Details on the Founding of Blizzard North


ShackNews is posting their preview chapter from David Craddock’s book about Blizzard North this week, so far they’ve posted part one and part two. It’s chock full of quotes from all of the principles who formed the company in 1993-1994, during their earliest projects… Justice League Task Force for the Sega Genesis and NFL Quarterback Club ’95 for the Game Boy handheld.

Back in those days we didn’t have big contracts to make games, so we said, “Okay, who do we really need? We need a programmer, we need one more artist.” We didn’t even think about hiring designers. There were just programmers and artists. Even bringing in a sound guy made us say, “Oh my God, that breaks the budget,” just to bring in a guy who wasn’t a programmer or an artist.

They were tough calls, and we didn’t always have the money. But the guys who kept expressing interest—Matt Uelmen and Eric Sexton are great examples—made us think, Yeah, these guys are going to be good because they’re just really interested. They seemed to really want to do it.
– Erich Schaefer

The earliest work on Diablo went on side by side with those other projects, and after Dave Brevik met Allen Adham at an industry trade show in 1994, Blizzard became interested in assisting with the creation and publishing of what was then a turn-based dungeon crawler:

By the end of February 1995, Dave Brevik and Max and Erich Schaefer had hammered out the final draft of their publishing contract with Blizzard Entertainment. Functioning as publisher, Blizzard would dole out $300,000 to fund Condor’s descent into Hell. Signing on the dotted line hit Dave like an adrenaline shot. Diablo, the game he’d dreamed of making since high school, was poised to rise from the depths of his imagination and become virtual reality. The boost faded as he and his partners assessed their situation.

Blizzard’s six-figure sum wouldn’t flood Condor’s bank account all at once. As per the standard agreement between publishers and developers, paychecks would trickle in as Condor met milestones over the one-year development they projected for their game. To meet those markers, they needed to hire more programmers and artists. To do that, they needed at least one additional project to fill the void left by Justice League Task Force, which the team had just wrapped up. As luck would have it, the guys knew just who to call for work.

The third (and final?) preview comes up tomorrow and covers the rest of chapter eight, moving into the production of Diablo. Which is interesting, since it is the reason all of us are here, right now. I almost want to go install it and start a new Sorcerer, for the giddy joy of those first few couple of hours working through the Crypt and begging the RNG gods for more spellbook drops.

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard North, Diablo 1, Interviews

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  1. In my humble opinion, Diablo was RPG Nirvana and has yet to be surpassed by any of its descendants. I’ll always have a virtual machine capable of running it.

  2. Agreed, if only we could run.

  3. if this ever goes to court, blizzard will have a very hard time winning i am sure. maybe they first should have served an american botmaker, since american consumer rights are much less ‘developed’ than european consumer rights.

  4. Not interested.

    Blizzard = Blizzard Irvine. With Mike Morhaime and Co. The fact that Blizzard bought an ailing amateur and then called it Blizzard North is just a footnote in history.

    Even the fact that D1 became real time instead of the original “slow cluncky turn based rpg” was due to advice coming from the HQ of Blizzard. This has been well documented all over the internet.

    Besides not ONE of that Blizzard North stable made any decent game with a longer life span than 6 months after launch and MOST of that crowd are now known to be legendary failures: “Hi ! Bill Roper !”.

    Nothing to see here at all.

    • If you weren’t such a blinkered fanboy some of what you say might have worth but you are merely the opposite of a hater. You need objectivity to be taken seriously and because you don’t have any you can’t ever be. Even Blizzard have objectivity, even they have admitted their failings where you have praised the very same things. You’re just the other side of the same coin which the Blizzard community seem to be littered with and both types try to suffocate any semblance of a normal discussion. If there were no haters or fanboys communities would be so much better off.

    • Classy and objective as always, Thrall.

      You do know Roper was actually in Irvine for a full decade and up in North for less than a year, right? And you do know that 90% of the original talent at irvine has been gone for a decade?

      Anyhow, clearly, the fans agree with your sentiments and can recognize the touch of the true creators of the genre, judging by the stellar userscore and amazon reviews. Not to mention the overflowing servers, full of more players than ever.

      Keep it up, you’ll get the stock back to where it was when D3 released in no time.

  5. “I almost want to go install it and start a new Sorcerer, […]”

    That’s the plan! Every year around Halloween, the itching in my fingers for some hours of D1 gameplay starts again. It’s almost a bit of a tradition for me. Haven’t been playing D1 since D3 was released, so it should be interesting to find out how thick those rose-colored glasses are …

  6. To be honest, I never saw the need to change Diablo between 1 and 2, as far as the layout goes. I mean sure, D2 was by far the superior game, but there was something way more interesting about an incredibly deep dungeon that seemed to pop up out of nowhere, leading you straight down, from the outskirts of a desolate town, into the depths of Hell itself. While I understand the reasoning for sprinkling dungeons throughout all of creation and creating some variety in the map types, a seemingly-endless dungeon is perfect for the Diablo universe.
    If variety was that big o’ deal, than make us search the surface in 3-4 different locations for a 15+ floor dungeon in each, and base the story around something like “destroying the cornerstones for the gate to Hell,” or something random like that; I’m sure it could be written way better than that with the talent Blizzard’s got, and most people won’t care anyways! Not only that, but you could actually make the dungeons go even deeper, or make them endless after the “boss floor,” giving us incentive to return to areas we’ve already been through!
    Either way, I’d much rather spend an hour per floor on some sort of genuinely difficult, well-crafted, but randomly generated descent into chaos, then spend each hour running around maps that I practically know all by heart (including the “randomly generated varients” of each map.) They could just implement some code that doesn’t allow the downward staircase to generate within a certain distance of the upward staircase, or hell, even implement the old school “have to find the key(s) to unlock a door,” or use more of the “must defeat everything in this area;” somethin’.

  7. Oh, one more thing: I’d love to see how Diablo would’ve played if it was a turn-based RPG instead. I wouldn’t give up the ARPG Diablo games for anything, but when I think isometric, turn-based gameplay, I think X-COM, Fallout 1+2, etc. , so it’s possible that the game still would’ve been awesome.

    • @Shadow Hado: Then you’ll want to read the third and final part of chapter 8: http://www.shacknews.com/article/76406/chapter-8-finale-condor-and-blizzard-lock-horns-over-diablo

      Chapters 9 through 11 (or maybe 12; I don’t even know anymore!) dig into the nitty-gritty of Diablo’s development. I don’t plan to release those in advance of the book, but I’ll probably divulge more specific D2 details at a later date.

      • Damn, I have a reply all ready to go, but I can’t log into my account to comment now. Guess I’ll try again in a little while on my computer.

      • Heya, just remembered I had that reply to send now that we can login… although, I suppose I could’ve done it before; maybe I just like being logged in…? lol It’s pretty long (as are 95% of my posts,) but you know- that’s just how I roll, or something. rofl ^ ^ Anywho, here it is!

        ————————————-

        Awesome!  I am DEFINITELY looking forward to the book’s release!  Is there a page for preordering, or maybe just a wishlist (email alert or something) option?  And thanks for sharing all the excerpts from your book, they’ve definitely done their job: I’m even more excited about the book’s release!

        Speaking of that, I recently read one of your comments on ShackNews that, very sadly and unfortunately, you are not planning on doing a physical release at this time.  Now, I don’t know how feasible it is, or the amount of extra work you’d have to do to get it done, but have you considered using something like http://www.lulu.com to publish it in physical form?  I can’t say that I’ve published any works through them, but I have ordered from them before (got a paperback just about a year ago actually,) and the quality of the finished product was WAY higher than I expected, especially at the price I paid, seeing as it’s essentially a custom book!  

        They literally fill print-to-order requests for a fresh, brand new print of a book.  The book I received looked and felt as new as it was; still does too!  Anywho, it came with a full-colored, glossy cover that you’d find on most retail paperbacks, and pages that are stronger, smoother, whiter, and slightly more opaque than every other paperback I own.  Damn, I could be a salesperson for them lol hahaha.  But in all seriousness, I would DEFINITELY place an order with them again.

        Ok so, since I’m rambling on about this already, can I also make a minor suggestion/request, just in case you do make a physical version?  Please consider making both a paperback and a hardcover version.  That way, the cost barrier to entry for people who just want to get their hands on the book (literally! lol sorry) would be lower, but people like myself who prefer the durability (and overall cool look) of a hardcover can spend the extra monies to get one.  

        Obviously, like I mentioned before, you aren’t currently looking into a physical version, but if you do, you’ve got two immediate sales right here! 🙂

        Thanks and good luck finishing the book!

        ~~Nate

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