Wizardry Online just launched. It is a low graphics, tiny, free to play MMO marketed as the most hardcore fantasy MMO every created. The designers seem to have confused hardcore design with bad design somewhere along the way though. I can see how that happens... you think back to ridiculously difficult old games and remember the sorts of mechanics they had and then you stuff your game full of those mechanics because you can't tell the difference.
The shining jewel in the crown is rolling character stats to see how good you are. There are arguments made in oldschool DnD groups that rolling stats is fun. You get to see what sort of character you are and you have to roll with it in sort of an improv way. Not really my style but if people like to be pushed into a role rather than custom build it, go nuts. The trouble with WO is that they have done away with the roleplaying element and latched firmly onto the power level element. You just roll characters over and over, each time getting a particular number for your roll which determines how powerful you will be. The great majority of rolls are between 6-9, getting a 12 takes a little while but is a really meaningful upgrade, and some dude on the forums talked about spending seven hours rolling to get a 32. The maximum roll is 80.
So yeah, the difference between 8 and 12 is noticeable and it is possible but fantastically unlikely that you get an 80. This means that people are very handsomely rewarded for spending hours or days at the character creation screen rolling over and over until they get a roll over their required integer. That isn't hardcore, it is just awful. WO is hugely gated by power and has permanent death so it is critical that you do everything you can to maximize your potential. In the long run it is certainly optimal to spend truly staggering amounts of time rolling up stats rather than playing the game. Thankfully bots will be able to do this and you can just start up a WO account, run a bot for a month, and be awesome. Huzzah?
Don't worry though, once you spend a month getting a 75 for your character the game has PVP all the time, everywhere, and when you die all of your stuff gets stolen unless you pay real money to keep it. Also, your character will die permanently sometimes and you have to start again from scratch. I am not a big fan of games where the players who have been around awhile can trivially murder anyone they want, steal all of their stuff, and sometimes remove that character from the game forever. I guess you would call that hardcore but it sure doesn't seem fun.
When I think of hardcore play I think of things like the WOW's famous hardmodes (I am dating myself here) like Yogg'Saron, The Lich King, or Kael'Thas. You had to spend time prepping but then you had to be GOOD. WO seems to be all about levelling past the content until you can 1 shot everything and then farming it till you can 1 shot the next dungeon. You can't afford to goof around since regenerating health and mana costs cash and there is perma death so everyone farms trivial content forever. Give me hardcore that is hard, not hardcore that is enormous boring timesink occasionally punctuated by being ganked by someone you can't hope to defeat.