One Life to Live: What is the point of Diablo 3 Hardcore?

After an article of mine was featured on the blizzard site( no big deal), I decided to enter into the comments section. With my column hitting a large new audience I was curious what new similes they had for how much I sucked(black hole like? Industrial vacuum?). However, what I found wasn’t a critique of me, but of the mode I love so much. What is the point of Hardcore?


In any game there really is no point. They are entertainment, something we do to escape and enjoy ourselves. That being said Hardcore is then a niche of that concept, an added rule to game.

That rule adds challenge. Can I do what I want in the game while not dying? Can I achieve at the highest echelon without compromising my characters life? That leads to a new balance to the game. Not only are you concerned with destroying the denizens of hell, but keeping your health bar full as well. I’ve had a lot of hard decisions in the past few months debating over more dps at the cost of my health, switching out gems, and deciding if it’s worth it. In softcore that’s not the case. Death is a hurdle, not the end. You don’t have to think those decisions over because they don’t really matter. Hardcore allows for your decisions to matter and the choices you make can be deadly.

Hardcore allows for ownership of your character. I own each mistake and triumph my characters have had. Through my decisions I’ve guided them to where they are be it high paragon levels of the DiabloWikiHall of heroesDiabloWiki. Most importantly I own the memories of that time with the character. I own those “oh shit” moments, those lag spikes, and those triumphs of taking a character father than the last one. When I look back on D3 I won’t recall my exact gear, my exact spec, but I’ll remember that. I also own some weird sense of pride for taking my characters farther than before, no where was that more apparent than when I hit inferno (pre-nerf) without ever touching it on softcore.

The economy also makes the game down right enjoyable. Things sell here! Low level weapons, gems, anything that is usable is reusable. You can make a steady bankroll just selling the stuff you find as you level, since a lot of people are dying and setting up the process all over again. With the element of death their is a demand at both the top and bottom for gear; which allows anyone a chance to strike it rich, or work their way up. That death also eliminates a massive influx of items that devaluate everything else, making even the item you poached off the AH seem more valuable since their isn’t an identical one right next to it. Suddenly you having bidding wars on items not worth blinking at in soft core.

Now the biggest misconception is that we will inevitably play slower and safer, and that will equal boredom for most players. However I don’t find that to be the case.I’ve found most players play at the level they can handle without dying. That’s not to say we don’t risk it, and my use of tranquility on my monk can testify to that. I often run on a MP that I can clear quickly but that can still give me enough “oh Shit” moments to hesitate bumping it up a notch. However, once those moments abide, I am quick to push it up and push my character forward. I imagine most do the same. In reality how is that much different than the softcore mindset, pushing yourself at the rate you feel safest and most efficient? The only difference in this case is the respawn timer in hardcore is a hell of a lot longer.

Hardcore isn’t for everyone, Lag will kill you, mistakes will kill you, stupidity will kill you, but your memories won’t die. You will recall that first death, build off of it, and get better and die again, and keep going because you’re enjoying the journey not the destination.

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 me on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly. For all the archived news about Diablo 3 hardcore check our Archives!

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20 thoughts on “One Life to Live: What is the point of Diablo 3 Hardcore?

  1. I’d love to play hardcore just for the economy, even though dying is pretty frustrating, but my router is very unstable and I disconnect about 2-3 times a day. I agree with the sentiments here.

  2. I played SC for a long time, then I tried HC. It was fun(until I died because of lag, paragon level 3), but I don’t see any major difference between HC and SC. Sure, in HC you have to play more carefully and it’s a bit more rewarding, but I really disagree with the opinions that HC is the only real way to play D3. The main reason why I returned to SC is because the HC is so unpredictable because of stuff you can’t affect. I can deal with dying because of carelessness, my own fault, too strong bosses… But I just don’t want to play a game where a single disconnect can kill you – it’s just way too random. Though I enjoyed my HC time and it’s possible I’ll return one day, hopefully Blizzard will deal with DC/lags somehow.

  3. I agree with everything in this column, I encourage everybody to at least give it a try. I played D1 and D2 in softcore and felt good about beating the game singeplayer. Playing D3 in HC, I can’t see now how that was a challenge back then.

    Yesterday i did my first uber run (on MP6), the anxiety before and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards are really what hardcore is all about. I actually nearly died in the tree event with my PL23 monk, knowing I don’t have any other lvl 60 char makes that really exciting!

    If this monk dies I will hate hardcore for sure. For 2 days. And then create another character 🙂

    • I played D2 softcore only as well. I died so much in that game HC seemed inconceivable. I don’t remember why I decided to try HC in D3, but it was after I had “shelved” the game for about four months. I haven’t stopped playing since, and wish I had given it a try back in my D2 days.

      I used to rage on death (if it was lag/disconnect), and have to take a day or at least a couple hours off. Now, like Kornkills, instant reroll and no rage. Although, I’ve only had one death since my QQ thread in the HC forums. Hopefully I got over that rage hump for good.

  4. Several dead characters already.

    Last one died at lvl 59. My fault.

    Recreated another avatar 1 hour later.

    Awesome, playing carefully but relaxed now. Level 40.

    The fact I don’t have a lvl 60 yet makes me go on.

    Have several SC characters at 60 with Para above 40. But HC IS 10 times better.

  5. I’ve grown to enjoy some roguelike and roguelike-like games in the time since D2. I can see the idea of hardcore being fun, but there’s a huge difference in playing something like Dredmor or ToME and D3. D3 takes more time to get out of the “lowly beginnings” stage of the game than I care to waste every time a disconnect kills the character.

    There’s also not much to look forward to on a reroll. Monk 15 will be much the same as monk 14, whereas in other, shorter-term games you can move on to new classes, or skill combinations, or have randomly generated dungeons. I’ve spent about 1/3 as much time playing Dungeons of Dredmor as I’ve played D3, but D3 cost me 12X as much money, and I’ve spent far more time grinding out gold and junk than I have actually “playing” D3. Why would I want to extend the grind further?

      • Grinding faster to get to the fun part is still grinding instead of playing the fun part. I’d rather be having fun.

  6. That image… the “arrowhead” on the bottom, second from the right. Keep looking, you’ll see it…

  7. Before you ask “what is the point of Diablo 3 hardcore” it should be asked “what is the point of Diablo 3 at its current state”

  8. I always find that, “what’s the point in HC when your char might go away?” argument an odd one. I can see the PoV, but those people are basically saying, “You’re weird for doing something you really enjoy for a (potentially) short time, when you could do something you don’t enjoy indefinitely.”

    As Xanth says, the point of playing a video game is, theoretically, to have fun. Some people seem to define “fun” as “character lasts forever.” But for players who want actual thrills and high stakes, that’s not fun. It’s a cliche, but the risk of loss is what makes something worth having. The eventuality of death is what makes life worth living. Etc…

    • Great point. No need to write any more forum threads on why we play HC, I can just link to Xanth’s post and your reply.

  9. I really like hc mode, but the game is not stable enough for me. I played hc in d2 and it really was fun and the economy was much better.

    In patch 1.0.7, I started playing and had massive fps issues. Not temp load lag, but horrible fps any time the screen got crowded. I died without any chance against the first few monsters I tried to kill.

    Something in the patch changed and I had to get new vid card drivers. It wasn’t in the patch notes.

    Also, lately I have been getting disconnected 3 times or more per hour. Hasn’t been a problem at all until this past month. Dunno if its my router dying or isp lost a box somewhere (has happened before). Anyway, too much bs out there.

  10. Nicely written, Xanth! As always 🙂

    Me personally, I have a very sharp sense of ambivalence towards D3´s hardcore more.

    On one hand, more than once, your columns have made me completely delete all my SC chars and start fresh in HC, having a blast and a new sense of goal and fun in a game I was getting burned out on.

    On the other hand, 90% of my characters have died to either the computer freezing, or the client disconnecting from the Blizzard server. Now, if that would happen only once in a while, I could manage it, but fact of the matter is, when I play a Wiz or a DH and never ever see the warning red screen because of me playing carefully and skillfully, and never really reaching father than level 40 or so, since there alwayas come a disconnect which deeds my char… I can´t really call that fun.

    Now, if only there would be a solution to disconnecting without having to wait for the 10 sec timer, I would probably get back to HC, but as it stands right now, I can´t bring myself to do it anymore. Only char that has ever managed surviving a DC was a Krippbarb (Rendbarb), made it to level 55 and mid Hell. But knowing I can´t play anything else, and even such a defensive barb would bite the dust because of a nasty Elite pack and a DC… no thank you.

    Either way, the most fun way to play this game, but it was ALOT more fun back in true single player back in the LoD days!

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