Hell Unleashed has been years in the making, dating back long before patch 1.10. For Terry, the road has been long, as much a thing of personal fulfillment as one of entertainment. "It was a personal hobby to see what I could do," he told us in a short interview, "[although] I never [had] a defined goal in mind when I first started." What started as an aimless modification of one of the most renown ARPG's of all time grew into something much more important.
As he went, Terry learned what it meant to mod this age-old game. "Hell Unleashed [is] an entity that grew over time," he replied when DiabloFans asked him when the work really started, "[but as] my ambitions for Hell Unleashed grew . . . a final version began to take shape."
This "final version" would grow to address a multitude of concerns and ideas that Terry developed. When asked what the most important feature of Hell Unleashed is to him, Terry confessed that "the highlight for me would have to be the enhanced boss battles."
Certainly, Diablo II's bosses had their charm, if not a significant amount of lore behind them. Unfortunately, the difficulty of defeating these bosses became negligible when one considered how simple it was to port, pot, and pop back into the fray. "Fighting [the bosses] was fairly anti-climactic given that non-hardcore death and retreating to town via a convenient town portal had no impact on the outcome of the fight; essentially, you could never really 'lose' the battle."
All this changed when Hell Unleashed was born. "Bosses [now] rely on strategy and preparation to overcome as opposed to reckless persistence and a town portal scroll."
Enhanced boss battles aren't the only thing Hell Unleashed has to boast. The mod features updated enemy AI, tweaked graphics and animations, a plethora of new Horadric Cube formulae, and, perhaps of principle concern, its controversial private realm access.
"Originally, I tried a TCP/IP and Open.net system, but these lacked any sense of a unified multiplayer community; games needed to be pre-arranged. . . Hell Unleashed began using the private server in its infancy and advanced largely because of the decision to utilize a private realm," Terry said. Much to Blizzard's dismay, the mod allows players to connect to his private realm dubbed "Arymith," coinciding with the mod's official website.
However, the long road to Hell Unleashed as we know it today was not all downhill. Terry faced his fair share of challenges. "A lot of time went in to trial and error and dealing with crashes, bugs, and hard-coded features, far more than it took to actually create new content."
Bugs and code weren't the only issues at hand. The mod's private realm also had its challenges. "Certain third-party plug-ins [that] I wanted to include in Hell Unleashed were not possible as they conflicted with the private server software."
Private realms aren't exactly all the rage with Blizzard, either, who would much prefer players to use closed or open realms on Battle.net. Blizzard's (often firm) stance on this matter has trickled down to its more devoted modding communities, including the Phrozen Keep. "The Phrozen Keep, the primary modding hub for Diablo II, has a very strict policy against private realms, so this was indeed an obstacle."
As vanilla Diablo II players can relate, balancing is always an issue. Terry came to notice that "Diablo II [is] very sensitive to small changes. Even slight tweaks to skills and items [can] turn an underpowered class into an overpowered one."
With the official release of patch 1.3 for Hell Unleashed, balancing has been at the very top of Terry's mind. "[Patch 1.3] was largely based off [of] community suggestions on how to best balance Hell Unleashed and improving and preserving the challenge for multiplayer."
The trick, as Terry noticed, was getting everyone to agree on what needed balancing. "A lot of people in the community had different ideas on how to balance the game and it was hard to get people to agree; the line between underpowered, balanced, and overpowered can be different depending on who you [ask]." However, responding to the mod's prodigious community feedback has become something of a source of pride for Terry. Now, Hell Unleashed "[tweaks] items and skills . . . [with] every update, and [is] then re-adjusted based on player feedback."
Trag'Oul. In order to keep with that classic Diablo vibe, though, Terry attempted to shy from the cliché world of High Fantasy in favor of darker demonic mythologies. "A lot of the bosses I included in Hell Unleashed were not part of Diablo lore," he said, "I decided not to limit myself based on the lore as I wanted to put my own spin on Diablo."
Specimens include the demons Moloch and Asmodeus, among others. Taking such lore from darker sources helped, in part, to keep the Diablo vibe while bringing something new to the table.
Hell Unleashed has a lot to offer new and old players alike, with new takes on old concepts as well as some nuance differences that distinguish it from the crowd. If you're interested, check out the official website for more information.
Disclaimer: DiabloFans does not in any way endorse the more controversial nature of this mod. This interview was for general enlightenment and entertainment purposes, only. Use of Hell Unleashed's private realm functionality is solely the result of the individual player's discretion and is forbidden by Blizzard's ToU/EULA. In addition, big thanks to Magistrate for conducting the interview and article.