The Hardcore System is a series of fairly difficult maps. It is the sole requirement to achieving the Green rank. The Hardcore System was released alongside the server upon launch. There have been 7 different versions of Hardcore (with a few minor changes to balance difficulty). Historically, it was called The Rotation.
At this stage, the server was in its very early stages of development. FFA and the blue rank didn't exist, Minecraft was in Alpha and Beta stages of development, and the checkpoint system we use today was not there. Minecraft was a new game, and only a couple hundred-thousand owned the game. At this time, spawn was in the TNT cube, but was shortly switched to the desert spawn.
In the beginning, there was only the trials found within the TNT cube at X. Player's spawned at the bottom, warped into the following lineup: 1. Skytop Labyrinth 2. Original Level 2 (No warp, you just finished one and fell into the next) 3. Jiga's Claymaze
This is the earliest known iteration of HC, and lasted for less then half a year. Note that the maps were not all implemented simultaneously, rather as they were created. This meant for a time Hardcore only contained one or two maps. The next iteration of consisted of 5 Levels with no checkpoints in-between the levels.
This layout was particularly interesting because it meant if you died in any level, you had to start all the way over. This lead to a meta of people starting the Hardcore system in groups, usually with unofficial "Leaders" guiding people though the first one or two levels. If people could keep up with the leader, they could learn where to go in order to successfully navigate the course.
Sometime in mid 2011 Admin HatterTheMad finished a lava maze, and that was quickly entered into the HC system as a replacement for the other lava themed level, lava parkour.
During this time period, Hardcore was iterating very rapidly as new maps were being created. For clarity, and the fact all iterations had a similar design, they are grouped collectively under "1.0".
The second version of HC was created as the earliest greens had begun creating maps. There is a 7 level system that exists between the 5 and 10 level system. However, its existence was short, and the layout is unknown. It's worth mentioning that this not the same as the other 7 level system that was in place for 1.5+ years.
Minecraft had recently transitioned from alpha to beta, and the server still didn't have FFA, blues, or points. The border of the map lied somewhere in the 2000's. This was also the iteration of the server where MINR experimented with an economy. MINR was also primarily a survival server, instead of the semi-vanilla it exists in today.
The layout consisted of HCs 1 and 10 being stand alone maps, and then for 2-8 you could choose 1 of 2 courses. The maps were not named, and therefore it was semi-random process of picking your path. However, the checpointss that existed between every level allowed easy switching between the two maps. At some point this was changed to include a rudimentary path system and help out with the balance. Some of the maps still didn't balance in difficulty, and because of this, certain maps were sometimes taken over another. This lead to the chat being populated which things such as "Which course is easier at HC-X?"
Maps that have changed in some form: "Srenmaze" was a cave maze segment, and was expanded into Sra. "Chillers' Timed Maze" was broken by the removal of a plugin known as Falsebook. However, many years later it was fixed and renamed to Blitz. "Stone Maze" cannot be found in the FFA or the Valley, and has been broken by the removal of Falsebook. "Void42's Jump Map" was renamed to Mineco. "Heaven Parkour" was broken by the removal of Falsebook, but can still be found above Hell Parkour.
During this time, Minecraft was in beta, and saw a complete release during November 2011, including the Ender Dragon and the 3rd realm of the game, The End. Many of concepts that now define the server were put in place. Most notably, FFA (2011) and FFA+ (2012) were launched at this time. All FFA Maps awarded one point during this time, and the requirement to enter Hardcore was set at 5 FFA points. This was also the time that the blue rank was introduced to the server.
This Hardcore design was in effect from August 2011 to May 2013, making it the longest time that HC has stayed the same. This version was designed by C_dric, and later modified in response to an update the broke some of the courses. This was also the time that the Glass boxes that HC uses were created. On HC4, if you didn't like the map you had picked, you could loop-back by taking Sky Parkour around to choose a new HC4, this is where that began
During one update, Mojang changed how long the player was able to breathe for. This resulted in the HC-3 and HC-5 mentioned above to become unplayable. At that time, admins Aj and Yeroc (alongside PacksofPages as a moderator) proposed and implemented the following temporary solution:
HC-3: Aquiarum --> Wolly Mammoth HC-4: Wolly Mammoth --> The Face HC-5: Elusion --> The Big Egyptian
In one of the next updates to Minecraft this was reverted, and Aquarium was put back into the HC rotation in the 4th iteration.
At this point in the servers history, HC 3.0 had been mostly unchanged for 18 months. Due to rampant cheating at the time, as well as large influxes of greens, the goal was to make HC much harder. With that in mind, themed segments of HC were conceived, based on the multi-pathed decision of the original HC4 1 iteration ago.
Many levels from HC 3.0 remain in this rotation, with an expansion of the paths being the newest feature between the transition. Another feature that returned was the idea of the last few levels not having a checkpoint arises, as HC 8-11 had to be completed in 1 life, restoring the final perils of HC to their former glory of HC1.0. This element would be retained in every subsequent iteration.
After this iteration was implemented, it was realised that the Path of Ice and the Path of Fire were easier than the others, so the following revisions were made:
Snow Fort --> Snowstorm
Satyrs --> Demon
Hell Parkour --> Lava Parkour
This gave it sufficient difficulty to balance out the other paths.
Overall, this may be one of the hardest versions of HC conceived, and it will be seen that most versions from this point are either easier or shorter in comparison. It's estimated that approximately 70 greens completed this version of Hardcore.
During the life cycle of version 7.0, many had become dissatisfied with it. HC 8.0 was devised to remedy many of the problems encountered in the previous iteration. The aim was to make Hardcore much longer with a greater focus on persistence and uniform difficulty. Thus the iteration consisted of twelve maps, with a mix of well-segmented parkour maps (except Metal Harbor) and mazes.
This iteration was unique for multiple reasons. Firstly, there were no puzzle maps on the main path. When players reached HC-4, they could either continue along the main path (of parkour and mazes) or opt for a shorter but much harder path that consisted only of puzzles. One of the puzzles, Miner's Millions, is considered one of the hardest on the server. Few players have completed this path. Secondly, HC 8.0 is the only iteration to date to feature two loopback maps, one for switching between each path. Satyrs, which must be completed to transition from the main path to the puzzle path is significantly harder than going back the other way.
This is the longest version of Hardcore ever however it is not the toughest.