In Diablo II and Diablo III, a player may choose upon the character creation to make it a Hardcore (HC) character, the true test of the player's skills. This is an irreversible decision, but it is believed that a true player must have at least one such character. In effect, the game treats Hardcore characters like mortal human beings rather than the semi-immortal non-Hardcore characters, accordingly called Softcore (or SC) by Hardcore players. In this mode, a character only lives until the first death, being permanently lost after that.
Remember: all Hardcore characters are mortal and WILL, sooner or later, die, the only way to prevent this is not to play them at all. Usually it happens because of a lag spike, an overly powerful monster (for example, Multishot + Lightning Enchanted, Bone Fetishes, or Gloams with Conviction), disconnection (in D3 only, as game continues for 10 more seconds after you lose control), or just a cat jumping on the keyboard. In Diablo II, a set of side programs were developed (such as MapHack) to minimize the chances of dying, but it will eventually happen. Using bots on Hardcore is also pointless, since bots are generally more prone to dying.
Customer Support does not restore dead Hardcore characters, no matter the cause of death: by checking the 'Hardcore' checkbox, a player accepts that their character may die with no chance of revival.
A Hardcore character is the same as a normal character except for the following:
- Hardcore characters' names are displayed in red on the character selection screen, in order to distinguish them.
- When a Hardcore character dies, the game ends and you cannot simply reload your last save point because the character is gone forever.
- When a Hardcore character dies, they are not removed from the Character Selection Screen, instead remaining there as a robed figure (as pictured) to remind players of their loss until the character is deleted by the player.
- Only the Items the Character has worn can be looted by other players (if the player has allowed this before the character died).
- Hardcore characters are displayed in a more aggressive pose in the Character Selection Screen, depicting their tense state of play.
- Hardcore characters are awarded more impressive Titles for beating the game.
- Hardcore characters do not have access to normal characters' stash, nor can they trade with normal characters.
Other than these, there are no other differences in gameplay terms. Dead hardcore characters will even retain whatever position on the Hardcore Ladder they may have achieved (albeit with their names in gray) until they have been surpassed by enough other players to knock them off the Ladder. Hardcore mode is regarded by many as a more realistic playing experience.
Diablo IIIEditIn Diablo III, there are following additions to this system:
- Characters of at least level 10 may be put into the Hall of Fallen Heroes to be viewed by anyone.
- Hardcore characters are indicated by the red flames on preview instead of blue.
- Hardcore and Softcore characters have separate currency (gold / Blood Shards), stash and Paragon levels.
- There are achievements for beating the game's acts on Hardcore, but the character titles for those actions are no more. Instead, the player gains access to different options for their banner.
- Dead Hardcore characters appear in form of ghosts until moved to the Hall of Fallen Heroes.
- Levels are signed in red and marked with 'Hardcore (class name)' signature.
- Many sets, items, passive and active skills in game are specifically designed for Hardcore players.
- As of Patch 2.1., death of a Hardcore character is reported in Clan chat.