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In Diablo II, Ladders were introduced in Patch 1.10. In order to play and get your name on the ladder, you would have to create a new character from scratch and would not have the aid of any characters that were non-ladder. Ladder characters are not allowed to interact with non-ladder characters and vice-versa. This encouraged a lot more cooperative gameplay initially, but as the game aged, gameplay also declined over time.
The first of the ladder seasons began with the initial release of Patch 1.10 on October 28, 2003.
After seeing how the first season went down, Blizzard decided to perform its first ladder reset on July 7th, 2004 with a promotional contest called "When Worlds Collide," as World of Warcraft was scheduled to be released the following year. The contest began for all users that had a legitimate registered account (for recovery) for all 5 Realms, and it was a ladder race to be the first to reach level 99. The first character to reach level 99 on the ladder, regardless of being on classic or expansion, hardcore or not, would be awarded a prize containing a Blizzard T-Shirt, a signed copy of World of Warcraft Collector's Edition, a toy statue, and a Blizzard North CD Wallet. Most notably, the first character to reach level 99 on all Realms was Tifas-Revenge, a sorceress on the USWest Realm, who had reached level 99 on August 27th, 2004, about 50 days after the race began. Since the ladder races concluded much faster than Blizzard had anticipated, all winners did not receive their prizes immediately after hitting 99 and had to wait until sometime around January of 2005. The Ruststorm program was run during this season once, and several users complained that their items had been erased unfairly. This season also introduced several new exclusive "ladder-only" Rune Words later after the ladder race had come to an end just before 2005.
The second reset of the ladder took place in August, 2005, just after patch 1.11 was released, and it also introduced the "Warden" anti-cheat system to Diablo 2. Unlike Season 2, Season 3 did not have a contest, and furthermore, thousands of accounts got permanently banned for using 3rd-party software from Maphacks to Bots. This did not stop bots indefinitely however, as programmers redesigned them to circumvent the "Warden" using different methods. There weren't any new "ladder-only" runewords during this season.
The third reset took place in June, 2007, and not much changed from Seasons 3 and 4. However, an exploit was discovered that made going to the Forgotten Sands to get Baal's Eye by sending a special packet to the server. This consequently allowed non-expansion or classic characters to enter Act V provided they had a copy of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction installed. This method was patched in mid-February 2007, along with a patch that would end games if anyone's ping passed a certain threshold. This prevented a common lag-based item duplication method. This generally increased the quality of gameplay, as the number of people attempting to lag the servers to execute the method greatly reduced. However, this caused many players to drop from games unexpectedly. Even after Blizzard attempted to stop duping with the server-side patch, many people have still figured out ways to dupe. Blizzard has yet to release a patch that stops duping permanently.
The fourth ladder reset took place on June 17, 2008, and patch 1.12 was integrated into Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. It allows the players to play without the CD if the game is "Full Installed". No other significant changes have been reported with the release of the patch at this time.
On March 3, 2009, an announcement by a Blizzard employee was posted on the battle.net forum that the company was working on content patch 1.13, and asked for the Diablo community's input. The same employee informed the community that 1.13 is planned to be a major patch, introducing new content, instead of merely fixing bugs.
As of July 20, 2009, the patch was postponed due to a server crashing issue that surfaced from the latest patch on Warcraft 3, another one of Blizzard's major titles. On August 5, 2009, the community was informed that patch work for Diablo would not commence until the issue with Warcraft 3 was resolved.
Almost a full month later (September 2, 2009), the same employee that announced the 1.13 patch enlightened the community with the first positive update since the announcement of the patch, this post contained information about work having commenced once again on Diablo 2 and its patch, also stating that the PTR (Public Test Realm) for this patch would be opened very soon.
On September 30, 2009 the community was then informed that the patch may have restraints due to the new content being included (increased stash size), apparently old servers couldn't handle the updated content and would stress the servers too much. The community was told that as soon as they ran some tests to see how well the servers perform, they would make the decision as to whether or not they could include the updated content.
On October 14, 2009, a little after 7 months since the announcement of the patch, another report was made stating that they still haven't decided whether or not to include the content
On November 18 it was decided to leave out the increased stash size in patch 1.13 due to server concerns.
The patch was released on the PTR on December 10.
Patch 1.13c's release, with a ladder reset, was on March 23, 2010.
On September 28, 2010, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On March 28, 2011, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On October 25, 2011, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On May 2, 2012, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On November 6, 2012, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On May 14, 2013, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On November 27, 2013, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On May 27, 2014, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On November 25, 2014, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On May 26, 2015, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On November 25, 2015, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On May 27, 2016, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On November 22, 2016, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On November 22, 2016, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On May 30, 2017, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On December 12, 2017, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On June 15, 2018, at 5:00 PM PST, the Diablo II ladder was reset.
On December 7, 2018, at 5:00 PM PST, the Diablo II ladder was reset.