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. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

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. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

Stay Awhile and Listen - Book 1 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, curator, StoryBundle



  • "David Craddock's Stay Awhile and Listen masterfully retells the tale of the game development Camelot created by the founders of Blizzard Entertainment."

    – Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultima series
  • "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



When they weren't busy making games, the Condor crew stayed busy playing them. Blasting through Doom and conspiring to overcome Matt Uelmen's cheesy tactics in NHL '94 remained the most popular ways to relax while their workstations rendered graphics and compiled code. Then, in early 1994, a PC game called X-COM: UFO Defense abducted the team's attention span.

Developed by Mythos Games, X-COM was a slower, more tactical experience than Doom. In X-COM, players chose a location for their base, researched new technology, manufactured supplies for their scientists and soldiers, and remained in the good graces of nations supplying funds for their extraterrestrial hunt by protecting them from alien infiltration.

At the start of X-COM, players navigated menus where they could order supplies, train troops, send aircraft out on patrol, and look over funding reports. Inevitably, players made contact with extraterrestrials. Setting paper-pushing aside, the game switched to an isometric view, a literal twist on the top-down perspective used in games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on Super Nintendo. In top-down games, players watched the action from high above, looking down on their avatar's head and boots. X-COM's isometric view slanted the camera, still showing the action from above but allowing players to see the fronts, sides, and backs of their squad and the alien invaders.

Over a series of turns, players deployed soldiers through yards, city streets, and even inside suburban homes to surround and eliminate alien threats. The turn-based gameplay encouraged players to consider troop formation, emphasizing planning over itchy trigger fingers. Once defeated, aliens could be dissected, revealing weaknesses that players could exploit. [SQ1]

X-COM offered Erich Schaefer a dissection table's worth of tools and strategic possibilities, making the game a blast to play.

There were many things I loved about X-COM. The game revealed itself in an interesting way. There were multiple levels of gameplay: combat, designing and laying out your base, and a long-term story that tied into your research. You would study devices and aliens that you had captured, and that would unlock story elements.

But the main thing was the random battlefield and the destructiveness of the areas. I just loved that you were in these lands, fields, and cities, and those environments were never the same. That was the random element we loved; it comes from X-COM and the roguelike games.

-Erich Schaefer, co-founder, Condor

For Dave, Max, and Erich, computer games were more than diversions. They were inspiration. They didn't want to slave away on console projects that offered them little creative control and even less pay. They wanted to make their own games, and they wanted to make them for game platforms that weren't already shuffling toward retirement.

The industry was at a time where the Super Nintendo and Genesis were coming to the end of their life spans, and it was definitely not clear what consoles were coming out afterwards. We had to make a call, and as a little company, your eggs are all in one basket. You're only doing one project, so if we picked the wrong machine, we're screwed.

The PC was always there. The PC is always going to be there as a gaming platform. So it seemed like, from a business perspective, that [the PC] was a better platform for us. You weren't constrained by the very limited hardware that the consoles had.

-Max Schaefer

Condor's founders wrote design documents for three game ideas. One was Tyran Conquest, a futuristic action game that flipped between missions like raiding installations to steal alien technologies and spaceship shootouts set against the starry depths of space. The second concept was The Crystals of Quexlcoatl, an Aztec-themed shooter where players explored randomly generated temples in search of six magical crystals.

Eager to develop for new hardware, the founders aimed Tyran Conquest and The Crystals of Quexlcoatl at Sega Saturn, Atari Jaguar, and 3DO Company's Interactive Multiplayer, known as the 3DO for short—fresh consoles boasting 3D graphics and speedy processors that left the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis eating dust.

The third document described Diablo, Dave's dream game intended for the PC platform.

Dave said, "You know, there's these great dungeon-crawl games that we used to play, like Angband and Moria, that are crying out for an update." The structure of the games was really addictive. You could play them for hours and hours.

-Max Schaefer

In laying out Diablo, the founders stuck close to the roguelike formula. A lone hero would descend through dungeons crawling with demons, going deeper and deeper until they eventually breached Hell. There, they would face Diablo, the devil incarnate. On the surface was a town where players could buy and sell equipment for their fighter, thief, or magician avatars. Each class had special abilities, such as stealthy movement for thieves and spells for magicians.

Like X-COM, Diablo would play out over turns: first the player moves, then the monsters, and so on. Players would have to exercise forethought and creep forward to survive mobs of monsters like sword-wielding skeletons and archers. Defeating monsters made heroes stronger and awarded them with random treasures like gold, spells, and armor. The game would also randomly assemble each level of the dungeon, providing a different experience each time players sat down to the game.

Unlike the roguelikes of days gone by, Diablo would feature full-color graphics. Spending countless hours playing X-COM convinced the guys that an isometric perspective was the perfect angle to follow Diablo's action.

One of the whole points of making a roguelike with modern, 3D rendered graphics was that you could make things look really cool. But [characters] just don't look that great walking around from a top-down perspective. You see the guy's head and his shoulders, and that just wasn't right to get the full grandeur of [the art we were making].

We did a lot of experimentation with angles and decided on the isometric perspective. That was something we just played with until it felt right. It was a perfect compromise between navigation, knowing where you are, and seeing the cool stuff the artists were making—really seeing the characters, monsters, and environments.

-Max Schaefer

Dave, Max, and Erich went into vague detail on Condor's plans to support Diablo after release. For a nominal fee, players could purchase expansion disks that contained new items, monsters, and dungeons. They closed the document by outlining a schedule that estimated one year to complete development, then passed the design around the office. The team responded with enthusiasm.

I noticed David Brevik's Angband obsession pretty early in the job, like summer '94, and caught the bug shortly thereafter. When it was announced that we were going to try to do a version of Angband with graphics and sound, I was very happy about that.

-Matt Uelmen, composer, Condor

Internal interest in making a roguelike update was high. Now they needed to find a publisher. They hoped to meet just such an individual in a few weeks when they attended the annual summer CES show to demo Justice League Task Force on Sega Genesis. The moment their plane touched down in Chicago, Dave, Max, and Erich hurried to the convention center. They weren't scheduled to demo Justice League right away, so they hit the pavement in search of a publisher to bankroll Diablo. They received a cold reception.

At CES shows, we would go around and pitch these games, pitch Diablo, to everybody that would listen. And every single person that we talked to, their feedback was always the same: "RPGs [role-playing games] are dead."

-David Brevik, co-founder, Condor

Dave, Max, and Erich couldn't argue against the grim state of computer role-playing games. CRPGs had derived from Dungeons & Dragons and remained graphical interpretations of that decades-old formula: players drew maps on graph paper as they explored dungeons since most games did not generate maps automatically, virtual dice rolls determined whether players hit or missed when they attacked and how much damage they dealt in combat, and most games unfolded over turns. Many CRPGs also recycled graphics from older games, making newer titles look dated.

In contrast, other game genres took advantage of cutting-edge hardware such as video cards and CD-ROM. In 1993, developer Cyan released Myst, a graphical tour de force where players explored photorealistic worlds. Far more popular were the hordes of first-person shooters influenced by Doom. Casual gamers took one look at the archaic graphics of RPGs and passed them over in favor of games that satisfied their bloodlust and justified their investments in top-of-the-line computer hardware.

As developers of RPGs struggled to keep up with technology and gamer tastes, their games plummeted in quality.

In 1993, [Strategic Simulations, Inc.] published Dark Sun: Shattered Lands, a top-down [computer RPG] based on [publisher] TSR's post-apocalyptic Dark Sun campaign. Despite an intuitive interface and intriguing setting, the game's mediocre graphics, jerky animation, typos, and buggy code kept it out of the limelight.

-Matt Barton, Gamasutra.com

SSI eventually developed more than 30 [Advanced Dungeons & Dragons] games. [...] Many were excellent, including Curse of the Azure Bonds and Eye of the Beholder.

But by the mid-'90s, SSI had begun to squander its license, producing title after title of buggy, forgettable games. [...] The early '90s were a creative drought for RPGs, and store shelves teemed with tedious, derivative titles.

-Lara Crigger, 1up.com

Dave, Max, and Erich could barely say "RPG" before publishers shooed them away as if they were contagious.

All of us had become disappointed with computer RPGs because they were going in the opposite direction of where we thought they should be going. Instead of taking these cool, quick, addictive game designs and making them have flashy, impressive graphics, they were becoming story- and stat-laden, really appealing to a super small niche of super RPG geeks—which we were in a way, but that wasn't really our style.

So when Brevik mentioned these roguelike games, it was kind of a natural, "Yeah, let's take that cool, addictive structure and modernize it. Let's strip away the stuff that's turning off a lot of game fans from RPGs."

-Max Schaefer

With each rejection, Dave's temper flared. These publishers weren't gamers. They were suits. They didn't get the appeal of battling hordes of demons, the thrill of incinerating undead with magic, and the excitement of seeing a mysterious new item, its magic properties unknown, clatter to the ground after hard-fought victories. Suits only saw numbers—production costs, development schedules, fiscal projections.

After hitting up almost every publisher, Dave, Max, and Erich made their way back to Sunsoft's booth. What they found at the booth left them stunned.

We showed up at the Sunsoft booth very excited because our game was going to be shown off. So we went to the booth, and there was a Super Nintendo version of the game that we were making for the Sega Genesis.

And we were all dumbfounded. We'd never even talked to the guys; we never knew another version of it was being made. We were like, "What? There's another developer making the same game on another platform?"

-David Brevik

Dave, Max, and Erich eyed Allen Adham and his team's take on Justice League Task Force with interest.

I think there was a competitive vibe from the very first time we met the guys from Blizzard, when we were doing the Justice League Task Force projects. They were doing the Super Nintendo version, we were doing the Sega Genesis version, and it's just natural to want to check out the other version and see how you're doing and how they're doing.

It was a good, vigorous competitiveness.

-Max Schaefer

Despite the hundreds of miles separating their studios and the disparate hardware of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, Condor's and Blizzard's interpretations of a fighting game stocked with superheroes looked and played remarkably similarly to one another. Dave and Allen clicked right away. The two lifelong gamers engaged in a dialogue about the state of games, their favorite titles, and their companies.

We got to chatting, and they said, "Yeah, we're working on a PC game." And I said, "Oh! A PC game? I love PC games! I don't want to do console games. I want to do PC games."

They said, "We've got a little booth. It's this itty-bitty meeting room. You want to come take a look at the game?" The game that we saw was WarCraft.

-David Brevik