One life to live: The death penalty


The beta has been going on since November and I count myself lucky to have been a part of it since its release.During that time I’ve lost several crusaders, a Witch Doctor and a Barbarian (just out of spite). Each time I’ve had the chance to build back up in the new system, and each time I’ve had a chance to digest how hard the death penalty for Hardcore can be. I thought with paragon points and the smart drops, hardcore death would be marginal by comparison to the old system. However, I’ve found it to be actually quite the opposite.

dead

The good part of death

Leveling back to 70 (as stated before) is actually really nice. I’ve normally dreaded the process but now with DiabloWikibounties, DiabloWikirifts and [/wiki]paragon[/wiki] points; it’s more of an adventure back. This is increased by the drop rates and ability to gear up rather quickly. A few marquise rubies in weapons and you can be clearing on expert with subpar gear. This makes for a fun experience, and one that I don’t mind doing every so often. The trek back to 70 also gives you a chance to pick up some good items on the way especially from 60-70 that should help you dip a toe into the higher difficulties.

Paragon points also make the climb a bit easier. You can run a bit faster, have a higher health pool and get back to where you left off a bit quicker as a result. The paragon points don’t feel essential to the process however. Frequently while rerolling I’d forget about assigning them at the start and would be well into the 40’s before I opened the tab. The quest for upper level paragons doesn’t really exist any more, and as a result getting back to 70 is the only goal, instead of getting to 60 so that you could begin to grind to 100.

That being said death isn’t all sunshine and lollipops

The bad part of death

The gear, the sweet sweet loot you’ve accumulated, labored over, grinded for, is all gone in one fell swoop.The journey back to 70 might be nice, but the path back to gaining what you lost is not. Drop rates even while recently doubled can be cruel, and if you are dying on your way to get them you can lose any progress you’ve made.

The DiabloWikiAuction House could deplete your funds but it was always reliable. You could always farm for gold, or sell items you didn’t want in the hopes of procuring something better. That is no longer the case and your survival in HC is tied to what you find. No bartering any more, just playing. I’ve been able to gear up with rares to a level that had me close to Torment but finding the right mix of legendaries to make it seem manageable has alluded me.

That can do one of two things to a player. Motivate or delude. On the one hand it’s a quest for bigger and better things, on the other it’s a high wall to scale and dying on the way up doesn’t make the wall any easier. For me it’s added a new element to the game that has me doing things I never considered in vanilla. Now with rerolling a very high possibility I am having to store away gear for the later levels, and make sure each side grade isn’t simply disenchanted but saved for the possible next character. In tandem with that, I’ve come to appreciate my drops a bit more and become more giddy with each new item. You can feel a sense of progress with your character as they can slowly break through the trenches in
Torment.

The death penalty now feels very permanent and it’s not just time you lose but the character that was crafted by the game you played. That experience is unique for each character. You can no longer ding 70 and simply replace the parts from an auction house. You must trudge through the monsters before you and make your survival with the items they provide. Hardcore is going to become a game of patience. We will not jump into Torment 6 on day one, we won’t have all the legendaries right away, and we might die several times on the way to our goal. However if we are patient, we can reap the rewards of the system and enjoy the journey we are on. After all isn’t that what hardcore is all about?

I was hesitant about the new system; the item binding, the paragon points, and the DiabloWikimystic. I thought it would take away from the sting of death you could feel in Hardcore, and really how it would diminish the time loss. Having gone through the motions several times now and scaling the gear mountain again and again, I can say it is actually nice and true to the essence of hardcore. I have found myself not thinking about hours lost when characters die but dwelling on the items I had lost, and how they may not be seen again. However, I can look to my stash and start the climb again, and with each new experience I have the chance to find what alluded me before. I’d still love the ability to trade my goods, and attempt to gear up via the bartering system but for now I’m content chasing RNG and relishing the good drops I find that keep me alive and hopefully banking some just in case.

What are your thoughts on the new death penalty?

One Life to Live covers the Hardcore play and life style in the Diablo community. It is written by Xanth and published weekly. Post your comments below, Follow him on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly. For all the archived news about Diablo 3 hardcore check our Archives!

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  1. Just the column I wanted to read, thanks Xanth.
    All hail RNGeezus!

  2. Always like reading about the HC side of the game since it’s the only way I play arpgs nowadays. This post actually gave me some optimism about the game. I’m still not going to buy ros on release, choosing instead to wait for reviews and feedback from others, but the sentiments in this post are nice to hear about.

  3. Seems hc is now where it should be reading your post! Cant wait to go at it my self! Nice read.

  4. I haven’t played for a couple of months now. But when i start again I think i will always want to be able to trade “everything” with at least my friends (even more so now that there will be no AH), and not being able to do so will be very disappointing to me. It just wouldn’t be right if you can’t.

  5. I haven’t done HC since early in the beta, simply because I wanted to test out a lot of stuff, but rerolling was not on that list. (I’ll wind up doing enough of that post-release when it’s real.) So I can’t speak to this point from personal experience, but I lost enough high level HC chars in D3 to have an idea… and I think the current system is less punitive.

    In the ago, in Paragon 1.0, it was boring and tedious to relevel to 60, especially during the Fearsome Fifties, but once you hit 60 twinks and the AH made for instant gear-up delight. As Xanth says above, it was quicker to get to a functional well-geared char in D3, thanks to the AH. But that wasn’t good enough to make a character a viable farmer, since D3 required high MF, and you needed at least P50+ for that, even with really good gear.

    In RoS with Paragon 2.0 and Loot 2.0 and the removal of MF, you can be productive as an item finding character as soon as you hit 70. Once you know what you’re doing with the changes to the basic game, it’s easy to gear well enough to faceroll Hard as soon as you hit 70, just equipped with gambled rares and maybe a twink or 3. That’s the equivalent of being able to farm MP1 with say 300% MF in D3.

    I guess the real comparison is longer term; how does a P80 geared well enough to do MP5 compare to a char who can survive and prosper on Torment in RoS? Hard to say, as it depends entirely on RNG in RoS, but I have 3 chars who can do Torment pretty well now in RoS (admittedly, all are softcore) and I haven’t played any of them near enough to be even P40, much less P80.

  6. Great read.
    Got me excited about HC even more now , I totally agree with the Journey to 60-70 aswell even though I played the PTR only , but I leveled up many characters to 60 in Vanilla and when I got to the PTR I leveled up another 4-5 characters to 60 , I even find myself deleting my old 60s for slots to make new 60s because it is alot of fun now , I hated the Normal , Nightmare and Hell then Inferno.

    Also love the fact that now you will find use for alot of the legendaries you find instead of auto salvaging because it is worse than your current one and you will never ever use it.

    Oh God I wish my connection was stable enough for HC , I might consider leaving the student dorms just for that.

  7. I have never played hc character but will do with ros, the ah took a lot a way of what d3 should of been. Everyone had access to good gear straight away which for me made the game feel pointless. I only run a single monk to paragon 6 and stopped playing. Will put a post on the forums soon as i will be looking to come back to d3 with vengeance but dont have anyone to play with.

    squiddygamer#2952

  8. I’ve always regarded permadeath as a flawed concept in RPGs. When the entire premise of the game, the very soul and fabric of every aspect of the whole damned product, is to build up a strong character, losing it all in the blink of an eye due to the slightest mistake (or perhaps not even that; it could be a server crash or a bugged mechanic) is just not a reasonable thing to have in that game. It would be akin to ruling that getting knocked out of the Champions League meant the football club had to be abolished.

    It would make a lot more sense to make the death penalty about competition and record-setting. If there were daily, weekly and monthly ladders, dying could get you thrown off the ladder. It’s a bit like the way Path of Exile do it where your character is relegated to softcore if it dies, although that is largely meaningless in practice because a hardcore player is not going to start playing softcore just to keep a character.

    Actual permadeath can be kept as a fringe option for those who want to feel extra leet, but currently the issue is that the only two options lie in polar opposites of the spectrum, both equally extreme: an absurdly harsh and unreasonable death penalty, or no death penalty whatsoever which makes the game dull. The game is sorely lacking something in between that makes you feel compelled to play well and ticks your temper when you mess up, but doesn’t flush weeks or months of your time down the drain in an instant of bad luck.

    Both extremes make me feel discouraged to play — one feels pointless because nothing can go wrong, and the other feels pointless because it’s just a matter of time before the dice roll too heavily against me and I lose everything. I want the feeling I got back in the glory days of Everquest where dying meant a loss of several hours worth of exp as well as possibly a long while spent recovering my corpse. That made the game exciting and made accomplishments feel significant without being over the top. It has to be possible to find some similar middle ground that fits the premises of Diablo III.

    I actually like permadeaths in games where it belongs. I play various MUDs with strictly enforced roleplaying environments where the whole game is set up to simulate some setting and storyline, and character death is permanent for the sake of realism and story integrity. Death is the result of making the wrong decision, the wrong enemies, or otherwise doing something for which death is a fair and justified consequence. Those games don’t kill my character because the server crashed, and they have the capacity to resurrect a character if it dies from a bug in the code or some other problem that shouldn’t have led to death. This is the kind of game where permadeath belongs and where it can be treated the way it should be.

  9. QUOTE

    Actual permadeath can be kept as a fringe option for those who want to feel extra leet, but currently the issue is that the only two options lie in polar opposites of the spectrum, both equally extreme: an absurdly harsh and unreasonable death penalty, or no death penalty whatsoever which makes the game dull.

    I think Hardcore is fine as it and it’s absolutely fitting for a video game like Diablo. However, you are right in that Softcore is way too soft at the moment and this shapes people’s opinion of the itemization as well (defense is way undervalued in SC). Stats feel much more balanced in HC because everything is important, but people are understandably averse to playing it because of the harsh death penalty. More varied options (something similar to PoE’s leagues) would indeed be very welcome.

  10. Losing a few levels in Everquest and starting over at 1 in Diablo 3 is about the same thing in terms of time lost.

  11. Well, to lose a few levels in EQ you’d have to die like twenty times in a row.

  12. QUOTE

    Well, to lose a few levels in EQ you'd have to die like twenty times in a row.

    I think the real death penalty was running back to your corpse naked when your corpse, and the items on it would vanish if you took too long?

    Even without that though between the xp loss and the time loss, which is more xp that’s fairly steep particularly given back then dial up was the main internet option.

  13. Can we all just agree that EQ was terrible?

  14. Do BoA and non-trading make the game feel like a single player game?

    I mean what would be the point of HC if its essentially a single player game? There is nothing to compete against, no e-peen to build and show off.

    On a side note you could ask the same as SC but since I play HC now…SC is kind of um…for the soft. (And SC felt non-competitive a year ago already)

  15. Insightful post Naga. I personally find the severity of permadeath to be a compelling feature rather than a disincentive but I also see the value of a middle ground approach. My one immediate concern is that multiple versions of HC would mean a more fractured player base. Sometimes is very hard to find players with only two game modes. Three plus would exacerbate that.

  16. I think there is still great potential for competition, maybe more since most gear characters will wear is self found. No more playing the ah to progress. I think this will make progression mean a little more.

  17. QUOTE

    I mean what would be the point of HC if its essentially a single player game? There is nothing to compete against, no e-peen to build and show off.

    The point is the challenge of trying to push your character as far as it can go and hopefully survive at the end. For years my only competition in D2 was myself and HC was still very enjoyable.

    Besides, on the PTR the new player profile page shows a Paragon ladder stat, so we may still get ladders eventually.

    • It was mentioned by someone on the podcast (Xanth maybe?) and I believe Noobie was referring to it as well – there is no need for Ladders until few months into release. When RoS starts it will be somewhat fresh start. So after we’ve seen what we had to see, ladder will come.

  18. Booooo-ring, How can you hit the same button again and again… the game makes me sleepy after 15 minutes top … playing Act 5.

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