One life to live:Hardcore power leveling eliminates death

I had a scary moment today during a huge lag spike in the middle of an elite pack of molten wasps set to explode. I frantically hit spirit walk and my potion and began to haphazardly smash the keyboard hoping to have hit the right combo before death could over take me.As I waited I realized I had a whole set of gear in my stash and it would be okay. A wave of calm swept over me as the lag spike receded. I survived the ordeal but it had me wondering when did death become so much less of a penalty?

While the revive time of softcore is much less , for HC we’ve seen videos of people taking characters from 1-70 in a minute. In a minute! You could spend more time coming up with a catchy name for your new Barbarian(Conan?) than actually leveling it back from it’s unlikely/untimely demise(since barbs don’t die). Even if you don’t do 1-70 in a minute you could easily have it done in under 20 minutes. I lost a WD not too far back and within an hour was back in torment looking for better gear.

What incentive is there not to take the easiest route back to 70? Sure there is the moral high ground. However it doesn’t have a great amount of loot, and it’s damn lonely.Have you tried to find a public game pre-70? Don’t I’ll spare you the time, there aren’t any. The community has firmly wedged itself in t6 and grifts and that’s where you want to be, no point in looking elsewhere.

Now power leveling has been present since day one and every time they stop one method another pops up. Each time it was never this quick,nor this efficient. Not that the methods didn’t cheese the process, but they involved some element of work or coordination. The hardest part about getting power leveled now is not chasing after the gold stars on the map. Which in turn cheapens the mode.

I shouldn’t feel okay with almost dying. I shouldn’t shrug off death this quickly. Death needs to hurt, it needs to be a wake up call, it needs to frighten you a bit. When we can recover as quickly from death as our softcore brethren something is amiss.The whole end game of D3 is off, 1-70 is really a ramp up before the real game begins and the items you find your leveling process are always replaced. With the paragon system there are essentially two leveling processes, and your death only eliminates the very easy path. I’m not opposed to the current power leveling system staying but something needs to take the place of a true death penalty. I’d love to see our account paragon levels take a hit when we die. That sounds sadistic but it would be a true consequence for something that now (aside from gear loss) feels inconsequential. Prior to the sharagon system, when you died your levels went with you, and at level70+ that could really sting. It doesn’t have to be that dire but even a percentage of the accrued levels could be a true consequence. Perhaps I’m just a glutton for punishment, or maybe I haven’t lost enough BiS gear, but something needs to change and I hope it is more complex that seemly nerfing one strategy so another can crop up.

What are your thoughts on death in HC?

One Life to Live covers the Hardcore play and life style in the Diablo community. It is written by Xanth and published (semi)weekly. Post your comments below, Follow me on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly.

Tagged As: | Categories: *Featured, Diablo 3, Diabloii.Net Columns, Hardcore


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  1. I’ll agree with you that the only loss any more is gear, but I have to disagree that losing the gear doesn’t hurt. I’m guessing you have never lost a character decked in all ancients and level 40+ gems.

    My HC barb this season is almost all ancients (still haven’t found an ancient IKBB or either BK swords in ancient) and he has level 48 gems. If he died it would be a major blow. If I was to finally find that ancient IKBB after 150 hours and THEN he died, that would crush me. I have leveled some back up gems to about 35, but going from 35-48 was a long, slow, sometimes scary grind. That is where I feel that most of the death penally comes from these days, in the form of well rolled ancient weapons and in high level gems.

    • Hit post before I was done on accident….

      That being said if you are not someone who is interested in pushing greater rifts at all, whether it be for leaderboards or just a personal sense of accomplishment, then you are right the gear loss means next to nothing. Any crappily rolled 6 set can mow through T6 pretty easily.

      The loss of paragon experience is an interesting concept, but how would they structure such a system? Would you lose a set % of your experience for any death, or would it be gauged by the amount of experience which was earned by the deceased hero? The former would discourage playing with under geared alts and the latter would discourage you from playing your main. Also since the experience required for each successive paragon level goes up exponentially, it would seem to me that losing a % of experience would be more detrimental to those with a fairly low paragon level, since they would lose a greater number of actual levels from a death than someone in the 600-700 range would (I didn’t actually math that out so I could be wrong, but that is just what my initial impression is).

      • This was my thought. Xanth’s gone more casual this season, and if you’re only pushing T6 or maybe up to GR40, then dying isn’t that big a deal and you can have back up gear and spare LGems at 40ish.

        If you’re trying to push up towards the 1000shard club though, you need ancients in most slots, ideal roll on your weapon, every extra level possible in LGems, etc. And that’s where you can spend dozens of hours just to gain a few % increase.

        My DH died last weekend and while I had backups for almost all my gear, but going from great rolls and ancients to pretty good spares cost me around 9m toughness and 400k dps. I was able to go right back into speed running T6, but in the backup gear I found GR35 about as dangerous as GR42ish had been previously, and my hopes of pushing for GR50 were out of the question.

        Pushing into higher GRs is a bit like golf. Players move 95% of the way to the pin in just a shot or two, but those last few feet make all the difference between good and great, and you can spend as many or more shots on the last little bit than on all the preceding effort.

  2. Yes, I have to agree that HC death in D3 does feel like much of a setback most of the time. Unless, as rabidshrew has pointed out, you are decked out in ancient gear and high-level gems. I’m currently spending more time than I want looking for TWO ancient BulKathos swords, and if I was to lose them right after I found them? Well, I’m not sure I’d bother continuing to play, tbh, knowing the grind ahead of me.

    But maybe that’s the problem, as you say a) the late game is a bit off, and b) there only IS the late game. This was the turn that D3 took with the whole WoW model of ‘max’ level. Now everything below level 70 feels like a waste of time. Which is not great. Sure you can ‘play your own thing’ and not worry about ‘endgame’ or whatnot, but there’s only so long that keeps you entertained.

  3. I love gaming with consequences, its what brings the heart pumping excitement when theres something you value on the line. Roguelike games such as FTL, Dungeons of Dreadmor ate alot of my time when released.. then comes Xcom (longwar mod) and the oldschool jagged alliance games are amongst my best gaming memories.

    Diablo3 HC has gone the way most blizzard franchises go, homogenized down so it appeals to the widest possible audience.. Forgoing what actually appeals to players who appreciate a challanging gaming experience to one which ultimately relies upon RNG.

    I’m playing hc seasons when they release, level and gear one or 2 classes then once they die (usually around para500) i pack the game away until next season.
    Dying in hc should be punishing, but when \starting again\ boils down to how lucky you’ve been dice rolling against a double rigged poker machine (finding the item THEN hoping for an ancient) with your recently dead character.. The game has lost me…… Until next season diablo3!

  4. Believe me Xanth death ain’t sweeter with a full ancient char for one that wants to do ladderboards.

    Ofc if we are casuals and just lazing around t6 death penalty is easy peasy.

  5. Dieing with a full set, soj, and 3 lvl 30+ gems doesn’t hurt? I’m terified…

  6. D3 now lacks middle game. I’m not power-leveling but still leveling (when new season starts, happy not to die in long months) feels tidious. It’s way too easy. Only difficulty is lack of items (and mats) making you run with gear from many levels below. And I’m talking here about starting fresh with new season. Leveling with stash full of stuff has no danger, nowhere.
    I remember when on PTR of 2.0 (not even RoS beta) we had great time starting new char from scratch. I don’t know what made that experience go away, and starting fresh being as meaningless as never. I remeber saving each penny in Classic days, now all I lack is mats, as my artisans are many levels above what I need.

  7. No surprise there. And it actually makes sense. I mean, just look at the game. 100% of the game is itemization, I half expect there to be a ‘level to 70’ button in the next expansion, so newbs don’t have to even bother looking for the power level opportunity & can just start chasing level 80. There’s nothing special about the leveling process and all the items you find on the way to 70 are all useless the instant you hit 70. You don’t have to think about skills or anything either, since everything is waiting for you at 70.

  8. Great article, Xanth. I always enjoy reading your HC topics.

    I’m running a GR 45 clearing Barb in full Ancients with 45+ LGems. I’ve got an ancient follower token and ancient bis follower weapon and when I die, I’ll be devastated.

    Most of the detriment you mention seems to be well before the point I’m currently at, where you are just starting to gear for GR clears.

    This is the new HC crucible. This is where your mettle is tested and where HC death is most likely to happen, at least for me. If I die now, it’s because i made a mistake, pushed to fast or played while tired.

    Pushing HC Greater Rifts is the most fun I’ve ever had in any Diablo game. I think the risk/reward is nearly perfect.

  9. Levels 1 to 70 are for new players in the story mode portion of the game. Once seasoned players have completed it there is really no reason to force repetition.

    As far as gear goes, it seems you are your own worst nightmare… You’ve collected a whole other set for the sole purpose of being able to re-gear when you die. Then you almost die, and because you have done all this work, you aren’t concerned about it… What are you complaining about again?

    While we haven’t talked much, I consider Xanth a fellow in the Brotherhood of Eternal Gamer Nerd-dom. However I gotta totally disagree with you here. If you want to make it harder then by all means, go knock yourself out. No one forces you to keep an extra set of gear, or power level your characters. Blizz has just given everyone an easier path to coming back from the inevitable death that is Hardcore.

    In the end, do what is fun for you. But maybe the problem isn’t the ease of leveling at all. Maybe it’s expectations, maybe it’s not pushing higher content.

    • I’m not sure if you’re touching on what Xanth is actually saying. The gist of his article is that, as it stands right now in D3, it’s way too easy to get back up to 70 after you die in HC. It’s almost like you never really die at all in HC, because you CAN have backup gear, level back to 70 in a very short amount of time, and continue where you left off with everything in your Inventory. The way HC works in D3 now is more of a minor annoyance, than an actual ‘death’ where you lose EVERYTHING. I’ve died over 50+ times in the last three seasons, and each time it hurts less and less. It’s more like, OK, I have to go in the HCPowerlevel channel and find someone to plevel me, spend 15-30 min getting back up to 70, and I’m right back in the game with a different set of gear running T6. Very little pain.

      He’s not saying that the gameplay itself it too easy, only that dying in HC could be more substantive and have a much greater impact in a consequential way than it currently is in this iteration of the game.

      I have to agree with Xanth. I’ve read the other comments in this post and they basically amount to, ‘well it sucks to lose your Ancient gear, your leveled up LGems, and your perfect rolls on your other gear’. That hurts! Yes it does, but because the Paragon system is setup the way it is and Pleveling with Gem of Ease, you’re back in T6 in no time at all, essentially continuing where you left off when you ‘died’. The only challenge (if you can all it that) is in finding gear again. You’re right back at the Paragon level you died at.

      I say get rid of account wide Paragon level on HC and put a max on Paragon (100 again and drastically increase exp required to level up. Give additional points each paragon like 5 instead of 1 and no cap on where you can apply the points). I don’t care about SC – do whatever you want. When you die you start at Level 1 (not P1). Make it so that P100 is equivalent to current P500. When you actually see another player at P100, you know they survived through some sh!t, and this isn’t a new less than 1 hour played toon at Pxxx. When you die, you WILL feel the hurt.

      I live for the adrenaline rush of near death experiences and I don’t want to have to artificially create difficulty for myself as you suggest just because the game treats death in HC too easy

  10. No worries at all. We understand Xanth’s post completely. Our definition of “Endgame” is quite different and is understandable why you come to your conclusion:

    You: T6
    Us: 1000 Shard Club

    Between those two are oceans and gulfs of difference. When we die, it hurts.

    • No, I don’t think you understand. The issue isn’t about the difficulty of the end game, it’s about the lack of consequence when you die in HC. T6 isn’t what I consider to be the ‘endgame’, that’s just an easy place to start farming after you die in HC.

      Can’t tell by the tone of your comment if you’re trying to talk down to me or what, but I don’t think I ever said that T6 is my ‘endgame’. I try to do push higher Grifts.

      I recently lost a Barb with a 4300dps Ancient Furnace in a GR. Yes it did hurt, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt as much as it would if I lost all my 500 paragon levels. If you think losing some gear when you die in HC is painful, then you should probably be playing SC. I think Xanth is calling for more hurt, so that something of ‘value’ is at stake when you die other than just your gear.


  11. It seems to me that the D3 team consider D2 a dirty word cause its clear as day they don’t want to be compared to it almost as if they are scared by the D2 monster. Pity though, cause if they had they probably would have made a better game from the get go. This is why D3 won’t even be considered D1.5 any more, its worse that D1 now.

  12. More than enough hurt when you die.

    In seasons, if you die pushing for top 10 rankings, you’re basically out of the race since it’s close to impossible to make up lost ground to someone who didn’t die.

    I’m so looking forward to relevelling 3 gems to 52, and that’s non-season…

  13. Xanth may be a filthy casual playing Diablo 3, but he is a Conservative Family Values HC elite. He’s got a child and another on the way. I’d reckon he’d be able to get that barn roof raised and patches sown on all the overalls now.

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