Return to Diablo I with "The Hell"

With all this stress on upcoming Diablo III and the patching mania of Diablo II, sometimes we forget about the root of it all: Diablo I. Mordor's Diablo I mod, The Hell, takes us back to the nostalgic days of dungeon-crawling, loot-grabbing, blood-spilling pandemonium of the Diablo series' forbearer, specifically Sierra Entertainment's - Hellfire Hellfire expansion. Stressing incredibly challenging gameplay, The Hell will confront players with an enormous bestiary, new skills, and many hours of additional play time.

Work on The Hell has not been easy, however. Historically, Mordor began modding Diablo I in 2005. He faced some real-life challenges of his own, and the going was tough:

Quote from "Mordor" »
[...] due to family circumstances I had no access to [a] computer and had to work at that time from early morning til late night. This kind of activity [was] destroying all creativity.

The Hell underwent many forms before it got on the track it is on today, including a period of time when it was named Gothic. Another impetus struck, however, as Mordor noted that "two weeks later it became so unstable that crashes occured every few minutes. So, Gothic had to be abandoned." The unfortunate experience was not without its merit, however. Mordor noted that he "learned from this experience and made a commitment to document all the changes, so that everything [could] be reverted for debugging purposes."

Finally, on April 14, 2006, The Hell really picked up speed. The mod recieved a moderate amount of acclaim and before long an official website was founded in its honor.

Quote from "Mordor" »
Technically, it's the second version of the mod. I started with version 0.01, and slowly progressed. First version to be released was 1.09 as far as I remember. It happened in October 2006. And it happened on another mod's forums. In May 2007, some people were familiar with The Hell already, and started begging for the website. And I created it. [The] first official public release on our website was announced somewhere in May 2007, about a year after the starting of development.

Despite developing for an archaic game, Mordor persevered with his work on a Diablo I: Hellfire mod. Diablo II was found less appealing in his eyes for a number of reasons:

Quote from Mordor »
[...] I played Diablo II: LOD for about 3 years. And I realised that comparing these two games, I really felt that Diablo II was (for me) about looting, with no particular enjoyment from the process of fighting. On the contrary, Diablo I rewarded you every time you killed another Goatman/Knight/Succubus with their brutal dying sounds, it felt more... realistic. I really can't come up with a better description for that. I think that Diablo 1 is more dynamic and has more potential than D2. Modding-wise.

Also, Diablo II lost a lot of its prequel's atmosphere, and I personlly dislike things like that. I think if there was a choice for me to mod Diablo I or Diablo III today, I'd prefer original Diablo. If the game is older, it doesn't mean it's worse.

The Hell did not disappoint in contrast to Diablo II, however. Featuring a fresh bestiary in the hundreds, countless new items, and creative new spells, the The Hell team pushed Diablo I to the limit. And Mordor is not alone with the development, boasting a team that would even make some professional game development companies pale in comparison: "[...] several hundred people helped The Hell become better, more than 20 people helped a LOT, and currently we have about 7 people working on the game and its sequel: The Hell 2."

Mordor continued to show his value of teamwork, saying "I found out that no man can do everything without others helping him, and the best way to get something done without it taking forever is to attract talented individuals, and cooperate their work." Though many would label all of this as mere volunteer work, Mordor would disagree:

Quote from "Mordor" »
Technically, they are not working for free. Their skill grows, they improve the game and, as a result, enjoy a better quality product. I think it was said by Ford that "it's better to make 100 people do 1% of the job than it is to make 1 man do all 100% of the job". I really like this idea. In this case, everyone wins, so why not?

Comparing The Hell to Diablo I's original PvP and PvM style, Mordor told us "[...] PvP is not that well balanced in The Hell, it's not a disaster, too. Just worse than PvE."

Quote from Mordor »
The original Diablo was not balanced perfectly. It was a pretty damn good game, but it wasn't as good as I saw it becoming in my mind. I wanted it to be more gritty, scary, addictive, and less bugged. My main objectives were to increase replay value beyond possible, and strecth the lifespan of characters.

I think that in the latest versions of The Hell, the balance is incommensurably better than in original Diablo PvE fighting. I personally spent so much time planning, and revising various formulas for PvE and implemented so many interesting features that the old game feels just dull to play at this point. I did this countless times, listening to feedback from players very carefully. And I keep receiving many emails from delighted players of The Hell. Everytime I open a new letter and read there "Dear Mordor! I can't describe how thankful I am to you and TH team for this mod." and so on, I feel good about it. I guess it's those letters that keep me going these days.

Progress continues on The Hell's PvM and PvP balance, and Mordor estimates that within a year it will see some real polish. The Hell features another bonus that goes beyond the norm of even the best mods of the Diablo universe, however. Music.

Quote from Interview »
DiabloFans: Your mod features new music add-ons, an area that could be viewed as overlooked for many mods. How influential do you believe music is in modern video games and how did you choose what music to involve with The Hell?

Mordor: Extremely high level of importance! The music is THE factor that directly changes your mood when you're playing. If you pay attention next time you watch a movie, you'll notice that the feelings you have while watching, are mostly triggered by the background music. Turn the sound off and notice how big that void suddenly is...

I didn't want to replace Matt Uelmen's fantastic pieces, I wanted to expand. When you play, you can notice that there are several level-coloring palettes in the game. That's basically what we're doing to the music also: adding more without removing the old one. So that there is more randomness, which is really the heart of this game.

Reflecting his devotion to the original Diablo, Mordor said that "[music]'s supposed to help players dive deeper into the game, so I make sure that it's structured tight (to prevent boredom), sounds pleasant, doesn't attract attention much. It just keeps playing in the background, doing its work - improving the atmosphere."

With The Hell a long-standing Diablo I: Hellfire mod, Mordor is now turning his focus to The Hell 2. He noted that he is looking for composers for the next soundtrack, and doubtless would love some inspiration for the coming installment. Check out The Hell's official website here for more information.

If you're itching for some Diablo I magic and don't have the time to play yet, forestall your craving with Let's Play videos of both vanilla Diablo I and Diablo I: Hellfire. Check out EclipseTen's YouTube channel for more. (Original Thread)


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