One life to live #23: I’ve got 99 problems but a ladder ain’t one

My recent foray back into D2 had me chasing my ladder dreams of yesteryear and making a startling discovery on my chase there.

In D2 classic I never was involved in the leveling race. Everything was fresh and new and I wanted to wind down each avenue and try each class as much as possible. As a result I was far behind most in the leveling race. It wasn’t until the Xpac that I found myself running against the other druids to be top dog on the ladder. At one point I was #3 in the quest to the top but died in the late sixties never to crack the charts again.Until recently.

Diablo 2 is a shell of its former glory, and despite the problems of it ( and since  I look and my battle net account page I see):


How many times a day do you see this?

I continue on playing because it still has some of its magic, and I like to click to kill things. I now find myself closer to cracking on the ladder boards than I ever was ten years ago and that chase has invigorated my play (I’m actually taking a break right now to write this) and it had me wondering about how the lack of a ladder would affect D3.

What makes a hardcore ladder exciting?

Competition: In a normal ladder it’s all about speed and time invested. Whoever plays the most, and most  effectively will end up on top. That’s the way it always works those who play the most will get the best gear first, kill monsters first and natural crack the boards to never be unseated. Hardcore however works against that. Running on to little sleep? While your nodding off your character is being ushered to his doom. Move too quickly? Looks like that pack of stygian dolls caught up to you.

Death makes the race so much more exciting. You don’t know who will succumb to it and push you past them, and which monster hides your expulsion from the ladder as well. No one in softcore had to worry that the guy next to him would not be there the next game, or that lazy play would lead to nothing but a bad investment of time. Death was a great equalizer in the race and the person who got their first was both skilled and lucky.

The downsides of the ladder

Non-ladder characters. Eventually people want to have another crack at the race, and to do that the ladder has to be reset and those characters still living get shifted  off the ladder. Now whether you want in on the race if you want to play with the majority of you have to restart. Only now you are starting fresh with no gear carrying over. However if you get rid of the realm restart then new characters could never hope to catch up with characters who have gone before them. It seems to be a problem with no answer.


Blizz on Ladders

 As far as the e-peen meter goes for showing off a higher level character, we think a proper achievement system is much better at this. There’s more variety, they’re more interesting and compelling for people to work toward. One important point of note is that our achievements are cross-character, meaning we can give achievements for things like leveling 5, 10… hell, 20 characters to 60. Certainly a bigger feat than a level 99, and we can give tangible rewards for it too.

It seems as if D3 won’t have our race to 60 which makes sense. 60 is supposed to be easy to achieve and not the war of attrition that getting to 99 was.  Will an achievement style ladder provide the rush that the race once had? I’m not sure. Account wide achievements won’t fade on the death of each character( or will they?), which means those who play more, and quickly will find themselves at the top and then there difference between soft core and Hardcore ladders is nullified.

However, it’s a wide array of comparisons and it may do something that the 99 race never could. By giving you smaller more reachable goals there will always be something to shoot for aside from another useless level. I would still like to see some recognition for the longest surviving Hardcore characters but for the time being I’m not too worried.

What is your opinion on ladders? Did you race to the top in D2 ? Do you like them or hate them for D3?

One Live 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 me on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly.

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33 thoughts on “One life to live #23: I’ve got 99 problems but a ladder ain’t one

  1. “Account wide achievements won’t fade on the death of each character( or will they?)”
    I already see an achievement like “Die at level 60 on hardcore in Inferno to Diablo while wearing a Legendary ( 55+ only ) in every slot” 🙂

      • I was simply mocking the 2nd part of the quoted sentence, where the achievements fade on death, and made it so the Death is the actual achievement.

  2. there will be no LVL race. Maybe after the first day after realease. When some guy will post next day after release on youtube his fresh and new 60 lvl barb 😀 or whatever 😈

  3. I always thought the ladder concept was pretty fucking cool. Even though I never really had the time to invest in it properly. Its a shame that its being abandoned in favour of Modern Warfare 3 style “achievments” OOOO SHINY!!!!

    Like every other bad decision with this game, its down to catering to the lowest common drooling ADHD suffering spoiled american kid….who of course will rage and rage if he has to abandon a character to compete in a ladder reset.

    Its a business decision, and no matter of plain lies written in ‘blue’ will change that fact. Blizzard is going down the road Activision set for them. Lets hope that they maintain at least some gameplay elements that made the first two games such a blast to play. I hope we will see soon enough…

  4. Never truly cared about the ladder. 

    I just want to have fun, find awesome items and smash zombies (or whoever) =)

  5. D2 Classic HC, for the first year was top in the european ladder, Coolspirit, the Necromancer, and challenging with RUSAbsolut…Greetings if he read this!!!
    I like D2 ladder (but only in the erly 2-3 years) and i miss this feature very much!

  6. Never bothered with ladder back then, and wouldn’t do so now either. Reality is such that any kid at the age of 16 and below will have much, much more time than I do to play. So, that kind of competition isn’t available to me anyways.

    • This. Go ahead and put it in there for all I care, but you can’t compete with the unemployed.

  7. I dont get it. Whats fun about the current diablo 2 xp race to the top?
    Wait for the bot to open the tp,
    stand still while the bot clears the throne room,
    wait for the bot to create the next game.
    Am I missing something? People dont play diablo 2 anymore on All I see is people wanting to get rushed followed by endless Baal runs. Some chars are level 90 and havent killed a single mob themselves.

    • And your point is? There is a point coming right? Because we are talking about a ladder system & not rampant cheating.

      • The point is that with all the bot following going on, the ladder lost ALL its meaning. It shows NOTHING. It’s filled with chars that havent been ‘playing’ the game. And hardcore lost its meaning as well with that, as standing still on the side has no risk. And even if it had, then people just chicken out of the game. Because those programs together with pickit and such are still working. Diablo 2, on, is dead.

        • You did clearly see where Xanth typed, “Diablo 2 is a shell of its former glory…”, right?
          I think that would include the now standing ladder system.
          Not to state that you do not have a point. In fact, you do, and a pointy one at that. But the way Ladder was in the beginning, is the way they should aim for it to be now.
          Though, if they did include a ladder system in D3 I, for one, would be shocked. The RMAH(the way it is) and the shared stash would make for an imba Ladder race. Unless EVERYTHINg gets wiped. yknow?

    • I’ll agree the game is in a state of disarray from where it once stood. I find myself enjoying it out of nostalgia but bots have made it into game that anyone can crack the ladder if they sit behind them. Yet i still found myself checking to see where I was on the ladder, maybe for me it still holds weight since I remember what it used to be and what it could be for D3.

      • What are your thoughts on the DRM then?
        Because, it seems that without the bots, that a Ladder would be fun again. Also, perhaps, a better balance between items would enhance the gaming rather than hold it back?
        I find too many of the ladder only items/runewords seem to make my character far too strong.
        >.>… I hole the the D3 people behind the “tweaking” of the balance system under stand that hard does not equal difficult. vice versa.

  8. Never attempted the ladder race – got much better things to do with my time – and considered the resets an annoying timesink. After 1.11 I basically left all my characters as non-ladder because I couldn’t be bothered making new ones. I’d be glad to see the ladder go, to be honest – or at least the “this item is only available to ladder characters” part of it.

  9. I’ve only cared about playing new classes in diablo 2 and trying new setups. I could are less for the ladder outside of the exclusive runewords and uniques.

  10. I have actually never played D2 or D2X online.  Back in my heyday of playing them (early 2000s obv) the only internet connection I had was a crappy dial-up, so I never bothered.  It wasn’t until WoW that I realized how fun playing with other folks online could be.  Now in the last 5-6 mos as release gets closer and I get no love from Beta (yep, that screenshot looks nauseatingly familiar, even after they released 15MM or so beta keys yesterday) I’m playing D2X again and can’t bring myself to play it online – just too different, and it’s kind of a fun “last chance to play offline SP” kind of thing. 

    So, once again trying to go solo, untwinked and unmuled all the way to the end.  I had forgotten how frustrating that can be, but fun in a challenge-yourself kind of way.  I’m all the way to the beginning of Act IV Hell now, just plugging away while unused runes clog up my stash just in case a high level rune I can use drops.

  11. I think the loss of ladder will be felt, but not because a lot of people competed on ladder.  What will feel absent is a steady feeling of progression: even if I didn’t get wtfawesome drops from Baal, each run added a little bit more color to the xp bar.  And though each additional level past about 85 meant just 20 additional life and a meaningless point in a meaningless skill, I was still “making progression” every time I logged on and killed him.
    D3’s only measurable progress at 60 is progression through Inferno and getting lucky with drops.
    I will miss filling the bar.  We will see if I miss it enough that the magic is gone.

  12. Anyone taking bets on how many of those hammerdins in the shot were botted?
    Probably all of them.
    Since they said level 60 will be easy to reach, and the actual “game” will be mostly about finding gear, I don’t find it strange that there won’t be any ladder.

    • Very true I bet.  However, they can patch in new events, bosses, etc. and give achievements for realm-first, realm top-100, etc which essentially functions the same as a ladder but is more dynamic and doesn’t need constant re-setting.

      • Nah the only thing that there be is a date/time stamp on achievement, so you can show off that you where the first to do X if you get lucky, but the guy who starts playing D3 5 years later can still get the achievement.

  13. HC ladder was a blast on D2 early months!! I even remember when the 2 first players of the ladder (barbs of course) duelled and the ladder leader died (been there for weeks), was a great story with screenshots of the event and everything lool. Oh the memories… Ladder was ruined with LOD, everybody was lvl99, about the same time i left for Anarchy Online… Later i quit AO to play WOW. AO took me at least 6 months to master, in comparison i was bored with WOW after 2 weeks… Diablo 1 was my first online gaming experience and i will never forget those first hours of amazement. Right now I FEAR FOR DIABLO 3, ALOT 🙁

  14. Ladder reset were gay, always divided the population, im glad they removed it. Anyone who says anything against this is a moron.

  15. More important than the ladder race, I think, is the character wipes.

    For the most part, accumulated wealth is destroyed, the economy is revitalized and new and fresh again. An even footing for everyone is a great feeling in such gear and level-intense games.

    I don’t know if gradual patching in of new gear is going to provide the same feeling.

  16. I think they missed one key point in the ladder rush, going for ladder position wasn’t about the “achievement” as such since there really wasn’t any acievement to be had, it was about getting to the top of a looooong list of players… The achievement was the recognition, the name in lights, that whole shtick… I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy collecting the achievements but the current “banner” system is not a better alternative, it’s not an alternative at all, it is a completely different feature in my books and has little in common with what being on the “ladder” was all about.

    One other serious flaw in their perception is that achievement systems are static, once you have your achievement you won’t ever lose it, however even with the softcore ladder if you slacked off in your playing you would lose your position fast, being knocked off the first page in rankings was about as easy as going away for a long weekend, ladder rank was not just something you had to earn, it was something you had to keep on earning and you had to make a serious long term commitment to your chosen class before even considering making a run for the first page… Granted botting ruined the D2 ladder but that wasn’t the fault of the ladder system, the system itself was quite enjoyable for those with a competitive streak.

    I dunno, maybe it’s just me but they seem to have completely missed the point in what the ladder was about, how they could look at the ladder system and think giving us ribbons and pins to hang on our little scout sash is a “better” alternative is beyond me, D3 should have both, not one or the other.

    I dunno, it’s 2012 now, this game has had who knows how much money thrown at it, years of time in development and we’re still choosing between one thing or another on small easy to implement features like this? Can’t help but shake my head.

  17. Even thou i;ve played diablo for sooo manu years, and i still play it, I’ve never been motivated to be on top of ladder. Too much time invested for too little to gain. I’d rather PvP on softcore for hours than follow bots…

    I thing a pvp ladder sort of thing would be really interesting in Diablo 3. No items to gain – Just for the pure glory of it!

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