutes.

Variables and Affordances

  • Size: size of the central diamond, in terms of how many quests are available
  • Exit Conditions: what conditions must be met to exit the diamond

Examples

  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. After the player escapes from the dungeon, the world opens up to allowing any of the quest lines to be started by the player from the outset. Oblivion scales combat difficulty, which allows for any area to be explored or any quest to be taken with enemies that will always match the player's level.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Unlike its sequel Oblivion, Morrowind heavily relies on soft gates to direct the player. For the average player, the game behaves more similarly to a linear RPG. Even though after character stats are set the player is free to go anywhere in the world, there is always one area that is intended to be explored next, and the vast majority of quests, while available at the start, will destroy any low level player attempting them.
  • Fallout 3. After birth and childhood, the wasteland of DC opens up with all quest lines available to the player at once. It uses soft gates to try to limit and direct the player through a path of slowly increasingly difficult quests, but never forces any progression.
  • Alpha Protocol. After an initial training mission in Alpha Protocol headquarters, the game opens up to a selection of 3 different cities to work in. All missions in these cities are available at any time. After all missions are completed, the player is forced to return back to Alpha Protocol headquarters to end the diamond, in the form of a Deja Vu Quest.

In Worked Examples

  • Linear Hub Pattern. Another common form of quest superstructure, consists of multiple quest hubs tied together.
  • Deja Vu Quest. Sometimes used to link the intro and concluding quests in a Diamond Superstructure. (see Alpha Protocol)
  • Soft Gate. A level design tactic used to add some narrative structure to an open world. See Morrowind for the classic example.
  • Do In Any Order. Do In Any Order on a global scale is a degenerate version of the “diamond”; there is a large quest hub available but only one quest needs to be done to progress to the end.

Quest-Level Relationship

  • Open World. Open worlds give a player access to all areas at once, and lend themselves to allowing all quests as at once as well.
patterns/diamond_superstructure.txt · Last modified: 2011/06/12 22:49 by Gillian Smith
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