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 (2): Lords of Terror Edition by David L. Craddock

Orcs and Humans. Angels and Devils. North and South. Harmony and Discord.

Stay Awhile and Listen: Book II – Heaven, Hell, and Secret Cow Levels continues the saga of the two Blizzards—Blizzard Entertainment, creator of the groundbreaking WarCraft series of strategy titles, and Blizzard North, architect of Diablo's digital hellscape—as both studios struggle to find their identity and forge a path forward.

Threatened by competition in the space they popularized, Blizzard Entertainment looks to the stars to build a new franchise and evolve into a well-oiled machine. No longer the underdog, Blizzard North takes Diablo out of murky dungeons and across deserts, jungles, and snowy mountaintops.

Success comes at a cost. Corporate greed threatens to overshadow artistic breakthroughs, new talent throws company cultures into flux, and a passion to be the best result in brutal work schedules, broken relationships, and creative burnout that incapacitates visionaries and leaves their teams directionless.

Weaving together the making of bestselling products and the crucibles of the people who made them, Stay Awhile and Listen: Book II tells the story of two teams that formed an unstoppable juggernaut even as they proved too combustible to co-exist.


If you sunk untold hours into Diablo 2 or StarCraft, or have played later installments in those franchises and want to know what the hype was about, I humbly suggest that this book delivers. You'll hear from dozens of current and former Blizzard employees about how they made their secret sauce, and the growing battles that split the Blizzard empire down the middle. – David L. Craddock



  • "Stay Awhile and Listen is a rare and intriguing look into the people and experiences behind some of my favorite video games of all time."

    – Randy Pitchford, co-founder of Gearbox Software
  • "Stay Awhile and Listen weaves the words of the creators of Diablo into a compelling narrative and opens a window into the strange and wild world of the games biz. Reading this tale reminded me why I decided to leave the games business, and why I had to get back in."

    – Glenn Wichman, co-creator of Rogue
  • "As the company that ushered American gamers into the age of the Internet, Blizzard has a history worth knowing."

    – Steven Kent, author of The Ultimate History of Video Games
  • "Stay Awhile and Listen is an entertaining, detail-packed, and well written book that reads like a really fun novel. The writing is breezy and draws a reader in, like a bunch of friends sitting around and listening to a good story."

    – Writer's Digest
  • "I just went through your bibliography on Amazon and I'm at a "shut up and take my money" point."

    – Kevin, Kickstarter supporter



DUANE STINNETT AND Matt Samia couldn't explain why the thought of a hero shoving the Lord of Terror's Soulstone into his own forehead struck them as funny. It just did.

Diablo's shocking finale had come to them unbidden. Neither Blizzard North's developers nor lead Diablo scribe Chris Metzen had any idea how the game should end, so Duane and Matt, both aspiring filmmakers, had taken it upon themselves to cook something up. A hero who had fought his way to the depths of hell and killed the devil itself, only to wind up impaling himself with the gem that contained its essence in a futile attempt to keep the Lord of Terror from rising again? It was an ending as macabrely funny as it was gory and excessive.

No one had appointed Duane or Matt to devise the cinematic ending of Diablo. They'd had free time, so they'd done it. Moreover, the cinematics in Diablo and the WarCraft games had been short and vague because they'd had to be. Their stories had been written at the eleventh hour, when the two Blizzards had had to shoehorn in some explanation and motivation for why their characters were killing each other. Artists interested in cinematics had had little to work with, so they had come up with videos intended to convey tone rather than explicit story details. Once the cinematics for a game were finished, the artists had returned to their regular tasks such as animating characters and painting tiles.

Likewise, there was no formal story in place for StarCraft. All anyone knew for the first year of the game's development was that three races would fight on futuristic backdrops such as space stations and alien planets. With little else to go on, any artists interested in rendering cinematics would once again have to make videos from a 40,000-foot view. In the summer of 1997, Duane and Matt put their collective foot down.

"We just finally said, 'Look, we need a dedicated team to do this,'" recalled Duane Stinnett.

Allen Adham and Mike Morhaime saw little value in forming a team dedicated to cinematics. At Blizzard, videos were short-and-sweet spectacles designed to keep players invested in gameplay. Duane and Matt persisted.

"I think they saw the marketing value in cinematics," Duane continued. "People buy games not because of the way sprites look, but because they buy into the whole atmosphere. Games back then just looked like shit, ninety percent of the games out there. There were a couple of studios out there, Westwood Studios with Command & Conquer, pumping out some impressive cinematics work. We kind of wanted to get to where they were. [Matt and I] started pushing it harder and harder."

Once Allen and Mike relented, Duane and Matt invited artists to post up with them on the other side of the office. Stu Rose and Joeyray Hall, who had a wealth of experience working with 3D models, joined up, as did Trevor Jacobs and Scott Abeyta. That fall, Duane reached out to Harley Huggins, who became the first artist outside of Blizzard hired specifically to join the nascent cinematics team.

"I had been really into games, and my other [hobbies] were movies and special effects, especially Ray Harryhausen movies," Harley said. "Then Star Wars came out and blew my mind and everybody else's mind."

Harley had got his big break when he and his business partner were hired to handle production work for half a dozen shots on the 1997 action flick Starship Troopers. Between shots, they developed graphics plug-ins, add-ons that let artists create effects such as flames and swirls of magic, for their own use in 3D Studio.

"Through that, I ended up meeting some of the guys at Blizzard. They bought some of our plugins. I was doing tech support, showing them how to use these things. The guy I was talking to was Duane Stinnett. One day he said, 'Hey, we actually want to hire a few more people here. If there's anyone you could recommend, that'd be great.' I thought about it for about five seconds, and said, 'Yeah, I can recommend myself.'"

Duane Stinnett gave Harley the grand tour, escorting him through bullpens crowded with action figures, computer-game boxes, and posters showing movie stars, comic-book characters, and scantily clad women. Afterwards, Duane walked Harley outside and asked what he thought of the office. Harley told Duane flat-out that he wanted to work at Blizzard. As soon as Harley got back home, Duane called and made him an offer. He accepted, but after he signed off, he realized he wasn't clear on what, exactly, the offer entailed.

"I didn't know it at the time, but I was the first person to work on cinematics [specifically]. I didn't know that until, about two weeks in, I was hanging out with someone, and he said, 'Oh, you're the new cinematics guy.' I said, 'What's that?' and he said, 'They hired you to start the cinematics team.'"

On his first day, Harley squeezed into a cramped room. There had been no available cubicles or offices near the other artists, so he worked on the first floor where contract programmers were porting Blizzard's games from Windows PCs to the Apple Macintosh. His workspace was less than ideal. The large windows running along one wall magnified sunlight. Artists despised light; it interfered with the coloring on their screens. To make matters worse, the window let in too much heat. By noon, sweat was pouring down his face. Harley toughed it out until late summer when Blizzard relocated to a new campus spanning several buildings. Artists and programmers occupied one building, while the audio and cinematics teams set up shop on the top floor three buildings down.

Settling into a room facing away from the sun, Harley got started on his first task, working alongside Duane Stinnett. Duane pulled up Heat, an action film starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Val Kilmer, and jumped to a shootout that took place in the middle of a street in Los Angeles. "Duane said, 'We want to do something like this.' He'd grabbed some different shots and cut it together, so we sat talking about that and how he could make it work."

Duane's vision was to produce a short movie showing a squad of Terran Marines creeping through a derelict space vessel. The Nightmarish Invaders—by then renamed the Zerg—would pick off soldiers one by one until they emerged from the shadows. A firefight would break out, leading to the ship exploding into fragments that spun out into the blackness of space.

The video, dubbed "Marines in the hall," was emblematic of Blizzard's freewheeling design process. Two artists who happened to pass each other in the hallway would banter. Back at their computers, they started working on their idea for a cutscene. Years later, Blizzard Entertainment and other studios would adopt a production method known as compositing, the process of adding 3D components to each individual frame of animation as needed to avoid littering the screen with polygons and slowing the user's computer to a crawl. In 1997, the fledging cinematics team at Blizzard knew of no such process.

"If you watch the cinematics from StarCraft, everything you see on the screen is from the same scene," Harley said. "Computers couldn't handle it. I think 3D graphics cards had just come out, and they weren't that fast. It took a long time to render those frames." Their solution was to tap into a feature of 3D Studio that let a group of computers on the same network render a frame of animation. Rendering a single frame took between fifteen and twenty minutes, per computer. "I'd done some compositing on Starship Troopers, but most of it was done in Photoshop. I think, in the ending cinematic for the Zerg campaign, some of the frames were taking an hour a frame [to render]. When you've got 300 frames, it takes a long time to see whether things are working or not."

StarCraft's story had yet to solidify by the fall of '97, so Harley and the other artists focused on creating videos that conveyed a sense of scale. StarCraft's action unfolded from an isometric view. In-game units such as the Terran Marine, clad in bulky armor, and the Zerg Hydralisk, a brown, serpentine alien that slithered upright along the ground and shot needle spines from its upper carapace plate, were sprites as small as fingernails. But in cinematics, Marines towered seven, eight feet tall. Terran Battlecruisers and Protoss Carriers as big as yachts swam through the sky and cast shadows over forces battling on the ground.

After finishing a cinematic, the artists would show it to StarCraft's lead developers and let them figure out where it fit in the game's progression.

"We gave the player a reward every few levels with a movie," Duane said. "To me, it was one of those things where it was kind of a conflict of interest because as a quote-on-quote 'filmmaker,' I wanted to make these little movies; but as a player, I would hit Escape as soon as the movie came on because I wanted to keep playing the game. We just wanted to make movies that were cool enough that people would watch them, so we wanted to keep them short: fifteen, twenty, thirty seconds. We made them to give some character and life to the game world instead of looking at these little ten-pixel-tall sprites running around the screen."

Programmers and artists who swung by the department marveled at seeing their fingernail-sized characters blown up to epic proportions. Some even offered suggestions for what they'd like to see in the cinematics, such as a Terran Battleship getting swarmed by the Zerg's bat-like Mutalisks. "A lot of details that are now considered canon, such as parts and pieces on StarCraft units, we made up," Harley explained. "They were just little sprites in the game, so we had to make things up. Like how the Marines have things stenciled on their armor—we made all of that up because we thought it was cool. Then designers ended up creating characters based on some of the stuff we put on their armor."

In rare instances, Chris Metzen or James Phinney, lead designer of the rebooted StarCraft project, would give direction for crucial story bits such as what to show in the cinematic that capped off each of the game's three campaigns. The final mission had players controlling Terran and Protoss forces in a last-ditch effort to defeat the Zerg Overmind, a mountain-sized brain that controlled every member of its species. Metzen pitched the idea of a cinematic showing a Protoss Carrier, piloted by one of the main characters, flying directly into the Overmind, the ship's hull piercing its gargantuan mass like a sword.

By Christmas, the cinematics team was exhausted, but charged. They had just put the final touches on StarCraft's ending. While only a few of the dozen or so cinematics they had made ran longer than one minute, they had succeeded in creating videos that not only carried the weight of conveying the scale and scope of the game's world, but that were engaging in their own right.

"That was the coolest thing, to have such a free hand in all of that. Nobody cared. They trusted us," Harley said. "There weren't all these rules and egos. It was just, 'Make stuff cool,' and you did, and people had fun. It was magical, especially during StarCraft."