The game, with its dark fantasy and horror themes, was conceptualized and designed by David Brevik and Erich Schaefer, who, with Max Schaefer, acted as project leads on the game. The game was developed over a 3-year period, with a crunch time of 1.5 years long. Set shortly after the events of Diablo, the player controls a new hero, attempting to stop the destruction unleashed by Diablo's return. The game's 5 acts feature a variety of locations and settings to explore and battle in, as well as an increased cast of characters to play as and interact with. Building on the success of its predecessor, Diablo , and improving the gameplay, both in terms of updated character progression and a better developed storyDiablo II was one of the most popular games of 2000 and has been cited as one of the greatest games of all time. Major factors that contributed to the game's success include its continuation of popular fantasy themes from the previous game and its access to Blizzard's free online play service, Battle.net. In contrast to the first Diablo, whose levels consisted of descending deeper and deeper into a Gothic-themed dungeon and Hell, Diablo II's environments are much more varied. Act I is similar to the original Diablo; the Rogue Encampment is a simple palisade fort, with plains and boreal forests making up the wilderness area, and the Monastery resembles the typical medieval fortress. Act IV takes place in Hell and is the shortest, with just three quests compared to the other Acts that have six. The Lord of Destruction expansion adds the fifth chapter Act V which continues the story where Act IV left off. After reaching the summit of Arreat, the player gains access to the Worldstone Keep . In addition to the acts, there are three sequential difficulty levels: Normal, Nightmare, and Hell; completing the game on a difficulty setting will open up the next level. A character retains all abilities and items between difficulties, and may return to a lower difficulty at any time, albeit it is not possible to re-play the quests that are already completed. Players can create a hardcore character. Standard and hardcore characters play on separate online channels; as such a hardcore player can never appear in the same game session as a standard player. Diablo II uses a system of randomly generated equipment similar to the original Diablo, but more complicated.
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