Cut and Paste Environments aka: Copy And Paste Environments
"What a fascinating place this is. Look at all this wonderful architecture. You could walk all the way around the world and never find its like. Except for this part. I've seen this somewhere else before."
Game developers have a limited time to develop their games; some have limitations of budget. Sometimes, though moreso in the past than nowadays, they have limitations forced on them by the particular platform they're developing on. And some game developers are just lazy.
Environments for a game require a great deal of effort, particularly modern levels with 3D models, textures, and shaders. These are expensive and time-consuming to make. It's no surprise that a developer that is being particularly economical would want to try to use that 3D environment as much as possible. In some games, they do this by forcing you to backtrack, typically with Action Adventure games. But in games following this trope, they do it by making a new area that looks very similar if not identical to the other area. This may be done many times. Usually done in places with randomly-generated backgrounds.
Repetitive environments can make navigating the world very confusing. Without having unique landmarks, it is very easy to get lost. And it's very dull to see the same things over and over.
MMORPGs (and other forms of Wide Open Sandboxes for that matter) are big users of this trope, but they mostly do so for reasons of economy. They have a huge world that needs building, and any cost-cutting measures they can find are of value. First-person shooters are also a common victim of this, reusing versions of their single-player maps for multiplayer (or vice-versa, depending on which side the developers are focusing on).
Sometimes called "geomorphic design" after a set of Tabletop RPG dungeon design "tools" sold by TSR in the 1970s and 1980s.
Sub-trope of Fake Longevity. One of the more common forms of Hard Mode Filler. For cut-and-paste Mooks, see Underground Monkey and Palette Swap.
One might say that the entire campaign would qualify, what with basically having to play the first half of the game over again after the library.
In the original Halo, pretty much every interior level consisted of completely identical rooms one right after the other, with fresh enemies being the only sign that you are not in the same room you just came from.
Worse than Library: Assault on the Control Room.
Sacred Icon, the sequel to The Library.
Halo 2 likes to feature many rooms exactly two times.
And those large bridges too. You go through at least 3 or 4 identical bridges.
Anarchy Online. Pick a quest, ANY QUEST: 150% of the time the rooms will look dead similar, right down to the kitchen sink.
It is a running joke among players of the MMORPG City of Heroes that only one architect designed all the buildings in Paragon City, and he was either insane or on serious drugs (or Bergholt Stuttley Johnson). Office buildings all have the same basic room and hallway components, and in some cases they aren't even randomized; warehouse interiors are also suspiciously uniform, right down to the big multi-level room at the end of one map branch where you usually find the villain boss for the mission. Similarly, there is a large but limited number of texture maps for building exteriors.
Issue 14, which introduced player-created content in the form of the 'Mission Architect' system, does nothing to avert this. Almost any map currently in the game can be chosen, including the potential for a random pick from a certain size and type, but the maps themselves cannot be altered in any way; only the enemies and objectives inside can be edited.
Oranbega, the lost city hidden beneath Paragon City, is a confusing magical labyrinth you will be visiting frequently. In the Rogue Isles, Oranbega doesn't exist. Instead, the ruins of the lost city of Mu are located there. Predictably, they're exactly the same. Some players don't even distinguish between the two. Somewhat justified in that the Oranbegans and Mu were two sides of an ancient Civil War.
DICE is infamous for reusing buildings across multiple maps in its Battlefield series.
Also by DICE, Mirror's Edge is made of this trope. Every rooftop is made of the same elements in different combinations.
This has been an element of both modern 3D Castlevania games.
And of course there's the Inverted Castle in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which is the regular castle but upside down with different music, enemies and bosses and almost no story. However, some rooms were definitely designed to work both right side up and upside down, and some layouts are different.
Harmony Of Dissonance is worse about this, having a Castle A and B, with EXACTLY the same layout in both, just different graphics and enemies.
This problem shows up most glaringly in three places in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. The Tower of Infinity (50 levels of the same room with different Mooks, the Tower of Evermore, which is the same thing but harder, and most damningly, Dracula's Castle (which of course is required). It's also pretty obvious in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
Barber shopsnote Except the the barber shop near CJ's home (since according to the storyline the person running that particular one has been cutting CJ's hair for years), and another on the southeast corner of Los Santos, fast food jointsnote This one at least may be justifiable, weapons shopsnote most of the time; one shop is larger than the others, and tattoo parlors are all identical and even use the same workers, so it gets a bit jarring to see a guy that sells guns in San Andreas can also pop up in every other county that sells guns.
During the burglary missions there are also only a handful of building interiors depending on what kind of building you are breaking into.
Even as recently as Grand Theft Auto IV, platform levels of underground subway stations, fast food joints, a clothing chain, two gun stores, bowling alleys, and a multitude of apartment corridors still share common interiors.
Happens in the SNES version of The Lord of the Rings Vol. 1. The caves are mostly composed of a set of repeating tiles, resulting in caves looking very much the same. The forests also suffer from this.
Games on 8-bit Nintendo systems had to fit huge worlds into tiny cartridges, and they pulled it off by repeating parts of the map.
Super Mario Bros.. for NES (40 KB) used repeating patterns three screens wide for decorative backgrounds such as hills and clouds. It also reused about two models for castle exteriors (small and large). On top of that, 5 entire levels were reused, as well as World 4-4 and 7-4 which would actually loop if the player takes the wrong path.
Additionally, they used the exact same sprite for the clouds and bushes the only difference being the clouds were white where as the bushes were green.
The Legend of Zelda for NES (128 KB) encoded each map screen as a list of 16 vertical columns as tall as the screen, causing some areas to look familiar. The dungeons were comprised of combinations of only a handful of room layouts, with only the doors, enemies, treasures, and so on being different.
The original Metroid (128 KB) had a lot of rooms and areas that looked alike, making navigation hell. Interestingly, this was more to make use of limited cartridge space than lazy level design.
Super Metroid lampshaded this by having you encounter the starting point of the original Metroid, only with slightly better graphics.
Super Mario Land for Game Boy (64 KB) reused 20 by 16 meter screens of map data mercilessly.
Adventure Island used almost the exact same template for each level: a flatland stage, an athletic stage, a cave stage, and a boss stage. Repeat seven more times for the whole game. Most egregious is the boss stages, which are almost exact clones of each other, save for the positioning of the monsters.
Same for Wonder Boy, although the SMS version had a few exclusive stages with different environments, such as a waterfall and a gauntlet of erupting volcanoes.
Deadly Towers has every dungeon room looking approximately the same, which is made worse by the dungeons being pointlessly vast.
Shatterhand has a somewhat unique example: One of the levels has a part where a player rides up an elevator while avoiding gears, enemies and fire. This section is then repeated without the last two threats as a boss arena. The highest parts of these two shafts have even the same gear positions as well as a item box for you to collect.
The dungeon's pretty much a magnanimous dig at dungeon crawls in general, with the enemies being Card-Carrying Villain constructs that dutifully play their role as opponents and an "Evil Wizard Construct" who spouts stereotypical bad-guy tough talk.
Smuggler's Run has three settings, one of which is the exact same as an earlier one, but covered in snow.
MMORPG World of Warcraft is a big user of this trope; at least with buildings. While the actual geography for most areas is unique, the buildings, caves, and "doodads" that get placed there obviously come from a standardized set of models that get a Palette Swap from one zone to the next. Justified in two counts: the aforementioned economy of design, and the fact that the game is based on the Warcraft RTS franchise and deliberately copies the look and feel of the buildings of each race. Indeed, it's really easy to tell who built a given area just by looking at the architecture.
Another interesting thing is that it reuses many of the Warcraft 3 icons for spells and actions.
There is one specific environment copy-and-paste that deserves an honorable mention here; the Obsideon Dragon cave in the WOTLK Dragonblight zone. Yes, it's another cave, but it's not just another palette copy you'd see again and again when your roaming around Azeroth like mentioned above. This cave, is a cutout of about half of one of the games freaking DUNGEONS; specificly, Ragefire Chasm. A grapics update to suit the WOTLK standard is the only major difference between the Obsideon cave and Ragefire.
Final Fantasy XIII was especially bad about this during Chapter 10, forcing the player to go through identical looking rooms several times, fight the first boss of the level, then go through even more identical looking rooms before reaching the second boss in the chapter.
Final Fantasy XIV has enormous expanses of land that re-use some assets to fill out the space, supposedly due to limitations imposed by the Playstation3. While all MMOs do this to some extent, much ado has been made about this game's usage of the trope as it sometimes recycled entire topographical features. When the game got rebooted in 2013, almost every single geographical location gotten a makeover and looks unique to each other.
The world of Drakengard is composed of bleak landscape after bleak landscape after bleak landscape, with biome differences (forests ARE different from deserts, after all) to tell you where you are. Every building you enter in the game has an annoying tendency to have all its rooms look alike, with some notable exceptions.
There's a flying base and an ocean base. They not only use the exact same interior layout, but they have the same exterior model as well.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has you visit the planes of Oblivion, unsurprisingly. There are 90 gates to Oblivion, but only 7 distinct maps. There's slight variation in the layout of the central towers, but not enough to shake the feelings of deja vu. The regular dungeons are also examples, though less blatant; they were procedurally generated before release (unlike the earlier Morrowind and later Skyrim, which have hand-crafted dungeons), and, as such, tend to feel pretty much the same.
Oblivion is not the worst offender. Daggerfall covers an area larger than Great Britain, and since the developers certainly weren't going to actually design all that area, most of it is randomly generated, and looks more or less the same. The random dungeons of Daggerfall are made by the computer by assembling sections of the main quest's dungeons. This results in dungeons where the walls and floor will suddenly change colour. Not to mention that the algorithms involved produce levels that resemble "mating octopi" according to at least one review and completing quests involving dungeons consists of either a) only completing quests where you find the item in the first room, b) spending hours combing the dungeon for the MacGuffin (which doesn't look any different than the rest of the dungeon trash), or c) using the cheat codes provided with the patch (largely because the developers realized the game was unplayable without such codes) to cycle through the potential quest item locations.
Of course, just because a dungeon is hand-crafted doesn't mean it's particularly unique—in Skyrim, once you've visited one Nordic ruin, you've pretty much visited them all.
Fatal Frame III reused several environments from the previous two games, including the Fish Tank room from Himuro Mansion, and the front of the Osaka house from All God's Village.
Sega employs this trope liberally for the post-millennial Phantasy Star games: Phantasy Star Online,Phantasy Star Universe,Phantasy Star Portable, and Phantasy Star Zero. Phantasy Star Online is the worst offender, tropewise: The first PSO game told an entire story, with side stories, optional missions and all, in the same four reused maps. (This isn't even counting how many of the enemies encountered were reskins that used the same character "skeleton" and animations!) The addon/sequels to PSO often included reskins of previous content, especially bosses and enemies. Phantasy Star Universe and Portable tried to add variety to layouts of the same area, but it's still based on the same concept—and despite having more content to begin with than the first Phantasy Star Online, it was more or less the same as PSO with all its add-ons (that is to say, it's got a lot of reskinned areas, enemies, and bosses—just with different behavior flags).
Mass Effect 1 re-uses the same room design for mines, and for planetary outposts. The sole variation is in the placement of crates used for cover. And even then, a lot of outposts have the crates piled in the exact same manner. These are partly justifiable in that some places like the bases and bunkers could be pre-fab, and thus more likely to be bought because they would be much cheaper (as for the ships, well, doesn't the interior of every Mustang look alike?). This doesn't work so well for mines however, and even the underground bunkers all share the same orange rock wall colour. The uncharted planets meanwhile are all made up of amazingly similar hilly terrain, the only difference being that each planet had a slightly different color scheme. This is because all the terrain is determined by the height value of points on the terrain; the look of the terrain itself is determined by how steep it is. This leaves very little oppurtunity to have distinctive environments.
Mass Effect 2 was better about this; most of the main story missions were in completely unique environments, except when it made sense not to be (for instance, the two recruitment missions on Omega obviously share some architectural similarities). Sidequests received somewhat less love but were still dramatically improved, and felt like actual unique missions as opposed to "go here and shoot everyone". Mass Effect 3, having mostly done away with sidequests that feature environments (DLC notwithstanding), has completely unique terrain and architecture in all of its missions. Even the DLC multiplayer maps, 5 out of 7 of which share visual styles with different single-player maps, have unique layouts. (The six multiplayer maps that shipped with the game are identical to the six sidequest maps in singleplayer, but these are explicitly the same locations.)
This is not unique to Mass Effect for Bioware games. Neverwinter Nights was built on this; there were innumerable room interiors that were all the same except for some minor set dressing like tables and detritus. Indeed, that's how NWN levels are built; they're like 3D tilemaps. Oddly, Knights of the Old Republic averted this, despite using a modified version of the NWN engine. Interestingly, their earlier Baldur's Gate series games were rather different, with each outdoor environment and the vast majority of the dungeon environments being hand-drawn, with certain stock elements included where necessary (doors and trees in the main). Quite an achievement given the sheer size, number and detail of the maps that had to be created.
Oddly enough, the very end of the Omega DLC for the third game revisits the area the player first visits in Mass Effect 2, making this a cross-game example.
Dragon Age: Origins was top-notch when it came to unique one-of-a-kind environments. One place in particular however that copy-and-pasted environments was Denerim when your clearing out the city's backstreet encounters. There's dozens of backyard encounters when you roam around Denerim, but only two maps are ever used for these fights. One encounter the map will have a thief ambush waiting for your arrival. The next time you return, the map will have a special black vial lying about that summons a powerful Revenant wanting to kill you.
Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening had something similar, but it's reused environments was the world encounters which Origins beforehand was very good at. So many times in Awakening you'll be fighting your way through the same flaming forest, or clearing out the same farm overrun of Darkspawn.
Present to an extreme level in Dragon Age II, where the wastelands around Lothering, the city of Kirkwall, and the final Deep Roads dungeon of Act I are the only areas with a unique map. There was literally no original environment after Dragon Age II's Act I, the closest being Hawk's new hightown estate. Even Sebastian's supposedly unique graveyard cave for his personal Act II quest is just a retextured world mine-shaft cave if you look close enough at it's map layout. All however, is somewhat justified in that the game is framed around Varric telling the story of the Champion of Kirkwall to Cassandra Pentaghast and that he's more likely to focus on what Hawke did than on the details of where.
The two pieces of post-release Downloadable Content both take steps to address this issue, as both are set outside of Kirkwall and feature entirely unique areas.
NetHack and other Roguelikes are either a major subversion of this, or the purest example: the entire game is constructed out of ASCII characters. And almost every dungeon level is randomized, giving a ridiculous number of possibilities. You will not play the same game twice. Unless the game decides to fill your Maze of Menace with bones files.
Parasite Eve plays this out with its Bonus Dungeon, the Chrysler Building. Although each floor, except every 10th is randomized in layout, every hall and storage room are all identical. Every single floor uses the same exact decor for the walls and floors.
Limbo of the Lost offers a very literal interpretation of this trope: Nearly every single one of the game's prerendered background scenes is copied straight from elsewhere, sometimes with some tweaking to try and cover it up, or placement of props that, once again, are reused.
In The Godfather, New York City only has a few different types of shops and bars and then repeats the same floor plan over and over again so even if you had never been to a building before you already knew the way around.
Hellgate: London was criticised for this: with the exception of several unique levels, most of the game's randomised levels were repetitions of about 10 basic tilesets, with identical sewers/streets/dried-out riverbeds/building basements. Perhaps London really is that boring.
The Adaman Sea level towards the end of Tomb Raider: Underworld is a level that is an almost literal copy-paste of a previous level with different weather conditions, people have even noted that the location of many of the enemies is the same (although the fact you have a BFG at this point at least mercifully means you can breeze through it in a few minutes).
The PS2InuYasha RPG pushed this to its illogical limits. Travel through various areas consisted of about 12-15 individual 'screens', copy-pasted around each other to create these areas, with a few "unique" screens in some areas. Underground areas and towns were mostly exempt from this, though.
Persona 3 fell victim to this. Averted somewhat as the areas are randomized every time you enter, and justified by the fact that the sole dungeon in the game is one gigantic building.
Crisis Core has 300 side missions and a grand total of about eight or nine actual areas, reused over and over and over again.
The Romancing SaGaPS2 Remake used this for the Assassin's Guild, it is one big intersection in every room, and the only way to find your way around is following white gems on the floor, the south exit will take you back to the entrance no matter where you are though.
Wario Land Shake It used this for the secret levels, often without even a colour change (and those that were had changes such as in one case going from having a dark blue sky to a red sky). Kind of saddening, considering the fourth game used a completely different background per level.
Fallout 3: The subways which the player must use to navigate conveniently placed piles of rubble suffer from this. Probably justified, as subway tunnels are not usually known for their visual variety. A less justified example would be the occasional reuse of building interiors or layouts.
Earlier titles in the series used basically the same handful of maps for all random encounters. Almost all caves shared the same walls and were only distinguished by their layout.
Both Fallout 3 and New Vegas suffer from this trope a lot harder than you think, although Vegas tries harder to subvert it. Almost every interior corridor is yellow/blue or white with dirt marks everywhere, the same filing cabinets and desks are probably used more than any other object, identical metal boxes with nothing in them, doors are almost always wooden with 2 glass panels or the metal lever-opened kind and the wasteland itself.
FNV also directly reuses a few building layouts from its predecessor, for example the Securitron Deconstruction Plant, X-2 Transmitter Array, and train tunnels in Old World Blues are near-exact copies of the Robot Repair Center, Satcomm Array NW-05a, and subway/utility tunnels, respectively, the Mysterious Cave's layout is identical to Broc Flower Cave from the FNV base game, and Hidden Valley Bunker reuses architecture from Raven Rock. In the main game, the REPCONN basement appears to copy parts of Vault 101(such as the GOAT room) and the Jefferson Memorial basement.
Justified in the Vault design, since they were drafted by one to a handful of contractors and built from mass-manufactured prefabs all over the country.And because all the civilian Vault communities were social experiments, they'd want to keep as many non-experimental variables as constant as they could.
Rogue Galaxy is a particularly painful sufferer of this - every level is about twice as long as it has any right to be, and only uses two or three kinds of texture.
Ev E Online follows this trope to the letter. Each race has a handful of different station, stargate and planet designs. Agents assign you to a mission randomly picked from a relatively small pool. Also, several NPC factions use ships from one of the major factions, with the only difference being the paint job.
The "Trinity" graphics upgrade made it worse. Prior to Trinity, there were 3 station interiors per race. Afterwards, there was one station interior per race.
Mega Man Star Force is very guilty of this. Just about every Comp system that doesn't house a major boss or is not in the second scrap yard area will be identical regardless whether the Comp system is designed for a soda machine, a dog house, a statue, etc.
Star Force 3 was worse: all the boss areas even looked the same.
The first Battle Network game was horrible about this. The whole Internet looked the same! Every area! Even the "scary" WWW-controlled areas! This made it rather easy to walk into the Undernet without knowing it until you suddenly get curbstomped by a scary-powerful group of viruses. Later games were better about this.
Averted in Star Wars: Empire at War. Each planet has its own terrain, even those that sorta-kinda reuse the same tilesets have their own little quirks that make them unique.
The Dark Cloud games manage to do what NetHack did except less well. The 3D sections are identical, but you never play a level with the same layout twice because the levels are randomized.
Celadon Hotel in Pokémon Red and Blue (and Yellow) is a slightly modified Pokémon Center. You can even stand where the PC would be in a regular Pokémon Center and use it...even though it doesn't exist! Possibly lampshaded when you talk to the receptionist and she says "Pokémon? No, this is a hotel."
Averted in FireRed/LeafGreen; the hotel looks the same but the Pokémon centers have a new layout. However, this means that the receptionist's line no longer makes sense.
If you try out level editors for the first two generations, you will discover that most houses that look the same in-game, are in fact the same map with different objects; the player's house in Red/Blue/Yellow is the same map as Copycat's house.
Fridge Brilliance: Of course Copycat's home looks like yours. She's a master at, well, copycatting.
Most towns have variations on a just a handful of architectures in the first two Generations, with a few buildings giving some diversity such as Silph Co and the radio towers. In Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald (Generation III), they improved on this. However, this made the identical interiors and exteriors of Pokémon Centers and Pokémon Marts even more noticeable.
The Pokémon series is a big offender when it comes to the buildings' interiors. Here's a list of areas that use all the same map:
Pokémon Centers are all identical
The same goes for Poké Marts
Each town has a generic map that is used as the interiors of most of its houses
Guardhouses use one of two maps depending on whether they're horizontal or vertical in relation with the camera
The X and Y games from Generation VI follows the same formula as the previous installments...with the exception of one unique case regarding the Looker Side Quest after completing the game. To explain, Looker's side-story would eventually bring the player to returning to Lysandre's Labs underneath Lumiose City; granting the player access to a secret floor of the labs...except that this floor is the exact same layout as the lab's spin-tile floor, even to the point of keeping the same side-room entrances, but blocking them off with poster boards. Why this never got a unique floor is anyone's guess.
The first installment of Die Hard Trilogy for the PlayStation. Most of the floors, with the exception of the Garage, Reception, Ballroom, and Vault, are small variations of six basic designs: Office, Construction, Maintenance, Executive, Computer, and Rooftop.
Infinity: The Quest for Earth features procedural generation of terrain. On one hand, this means no one spot on any of the billions of realistically-sized planets is perfectly identical. On the other, it means some planets are bound to look very similar to each other.
The Conduit plays this trope straight. While many of the earlier levels are repetitive (somewhat justified in that they take place in repetitive real-world buildings), the player can also use the ASE to show a path to the next waypoint.
During development, one of Bungie's promotional points for Oni was that its buildings were designed by real architects for the player to fight through. The game ended up with a lot of Cut And Paste Environments because that's how real architecture works.
SimCity takes this to a large scale level with it's building tilesets.
As for the games before SimCity 4, the buildings all faced the same direction.
The 2013 edition has a somewhat limited range of building models within the same wealth/density/zone group, and buildings are likely to be clustered within those categories, but they have randomized variations in their texture selection. Consequently, it's not uncommon to see a row of houses that all look the same except for the paint, which in fairness is not uncommon in real life either. A patch added variations in the heights of skyscrapers so that they weren't all at the same level, which looked unrealistic.
Some pseudo-random level generators used in a variety of games, from X-Com to Spelunky and even NetHack, use Cut And Paste Level Elements - while the overall shape of the level differs each time, the maps are generated with some sections of level that are always designed in a particular manner:
X-Com uses massive tiles which are composites to plant houses and UFOs down, and certain sections of an Alien Base always have the same basic layout.
X-Com Apocalypse plays it completely straight way with fully premade levels. For example, every UFO of a given type always crashes into the same landscape regardless of location.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown has lots of handmade levels, but they're all loosely based on North American cities, leading to things like a large red suspension bridge in the middle of Birmingham, England and people using large sedans in Japan, which tends toward smaller cars.
NetHack features "Special Levels", where the floor is mostly pregenerated and stored in the game's database. Most of these premade levels are either Quest Levels, part of the Sokoban shoutout, or part of the Endgame. Even then, enough random events and monsters make each experience unique.
Spelunky uses large blocks of level formations, which are slotted together and adjusted by pathfinding software to prevent/minimise inescapable situations where the player is forced to have bombs or rope on hand. An addition randomising routine makes little changes here and there to keep things interesting, and all items and enemies are always randomly placed, with the exception of Special Level Elements very much like Nethack's.
The Diablo series prides itself for its randomly generated dungeons, and apart from a few carefully-constructed areas (boss levels, the last parts of final dungeons, towns etc.) it manages to avoid this trope completely.
However, Diablo III constructs each dungeon from a handful of very large architectural complexes, to the point that a veteran player can see a hallway and recognize whether it leads anywhere interesting. The page quote is a lampshade on this. Also, each dungeon has its entrance and exit in the same relative locations.
The Baldur's Gate series had a large number of houses you could break into. And most of them used the exact same layout...
The revamped version of OGame gives planets in different positions different Palette Swaps but every planet in an equivalent position has the same background.
All the .hack games suffer from this. By trying to simulate an MMO, the games offer you an enormous amount of key word combinations to access new areas, and they will lead you to... not a great variation of areas, mostly a change of enemies.
In Shadow the Hedgehog, there are two levels in which Shadow is transported to his memory in the past, The Doom and Lost Impact. Completing certain missions that don't just involve getting to the goal ring, especially in Lost Impact, is arduous as every room looks very similar and there are not quite enough distinctive features in each area.
Central City counts as well. There are tow parts that look exactly the same, in fact, even the landmarks are the same.
The First-Person ShooterMoon very noticeably uses this, but also attempts to justify it. Almost all of the game takes place in alien bases, and since they're all for the same sort of alien and the same purpose, there is no in-game reason for them to vary much. As for the rest of the levels, they're outside—on the Moon, where you can hardly expect varying scenery. One does wonder, though, why the bases have no break rooms, no living quarters, and indeed nothing other than identical machinery, identical checkposts, and the occasional storage unit.
Fuel is a great offender, having objects repeated several times in a small area. This, of course, is justified by the game's 14400 square kilometers of environment.
Ultima VI constructs its "cave" dungeons from geomorphs. This wouldn't be so bad if most of the dungeons weren't part of a single ginormous world-spanning cave, so one wrong turn can leave you unbelievably lost.
In Mafia: City of Lost Heaven, buildings repeat textures. While this is not too much distracting with bricks and such, seeing several "Pete's Restaurant" buildings is a big jarring.
Done in Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!. Due to the limitations of personal computers at the time, the game heavily reuses standard icons for most spaces (residential home, skyscraper, bridge, etc.). Even with this limitation, the game loosely attempts to duplicate real-world locations with the setup — for example, the Pentagon is a ring of five "skyscraper" tiles.
Done even moreso in the original Castle Wolfenstein games; all of the rooms are built from repeated use of a single "wall" tile, a "stairs" tile, and cut-and-pasted furniture.
Spiritual SuccessorWolfenstein 3D is equally guilty, though with some more variety. There's at least three levels that are entirely made up of or otherwise reuse nearly-identical swastika-shaped mazes.
While playing Alan Wake, you may get tired of seeing trees due to Alan having to trudge through a thick forest at night in almost every level. Yahtzee even remarked on this, saying that the game repeatedly makes up excuses for you to be doing so.
Then again, Washington is very thickly forested in places, especially the western half, and opening shots establish Bright Falls as nestled deep in the mountains.
Only in the first three levels. The last three involve fighting through clinic grounds, a large farm, urban terrain, a power plant, and a series of highways, junkyards, and mills.
In Bayonetta you go through the same town square at least three times. First time it's normal, second time it's covered in lava, third time it's floating in space. The final boss also uses palette-swapped versions of the same terrain for it's fire and ice forms.
The Lord of the Rings Online largely avoids this trope. While some building interiors and exteriors are re-used, the environments for the different zones are largely unique. To the point that the snowy mountain environment in the Blue Mountains is distinct from the snowy mountain environment of the Misty Mountains. The wide variety of terrain makes exploring the different areas more worthwhile.
MMORPG Vindictus does this, but in a fairly creative way. All combat is in instanced dungeons, known as "missions," set in specific regions. Each region has a limited number of landscape/room/landmark features. Each time a dungeon is generated, it uses a semi-random selection of available features. Certain missions will invariably have certain features every time, and the boss rooms are always the same for each mission; but there will also be a few randomly-generated features as well. Particularly egregious with The Labyrinth.
There are also entire cut-and-paste regions. For example, the Ruins of Sanctity are little more than a Palette Swap of the Perilous Ruins with a few features added. Nearly all higher-level regions are Palette Swap versions of lower-level ones. The only truly unique regions are Ainle, The Sewers, and Ortel Castle.
Dead Island has the entire final "dungeon" as this. It's pretty obvious they ran out of time or ideas at the end, and just lopped the same room/hallway combo for the end. There's even the same branching hallways into the same big empty rooms with nothing. Very odd, as the doors to these empty rooms are big and imposing.
Similar to GTA, Saints Row does this for its various shops. Taken to an extreme in The Third, where there are about three unique clothing shops in Steelport - every other one in the city is a Planet Saints.
Guild Wars did a decent job avoiding this for most of its run with largely unique zones. However, in Eye of the North dungeon design bested their development team. Rooms were often copied in several dungeons with only a few remaining unique to a single dungeon.
SSI Gold Box RPG Secret of the Silver Blades uses this extensively, along with some engine tricks, to create huge, sprawling areas; within a few minutes of exploration a player will see the same basic room layouts over and over again.
Super Mario Galaxy has Goldleaf Galaxy, which has a main planet simply being a color swap and invert of Honeyhive Galaxy.
In Stampede Run, there are several set arrangements of obstacles that are frequently reused.
Jak 3 could be considered this in the way that Haven City shares almost all of the layout, landmarks, models and textures to its appearance in Jak II, except for the added destruction. Justifiable for the sake of continuity, and doing so made an actual emotional impact on players as they saw a place they were so familiar with in ruins.
Left 4 Dead has the finale of The Sacrifice campaign looking exactly like the finale map used in The Passing campaign for Left 4 Dead 2 with some of the back alleys and streets being blocked off in the former. However, the recycled maps are justified due to the first game taking place before the second game and the characters from both games eventually meet up in the same area.
PAYDAY 2 reuses some maps and/or its assets many times. The bank heist has five levels dedicated to it and they all use the exact same layout. The Ukrainian Job is a copied version of Jewelry Store with different assets used to make the level slightly different.
The developers responded to the criticisms about the trope being used and are improving on it slowly. Day 1 of Big Oil was just a copy and paste of map used in day 1 of Rats, but it was later changed to have a different outdoor area and the house itself was expanded upon. The Armored Heist has five different levels dedicated to it and they all use assets and areas already present in the game, but they are laid out in a way that makes the levels look and feel like new maps.
A peek in the game's files reveal that almost every asset used in the first game is present in the second game, implying that the sequel would have had a LOT more recycled content. While the sequel does reuse some assets from the first game, the majority of the assets are Dummied Out. However, some of the textures used as reflections on certain objects are reflections from levels used in the first game, making them stand out completely.
Literately utilized in Massive Chalice to save money. Most maps only have a few unique pieces with liberal use of rotation, size variation and combination to give the impression of different pieces. One map only had two "hero" pieces, i.e big set pieces making up the boarder/pants of the level.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified isn't too bad but the team do visit an awful lot of similar looking farms on the side missions for some high contrived reasons (a nuclear missile hidden under a farm comes to mind). Also the alien environments look very similar.
FEAR frequently reuses room layouts, with the only differences being the placement of objects.
Something Else: The fourth part of the Space Hideout is based on Forest of Illusion 2, but the enemies are replaced with Thwomps and the water physics have been removed.
The "shops in sandbox games/RPG's all with the same interior" variety is referenced in Scott Pilgrim. The title character wanders into a Second Cup coffee shop, expecting to find there his sister, who works in one, but is confused when he finds other person (his ex-girlfriend, kinda) attending it instead, then a caption says "Scott suddenly realized for the first time, that all Second Cup exteriors do not lead to the same Second Cup interior".
Done in Cube. Justified since the film took place in a labyrinth of identical cubes, but the filmmakers only had the budget to build one set with five out of the six surfaces. The only difference between each room is the colour and varying traps.
In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, toward the beginning of the movie, just after the robots attack Manhattan, Sky Captain lands at his base and drives his plane into a huge hangar. At the top of the doors of the hangar are these huge windows of 8x10 panes. In every window, some of the panes are broken. In every window, it's exactly the same panes that are broken.
Early in Inception, Ariadne and Cobb test out the creation of a dreamworld, at one point folding several city blocks like a sheet of paper. It soon becomes apparent that the dream city consists mostly of the same building copied over and over over again.
One of the key concepts for an Architect in the dream world is to make the entire environment closed and repetitive, but in such a way as to not arouse suspicion. This is so that the dreamer will believe he or she is still awake and will feel like they're free to wander around, despite being in a closed environment.
Live Action TV
A rare Live Action TV example occurs in Caprica. As Zoe-A and Philomon travel in the Virtual World, Zoe-A makes note of the repeated objects and discusses the possibilities of a generative software to independently create environments and objects. The idea is that a program that takes the basic pattern of an object (a tree in this example) but build over it would prevent Cut and Paste environments.
Due to the limited flexibility in sets, most levels and rooms of starships/bases/etc are the same set lit differently or filmed from another angle.
Very noticeable in Star Trek, especially Voyager - their science/robotics/engineering labs all look the same, and they are. They are also the sickbay with no beds and blue lighting panels instead of yellow.
Which is all somewhat justified, in that the exteriors may have certain unique features but the ships are all part of one standardized class or another, and it's likely that there would be some redundancy to make the construction of Star Fleet vessels as streamlined as possible to ease mass production. Non-Star-Fleet ships usually tend to be a bit better, though if you've seen one Klingon or Romulan or Ferengi bridge you've (probably literally) seen them all.
There is also the fact that away missions, regardless of series or time period, seem to have an inordinate fixation on exploring familiar looking grey caves/tunnels.
Whenever the Doctor and friends are traveling through the TARDIS' corridors (especially during the '80s era), it's the Console Room's walls rearranged.
A lot Dom Com and Sitcom shows generally has rooms designed where characters can be seen entering from a door/stairway/etc from the side (stage left/right) or from behind (up stage). Most shows rarely have characters entering from the hidden 4th wall (the down stage area where most of the cameras are fixated and lacks an actual wall) due to most of the cameras and other equipment being there and hidden from normal view. Because of all the above, many rooms tend to look similar where, in most cases, the entrance door is always on the side, the television is off camera, any form of stairs are always in the rear, etc.
You could count the number of different backgrounds used in an episode of DSBT InsaniT and Dreamscape on one hand!
Recently built subdivisions can tend to look like this, often having only 2 or 3 house designs repeated throughout the entire area.
In theory, Roman military encampments were supposed to follow a single design pattern, resulting in the same fort built thousands of times all over Europe. In practice, the design was usually modified to suit local requirements.
Ever go to an office high-rise? Endless cubicles like they were a texture in MS Paint, plus the fact that the floors of most skyscrapers tend to have identical floor plans. And look at the buildings themselves. Once people figured out that glass boxes with a central core are both sturdy and roomy, they started turning up everywhere.
Russian city districts built in the Soviet period, from the Khruschev times onwards, often look like this, showing little to no variation even between different cities. This is because they were built according to standardized plans out of the same identical cheap, mass-produced panels made on the same state-owned factories. From The Nineties onwards, new Russian buildings feature increasingly more variety in architecture.
Number 14 of thisCracked list shows a Brazilian housing development consisting of square houses of the exact same dimension giving the impression that it's something out of SimCity. To complete the look they've coloured whole sections differently; presumably to help people find their house.