With the run up to any Diablo related announcements at Blizzcon next month I wanted to share my Diablo II Hardcore Mode US East story.
Before Diablo launched I remember reading an interview with the heads of Blizzard North talking about Hardcore mode – and how they intentionally left the ability to duel and kill other characters in hardcore to make it the most extreme version of the game.
After the game launched, I felt like the regular version of the game was fun but hardcore provided an incredible experience – every time you'd play you put your entire playing investment on the line and one wrong move could result in months of work (and loot) going down the drain.
The rush of hardcore mode was one of the best gaming experiences I ever had – and to this day I haven't been able to replicate it. Hardcore mode reminded me of playing fighting games in arcades when I was 10.. where if you lose you have a real penalty (paying more money to play again) but in hardcore mode, the penalty of losing was so much more severe.
In the early days of Hardcore mode, it was a huge accomplishment to make it to Hell difficulty. Once in Hell, players would be generally cooperative because people knew that sticking together in groups was the safest way to survive. I enjoyed that part of the game.. but I kept thinking about what the creators of Diablo said in the interview about Hardcore mode.. about how crazy it would be if there were people going around killing each other in HC.
With that in mind, I set out to become the ultimate PK'er in Hell Mode on US East. I felt like the world of Sanctuary wasn't only about cooperation – that there should be a Villain in the realm and I wanted to be that guy.
So I went out and created a Barbarian with a build out that no one had ever seen in Hell mode. I equipped a high damage Lance which had just come out in a new patch (upgraded Pike). Every stat point went into Vitality to maximize my hit points. Whirlwind was of course my max'ed out skill of choice. And the one thing that I hadn't seen anyone else do – but that made my character completely unique, was that I max'ed out my Barbarian's running ability. I was one of the fastest characters out there.. and since there was really no reason for a character to have max'ed out speed, no one expected me to be so fast (which came in super handy when I was trying to chase people down and kill them).
I named my first character SharpLances and after reaching about level 70 and Hell mode. And once that happened, villain mode started. I'd join any public game, hostile every group, and try to hunt them down and kill them. In the first few weeks of me doing this, no one took me seriously. A dude was coming after a party of level 70-90 characters in Hell mode? No way. And then I'd appear on their screen faster than anyone could have guessed (because of my max speed) and then the whirl winds would start. I became the hunter of US East, and my goal was to eliminate everyone I could on top of the ladder. I'd accept any dual from any type of character and I had to make mule accounts that collected all the level 50+ ears I earned. Eventually I took a 7 vs 1 dual on and SharpLances died (with all his loot).. but then I made a new character named Maximus Kilimus and the fun started all over again.
I thought I'd share some of the screenshots I made from those early days. I'm sorry if you were one of my victims. We used to post all the time on the Diablo Zone forums back then.
Fun side note – I did all this in high school and then I started working in the games industry in 2007. In 2011 I had dinner with the 3 founders of Blizzard North and told them the story of what I did on US East in Hardcore Mode.. and their high fives and reactions were priceless.
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