Thanks for Xanth for tweet-reminding me that today is the 15th anniversary of Diablo 2’s launch on June 29, 2000.
Very rare that I know what I was doing 15 years ago, but today I do! Happy 15th anniversary to Diablo 2!
— Xanth (@HCXAnth) June 29, 2015
I didn’t clearly remember what I was doing that day or which character I played first, at least not until I refreshed my memory. Let’s hop into the wayback machine and see what Diabloii.net looked like on that fateful day, before some of you were more than a twinkle in your daddy’s eye!
You can read all the Diabloii.net news from June 29, 2000, and the years before/after it via Archive.org’s vaults. If you’ve never seen the original version of this site, realize that 15 years ago bandwidth expenses were a huge deal for websites, and most readers were on dial up modems… which is why we hardly ever included any images on the main page.OMG that classic wood border layout! (We had an alternate skin Elly made up with Christmas lights wound around it, which we put online for the holidays and usually left up until about March, just like your annoying white trash neighbors… if newer readers were wondering what people were talking about in various mysterious comments about our recent domain name resurrection.)
Visuals aside, check out those historical artifacts! This is like the Dead Sea Scrolls of Diablo fandom. Vote results from early 2000:
Which D2 player will you play first?
Necromancer – 28.4% [1687.244] Paladin – 26.2% [1556.542] Sorceress – 16.9% [1004.029] Barbarian – 14.2% [843.622] Amazon – 14.1% [837.681]
Total Votes: 5941
There’s even a first hand report on the Diablo II launch party, attended by our old time writer Gaile Grey (who was the first of many, many site contributors to join the industry, eventually leaving us to take a head CM job with ArenaNet). I clearly remember having dibs on attending that party, and turning it down (letting Gaile go in my place) since I wanted to be home where I could play the game as soon as it launched and post site updates. Admire my youthful dedication compared to my more recent hedonism. *cough*
I’ll repost Gaile’s typically-breathless D2 launch party write up below the fold for the sake of nostalgia.
Original article archived here:
It all began with a telephone call from Susan Wooley, Public Relations Director for Blizzard Entertainment. “We’d like to invite DiabloII.Net to the Diablo II Launch Party. Would you be able to come?” And, heart in throat, I said “Susan, it would mean the world – yes!” And within an hour it had all been arranged; room booked, flight tickets in hand, and butterflies in tummy (well, the butterflies were sort of a “bonus add-on,” actually).
Flying out of Seattle the next day, I firmly gripped the arm of the seat a few times, thinking “This is probably just me, dreaming of going back to Blizzard, I’m sure it’s not real.” But no, the chair felt substantial and not dream-fuzzy, and the solid bump onto the runway seemed proof enough the whole thing fell into not the fantasy, but the fantasy-becomes-reality category.
The Diablo II Launch Party took place on a cruise ship out of San Francisco Pier 33. The California Hornblower is a very trim ship; lovely teak wood accents, and lots of windows for a view of the bay – one of the most beautiful in the world. We left promptly at 7:00 p.m. and sailed in a gentle zig-zag all about the San Francisco bay. Under the Golden Gate Bridge (and then back under in the opposite direction); past the stunning San Francisco skyline (once during daylight, and then again during the crystal clear night); past the new San Francisco baseball stadium, the Bay Bridge, Sausalito, Angel Island, Alcatraz… it was great! The nibbly-type food was delicious, and the liquid libations flowed.
There were about 100 people in attendance. The breakdown was approximately 50 Blizzard employees and about 50 from the press. Representatives of lots of media names you would recognize were attending, from major general gamesites to mass media publications such as Newsweek and Time magazines.
In attendance from Blizzard were a great cross sampling of the staff, almost all from Blizzard North, although Debra Osborne, the super new Public Relations Specialist for Blizzard Entertainment, and Brand Manager Stewart Weiss were up from Southern California for the event. As you can see, the floor was abuzz with programmers and designers and artists, oh my!
Max Schaefer and Matt Householder were looking relaxed and happy. The release was a golden moment, of course, but word that the presales had exceeded 2 million copies gave this past week a special glow, as did the delighted responses of people on Battle.net as they began playing. Like parents sending their child off to school for the first time, they’ve been keeping a close eye on Battle.net, listening to reactions and making sure that all goes smoothly as the whole world comes to play
We had a little toast to celebrate the launch. This shot is called “David with his Dom.” Dom Perignon, the champagne of champa… wait, let’s try that again. The “world’s finest champagne.” Lacking a glass, David just guzzled a bit straight from the bottle, much to the amusement of Max Schaefer. (Gotta say, David managed to do the guzzling with a certain panache.)
The gentleman in the foreground left is Diablo II Producer Ken Williams, who happens to be a childhood friend of the Schaefer brothers. Ken went to school and became an attorney and was doing something conservative and “respectable” as a career until he heard the siren call of games and gaming (and his kindergarten buddies) and chucked any modicum of respectability to become the Blizzard North Business Director. 🙂
Another happy group here, beaming with the satisfaction of a job well done. Probably also smiling at enjoying a meal that wasn’t leftover pizza eaten at their desk, too. From left, Eric Sexton, Character Artist; Tyler Thompson, Programmer; and Phil Shenk, Lead Character Artist.
A nomination for Adorable Couple of the Night would certainly go to Mike Dashow and his fiance, Talia, who became newly engaged just a few weeks ago, with plans for a June 2001 wedding. Mike is the artist of the Sorceress and many, many other characters and monsters, including the image (based on Michio Okamura’s Megademon) that greets every new Diablo II player, as he or she downloads the patch. Mike is also a successful artist outside of Blizzard, much in demand for book covers and other projects.
David Brevik, still clutching the Dom Perignon bottle, sort of basking in the bright lights of a video camera, while Max Schaefer looks on with wry amusement. (Or is that “looks on with a ‘unhand the bottle, David’ sort of expression?”) To the left at the rear, in a tan jacket, is Scott Peterson, Sound Engineer, to whom you may be saying silent thanks when you hear the distinctive “ping” of a dropped gem, or the warning shuffle of an approaching monster. Scott and Matt Uelmen worked on sounds together, and told us that sometimes the sound creation would come to them immediately and be completed in an hour or two. And sometimes they would struggle for a long time to try to figure out precisely what sound they wanted, and then try to create a file to match their concept. There are literally hundreds of unique sounds in Diablo II.
Phil Shenk, Lead Character Artist, looking relaxed and happy, enjoying a laugh with his fellow Blizzardites. Phil’s artistry for the Amazon was the first rendered character we ever saw, back in, oh, 1964, we think it was. 😉 Phil is leaving Blizzard North, this being his final week, to work at a new company in a different form of gaming. His contributions to Diablo II will live on forever, of course.
You like Eric Sexton’s character art, and those of you fortunate (and wise) enough to purchase the Collector’s Edition have the very best opportunity to hear Matt Uelmen’s incredible musical score. The game score is about 90 minutes long, Matt tells us (contrary to reports), and the CD – which happens to be gorgeous to look at, too – contains approximately 62 minutes that he personally selected for inclusion. Elly and Flux and I will probably be listening to this music constantly as we type our reports and articles and captions, and as I do now. The music definitely bears repeated repeatings!
One of the particular delights of the evening was meeting Candi Householder, wife of Senior Producer Matt Householder. Here she and Matt wear the decidedly happy smiles of a couple who look forward to spending some time together again, now that the game is released. You will note in the Diablo Manual, at the back, how a special thanks is given to many people, several with quite familiar last names. These are the wives, children, fiancés, significant others, and family members who have made a silent contribution to the game with their love and support. These remarkable people understood the sleeping bags in the office, didn’t complain when the trip home was just to pick up clean laundry, juggled their own schedules to accommodate the needs of the Team, and did so very much to make Diablo II come to be.
And as the moon rose over the lovely city of San Francisco, we passed the Oakland Bay Bridge as the California Hornblower approached the Pier, and our docking place. It was a lovely cruise, and a wonderful experience truly to be treasured forever.
The D2 party was a fairly small affair, held on a rented party ship in the SF Bay. It was nothing like the much larger, fan and media-attended D3 and RoS launches, and it was a real honor to be invited to attend and witness the
Back in 2000 actually needed to buy video games on CDs, and that brought all the pain of physical distribution. People had pre-orders that didn’t mail on time, stores sold out, etc. And since the D2 beta had been very small, with only about 1000 disks distributed, only fans who had lucked into that, or who had attended E3 or some other shows where the game was available as a playable demo, had ever been able to try the game before launch.
So what were you guys doing 15 years ago? Playing D2? Do you remember your first character or first experience?