Another interesting tidbit from David Craddock’s upcoming book on Blizzard North, Stay Awhile and Listen. This one covers some of the early personnel decisions and Blizzard North’s open and free design style.
After forming Condor in 1993, David Brevik and Max and Erich Schaefer didn’t immediately start on Diablo. To carve out an income channel, they signed on to develop Justice League Task Force, a one-on-one fighter for the Sega Genesis. The project quickly became more work than the three founders could handle on their own. To bolster their ranks, the guys didn’t send recruiters sniffing after veteran game designers. The term “game designer” barely existed in the early ’90s, a period when the games industry was still in its infancy. Instead, they looked for programmers and artists whose passion made up for what they lacked in practical experience.
…A crucial component of Condor’s atmosphere was the team’s freedom to play to their individual strengths and interests. Their first hire was Michio Okamura, a comic book artist who worked as an executive at an import-export company. “I had no experience working on a computer except for doing import-export documentation for customs orders,” Michio said. “I had never [drawn] anything on the computer. So through the entire Justice League Task Force project, I didn’t do much on the computer. Almost everything I did was hand drawn.”
What Michio lacked in technical skills, he more than made up for in talent and drive. When development of Diablo finally kicked off, Erich Schaefer headed up the art team. Rather than arrange his artists in an assembly line and dictate specific monsters, Erich encouraged the team to let their imaginations run wild. “Michio would come up with reams and reams of drawings, so it was fun to get a bunch of drawings and just say, ‘Okay, this looks really cool, but this guy has a cooler sword, so let’s combine those drawings,’” Erich Schaefer told me. “I think that was some of the most fun collaborative art stuff we did at the time.”
The article also covers early collaborations and disagreements with Blizzard Irvine, the conversion of Diablo 1 from turn-based to real-time, and more. Craddock’s book is to be released on October 31, and we’ll have an interview with the author around that time. I’ve got an advance copy of the book and it’s good stuff.