David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat, a trilogy delving into the bloody history of the world's most infamous fighting franchise. Follow him on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

Stay Awhile and Listen Book 1 - Legendary Edition by David L. Craddock

Two companies. Two opposing cultures. One multi-billion-dollar video-game empire.

Stay Awhile and Listen: How Two Blizzards Unleashed Diablo and Forged a Video-Game Empire - Book 1 invites readers to discover the origin of Blizzard North, a studio built by gamers, for gamers, and Blizzard Entertainment, a convergence of designers driven to rule their industry.

Composed from exhaustive research and hundreds of personal interviews, the Stay Awhile and Listen series divulges the fated meeting that brought the two Blizzards together, the clashes that tore them apart, and their transformation from grassroots democracy to corporate empire. At the center of it all—Diablo, a hack-and-slash adventure through the darkest recesses of Hell that changed online gaming forever.


I'm still in awe that this book exists. Thirteen years ago, I made friends with a few ex-Diablo 1 and 2 developers, and couldn't believe no one had asked to write their story. This book was one of my first, and it remains one of my favorites. Enjoy. – David L. Craddock



  • "A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the storied history and development of Diablo and the early days of Blizzard Entertainment."

    – Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder of BioWare
  • "Stay Awhile and Listen shows that there was a potent mixture of talent, opportunity, and personality that drove the meteoric rise of Blizzard Entertainment from its earliest days."

    – Julian Gollop, creator of X-COM: UFO Defense
  • "David Craddock's Stay Awhile and Listen masterfully retells the tale of the game development Camelot created by the founders of Blizzard Entertainment. David's book offers a rare glimpse into the mystery of how such a company is built, and tells the story in a playful style worthy of the playful products Blizzard is known for."

    – Richard "Lord British" Garriott, creator of Ultima



Cages lined the brightly lit corridors of N. Human Labs. Animals screamed and thrashed in each cell. Scientists, tufts of white hair sticking up from either side of their bald pates like horns, paid them no mind. They marched up and down the corridors like soldiers on patrol, eyes peeled for the monkey that had escaped cage number 106. At the far end of the lab, Gordo, the monkey of the hour, observed his surroundings. He couldn't remember how he'd come to the lab. What he did remember was that the scientists had fed him a special banana and that eating it had suddenly made picking the lock on his cage as simple as scratching his head.

Now he stood, red ball cap fit snugly over his head, trying to decide on the best way to reach his imprisoned friends. He could leap from filing cabinets, dash under operating tables, swing from the ceiling lights, and scale the pipes along the walls. Before Gordo could perform any fancy acrobatics, he needed to pull off an even trickier maneuver. He needed to take his first step.

We wanted to have a character that had a unique movement, something you didn't see in most of the horizontal scrolling games. As a lifelong Spider-Man fanatic, the idea of Spider-Man swinging had an influence on the idea of playing [the game] as a swinging monkey, just going through that motion.

It was really in Dave's, Max's, and Erich's hands to figure out how to make that happen.

-Ef Wyeth, co-founder, FM Waves

In another laboratory of sorts, David Brevik sat at his computer. Ef Wyeth and Mike Sigal, his bosses at FM Waves, and Max and Erich Schaefer, his teammates on Gordo 106, huddled around him, watching anxiously. Reaching forward, Dave tapped an arrow key.

Given that what we'd produced thus far was libraries of images with no coding involved, I remember going into the office where David was working and seeing the first sprites animated on the screen. That felt incredible.

I remember playing the game on the Lynx, and I sucked at it. But it was still just awesome to see the whole thing come to life.

-Mike Sigal, co-founder, FM Waves

I think Dave was born to make games and had been messing around with making games from the time he could manipulate a computer. He came in and certainly knew a lot more about the process and how to produce art. He was a terrible artist, but he at least knew, technically, how to do it.

-Max Schaefer, co-founder, Condor

Ef and Mike knew they had lucked out in finding Dave Brevik. Dave had no formal experience writing games, but he had made plenty on his own time and knew how to import art into the game and make characters run and jump around the screen—vital skills that programmers unfamiliar with game development would have needed weeks to learn.

With Dave handling the code, Max and Erich were free to focus on creating artwork. Their initial trepidation at creating art assets for a video game had vanished after taking stock of their skills. Mustering his skill in environmental design, Max stitched together laboratory levels that teemed with life. Meters flashed and flickered, liquid gurgled through test tubes, and flames danced over Bunsen burners. Erich focused more on bringing characters to life. Depending on whether Gordo stood in place or swung into action, his tail would bunch up or flow behind him. Scientists marched with arms outstretched and hands curled into claws.

One by one, the Schaefers fed Dave the assets they created and watched as his code brought them to life. Seeing Gordo 106 evolve with each new line of code and colorful bunch of pixels filled the group with confidence.

I loved making the art, trying to get as much bang for the buck as I could out of 16 pixels and 8 colors, and I liked the puzzle aspect of reverse-engineering the way games were made.

Game development also appealed to me because it was a collaborative, creative effort that I recognized could be popular and lucrative without the immense scale of film making, my favorite major in college.

Of course in those days, "lucrative" mostly meant beer money.

-Erich Schaefer

We started to put together this game, and it was obviously fun, and it was obviously competitive. You could look at what we were doing, and look at what other people were doing, and say, "Yeah, we can actually do this."

-Max Schaefer

While Gordo 106 continued to come together, FM Waves hit patches of financial turbulence that threatened to break the team apart.

Our expenditures exceeded our revenues. Like most start-ups, we were funding as we went. There was money we were expecting to get from Atari, and we discovered later that that was not uncommon with Atari.

But we can't blame it entirely on them. We were already on the brink. We couldn't pay the bills.

-Efraim Wyeth

Dave, Max, and Erich observed the company's troubles and entertained the idea of striking out on their own.

Back at FM Waves when Dave, Max, and I worked together for the first time, we would say, "Hey, we shouldn't make games for these guys. We should go make games on our own." We referred to it around the office as Project Condor.

-Erich Schaefer

Setting sail for entrepreneurial waters seemed feasible. One programmer and two artists could bang out a game fairly quickly—if they could find a publisher willing to foot development costs. Whispering conspiratorially in corners of the office was one thing, but actually taking the plunge was another. Dave, Max, and Erich felt no pressure to strike out on their own. Despite the occasional late paycheck, working at FM Waves was like hanging out with friends. Meeting deadlines often meant long stretches of twelve-hour days and the occasional all-nighter, but the guys filled the hours with talk of their favorite games and free food from the deli.

Besides, the paychecks always cleared—until the summer of 1991, when they didn't.

The company wasn't earning enough to provide salaries for everyone. Leaving was very difficult. To this day, whenever I leave a company, good or bad, it's difficult because you wrap your identity around what you're creating and the change you want to create in the world.

-Mike Sigal

Dave Brevik also made the difficult decision to leave. As much as he wanted to stay and finish Gordo 106, he had a wife to take care of and bills to pay.

I'd been working at FM Waves maybe five months or so when my paychecks started bouncing. Definitely didn't want to tell Mom and Dad. It would have brought on the "I told you so" speech.

So I knew it wasn't going to work out, and it was time to look for something else more secure, but I still wanted to do video games.

-David Brevik

Dave planted himself at the kitchen table and rifled through the classifieds. He hit on a lead right away. A new company, Iguana Entertainment, had been founded that same summer in Santa Clara, not even ten minutes from where he and his wife lived with her parents in San Jose. The job seemed ideal: shorter commute, making games, and a stable paycheck. His mind made up, Dave gave his notice to FM Waves and moved on.


Dave had come to terms with the fact that he'd never throw the game-winning pass of the Super Bowl in real life, but that didn't mean he couldn't become a superstar quarterback in a football video game.

I was employee number one at Iguana, I believe. My first project there was to convert an arcade machine called Super High Impact to the Sega Genesis for [publisher] Acclaim Entertainment. I did that in three months.

There was an artist doing the art, but I was the only coder. We finished it, and it was one of the first on-time, on-budget projects that Acclaim had had in years.

-David Brevik

Casting aside NFL rules and sportsmanship, Super High Impact was a rough-and-tumble game where players slammed into opponents hard enough to send helmets bouncing across the field. Pleased with Iguana's efforts, Acclaim fed Iguana co-founder Jeff Spangenberg and his team more projects. The influx of cash allowed the company to squeeze out of their cramped office space and spread out in a complex large enough to house multiple teams and projects.

One of the opportunities Jeff received was adapting another coin-op game to the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. The game, a one-on-one fighter featuring digitized actors, had just hit arcades and was causing quite a stir.

We played the game, and I was like, "Oh my God, Jeff, this game kicks ass. This is going to be a huge monster hit. We've got to do this game." He [Jeff] said, "Eh, I don't know. I don't really like it that much. It's too weird. It's just this cheap knockoff of another game."

I said, "Okay, well, I really think it could be awesome." That game was Mortal Kombat.

-David Brevik

After Iguana bowed out of the running to port Mortal Kombat to home consoles, Acclaim Entertainment stepped in. The publisher poured $10 million into a marketing campaign that proclaimed September 13, 1993, as "Mortal Monday," the day the game arrived on various Nintendo and Sega systems. Acclaim sold more than 6.5 million cartridges over the game's shelf life, securing a spot in the history books as the architect of one of the biggest video game launches of all time.

From that moment on, Dave Brevik had his boss's ear when it came to deciding on future projects for Iguana.

By 1993, Dave was helping to lead Iguana as the company's technical director. He wrote code for projects such as Sunsoft's Aero the Acrobat, a platformer-style game where characters leap over pits and other obstacles. Around the same time, Midway came to Iguana with another arcade-to-console conversion proposal for NBA Jam, a two-on-two basketball game featuring gravity-defying dunks. This time, Jeff heeded Dave's urgings and signed on to port the coin-op game to consoles.

Before Dave could sit down and start porting NBA Jam's dizzyingly fast action into home systems, Iguana pulled up stakes.

Around the time Iguana started NBA Jam and before we got very far along, Jeff got married. His wife was from Texas, so he moved the company to Texas.

I didn't want to go, so I called up Max and Erich and said, "So, uh, you guys doing anything? Want to start a company?"

-David Brevik


FM Waves bounced a check, and Dave was gone. That was the beginning of the end of FM Waves. They ran out of money.

We were slackers living in an apartment with friends and zero expenses, so we didn't really care. We kept at it just to see where it would go.

-Max Schaefer

Despite commendable efforts by FM Waves—later rebranded Tenth Planet after Ef and Mike decided to drop clip art and focus on game development—Gordo 106 was doomed even before it released in 1992. The problem was the low market permeation of the Atari Lynx handheld, and to a greater degree, Atari itself.

One of the problems was they [Atari] discontinued the Lynx shortly before our game came out. We never really had a chance for Gordo to make money. There was a shortage of Lynx sets at Toys "R" Us and other stores. Atari kind of screwed the pooch there.

But then there were rumblings about a new Atari platform, the Jaguar. What they really wanted was for us to be developing stuff for the Jaguar. So we shifted some attention to that, and they kept promising us the specs. They wanted us to start developing a game before we had their specs.

We were stuck in this limbo for a while, and discovered after the fact that that was not uncommon in working with Atari.

-Ef Wyeth

Ef called the staff together and announced that Tenth Planet was closing its doors. Unable to foot the bill for the team's last paychecks, Ef gave Max and Erich their pick of office equipment, including a brand new Macintosh IIfx with a staggering 32 megabytes of memory. Lugging their new-old hardware back to their apartment, Max and Erich weighed their options. They didn't want to return to desktop publishing. The game development bug had bit them. Another plan took shape. What if they started their own game company? Reaching out to Joe Jared, the programmer FM Waves had hired after Dave split, the Schaefers formed a new start-up, Atomic Games.

Armed with a programmer, computers, and artists, all they needed was a project. The trio batted around ideas until they decided to try converting Gordo 106 to the Super Nintendo.

I met Max and Erich Schaefer in 1992 or so through my wife's boss at Publish Magazine, who was a friend of theirs. They wanted to break into game development on their own after having worked for a small video game developer on the Atari Lynx. I remember meeting them for the first time at a Mexican restaurant on Haight Street near Stanyan.

Later, in 1993, as VP of Development at DTMC, a very small Nintendo publisher, I signed them—as Atomic Games—to work on a Super NES game they had pitched to me: Gordo 106: The Mutated Lab Monkey.

-Matt Householder, VP of development, DTMC

After receiving the rights to remake Gordo 106 from Ef Wyeth, Max and Erich invited Matt Householder and his wife over to their San Francisco bachelor pad. The group hit it off right away, bonding over comic books and an appreciation for underground pop culture. Committed to the idea and to the Schaefers, Householder drew up papers and signed Atomic Games to bring Gordo to the Super Nintendo. The contract paid just enough to keep the guys stocked on beer and snacks, but not enough to lease an office space for easy collaboration.

At first, the arrangement suited Max and Erich just fine. Important topics could be discussed over the phone. For more immediate concerns, they could meet up at a coffee shop. After a short time, the arrangement proved untenable. Like Joe Jared, the Schaefers were still relatively new to game development and needed an experienced programmer to bring their game to life. With all the Atomic Games developers still feeling their way through the development process, Gordo 106 moved forward at a limping crawl.

When their phone rang in the summer of 1993, Max and Erich assumed it was Joe calling to discuss yet another setback. The voice on the other end of the line surprised them. It was Dave Brevik. He explained his situation: Iguana's CEO planned to get married and relocate the company to Austin. Brevik didn't want to go; he wanted to talk to the Schaefers about Project Condor. Now was the perfect time to start their company, he explained. He'd amassed contacts at Acclaim and Sunsoft over his two years at Iguana and was positive he could land them some contract work to get started.

Max and Erich loved the idea, but they were contractually bound to trudge through Gordo 106's flagging development. They proposed an alternative: what if Dave helped them finish the game? Dave passed on the idea. Working on Gordo again didn't appeal to him. Resigned, he decided he would move to Texas with Iguana if it meant keeping a paying job. Before he hung up, Dave told Max and Erich to touch base with him if their situation changed.

A few weeks later, Householder called the Schaefers and informed them that DTMC was barely treading water. Regrettably, the company could not honor the terms of their contract.

We called up Brevik and asked, "What are you doing? Let's get our own company going. Let's make something happen."

David was working at Iguana Entertainment at the time. I guess when I called him, he was sitting next to his boss, so he said, "No. I'm happy here. Everything's going great. Not interested. Good luck, guys. Keep in touch."

-Max Schaefer

Max and Erich peeled off a twenty from their nest egg, bought some booze, cranked the stereo, and kicked around ideas for what to do next. Something would come up. Something always did. Several hours and beer bottles later, the phone rang. Max picked it up and slurred a greeting. From the other end, Dave excitedly told them that he'd decided against moving to Texas. Project Condor was a go.