Stay Awhile and Listen launches today on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. The book tells the story of Diablo and its developer, Blizzard Entertainment, from the very beginning until launch in 1995. With countless exclusive interviews and the passionate writing style of a true fan, Stay Awhile and Listen is a worthwhile purchase if you love games, Diablo, or happen to work in the industry.
The author is David Craddock, an experienced freelancer with bylines on some of the biggest publications and websites out there including, Joystiq, Touch Arcade, ShackNews, and the Official Xbox Magazine.
You can download the book for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Stay-Awhile-Listen-Blizzards-Video-Game-ebook/dp/B00G8UL474
Describe the first time you played Diablo.
David Craddock: I will never forget this… because it’s so painful. My Uncle Brad became friends with some of the guys at Blizzard North. They played roller hockey together, and they started calling on him to help with their networking and IT troubles. They passed along early copies of games to him, and he passed them to me.
One of his first scores was a demo that only developers from Blizzard North had access to. I think you could only create a Warrior, so I did that, appeared in Tristram, and took my first step. That’s when the pain started. See, Diablo required a Pentium processor. A low-speed Pentium, but a Pentium nonetheless. My rig, which proudly sported a turbo button (remember those?), was a 486/66 megahertz machine. You could only walk in Diablo. My avatar didn’t walk. He crawled. The turbo button failed me.
I didn’t care, though. The demo lasted only two levels and ended in a battle to the death against the Butcher. I never did kill that Butcher bastard. I even started new games with my characters and killed scavengers (rats), Fallen, zombies, and skeletons, earning experience points at a flood and then a trickle when I reached the sky-high level of, like, 6, I think. Still wasn’t good enough to kill ol’ Butch.
But never mind all that! I was an addict. I moved to San Francisco in 2007 and met Eric Sexton and Kelly Johnson, artists on Diablo 1-2. They worked with my Uncle Brad on some games and talked to me about stereoscopic graphics for my first freelance writing gig. Eric and I became good friends, and he offered to help me round up his old colleagues so I could interview everyone about Diablo and the old days at Blizzard North. The series expanded to include the history of Blizzard Entertainment and their games as well.
Seven years later and here we are.
Did you play the game with friends back then? Or were you more of a solo player?
David: I’ve been close friends with three guys since our elementary school days: Jeff, Mike, and Andrew (the primary editor on Stay Awhile and Listen, matter o’ fact). Jeff and Andrew played WarCraft II over their phone lines every night after school. I think Mike played it, but I didn’t. I vacillate between console and PC games, and I was all about Super NES and fighting games back in those days.
My first Blizzard game was Diablo, and as we know, I loved it. Jeff and Andrew took to it as well. Mike? Not so much. He was more into strategy games, but the rest of us played Diablo so he gave it a shot. Speaking of shots, Jeff fired some several, most of them into Mike’s avatar. Jeff was what we refer to today as a troll. He was all about player-killing (PK’ing) in Diablo. Mike was the newbie and suffered Jeff’s trollish behavior. Our party entered the labyrinth, killed a few skeletons—and then Jeff turned on Mike, cutting him down with alacrity.
Andrew and I tried to help. We typed in, “Okay, Mike. David’s going to cast Town Portal. Andrew will resurrect you. As soon as you’re back on your feet, GO THROUGH THE PORTAL.”
Mike’s response: “My stuff sucks.”
The good Samaritans: “Yes, well, we’ll get to that later. Ready?”
Mike: “I need armor.”
I opened a portal. Andrew performed the resurrection. And Mike stood there while Jeff struck him down again. I also recall “HAHAHAHAHA” filling up the chat window.
In another instance, Andrew and I attempted to tag-team the Butcher. We were each around level 3 or 4; I was a Warrior, he played a Sorcerer. It went as well as you might expect. I died first since my character went toe-to-claw with Butchy. My character collapsed, my loot fountained out everywhere, and the screen went red. I typed, “Rez me!” Andrew couldn’t though. I watched, doubled over in laughter, as the Butcher chased him around and around the outside of his square lair. Occasionally Andrew would pause and throw a firebolt or spray lightning. The spells would miss, and off he ran again, around and around and around, the Butcher’s cleaver whistling through the air just behind him.
Man that was funny.
Do you remember being able to run the game in the highest frame rate in high-res? Did you have to update your PC at all in order to play?
David: I was stuck with the 468/66 machine for a long time. That didn’t stop my addiction, though. It probably took me twice as long to complete the game as the average player, but I made the best of it!
Did you ever dream about Diablo? :)
David: You know, I do dream about Diablo. I’m glad you brought this up. I don’t know where else to turn. He whispers to me. Usually at night. He threatens me. Makes me do things to the townsfolk. He tells me to trust Lazarus, and I…
Wait, wait—I confused myself with King Leoric. What, that’s never happened to you?
Actually, I do dream about the games quite a bit. One Saturday, I played for probably 10 hours straight. When I closed my eyes, I saw the map grid burned against my eyelids.
You mentioned that writing Stay Awhile and Listen was a 5-year project. How was your day like back when you were in the middle of writing the book? Were you able to take some time off (i.e. work a bit less) or did you essentially work on it during nights and weekends?
Stay Awhile and Listen has been a labor of love. Emphasis on “labor.” I’m a freelance writer by trade, and there were many occasions where I had to set Stay Awhile aside and focus on gotta-pay-the-bills projects. I was able to hammer out a schedule that I stuck to through most of the project.
In the mornings, I’d shower, wolf down breakfast, and focus on book stuff. I always woke up energized about Stay Awhile and other personal writing projects, so I gave them my best hours of the day. (Sorry, Amie.) After lunch, I’d take a small break and then turn my attention to freelance stuff. That worked out pretty well while my wife (the co-founder of DM Press along with yours truly) and I lived in the Bay Area. I wrote for so many clients during out first year and a half in San Francisco: Official Xbox Magazine, PlayStation: The Official Magazine, Good Old Games (GOG.com), Electronic Arts…
When the economy bottomed out in ‘09, I lost my job and the clients I’d written for lost their budgets for freelancers. I eventually found semi-steady work, but we ended up leaving the Bay Area and moving back east to Ohio, where the cornfields are many and the cost of living is sane. I’ve gone through lean periods, but Stay Awhile was always there. Some days I wrote a little. Most days I tried to write a lot: transcribing interviews, outlining interviews, and then tucking in on the first draft in December ‘11 through the following May.
The feast-or-famine routine was actually one of my primary motivators for dividing the book into three volumes. I wanted and needed to release something after so long. It’s great to finally see that book in stores, but I can’t bask in the afterglow for too long. More words to write!
Did you actually meet some of the Blizzard developers face-to-face? How did it feel to meet your childhood heroes?
David: After meeting Eric Sexton and Kelly Johnson, who helped me flesh out my Blizzard rolodex, I spent several days each week trucking back and forth from San Francisco into Silicon Valley. There, I ate many lunches and drank many cups of hot cocoa with Dave Brevik, Rick Seis, Michio Okamura, Mike Dashow, Mark Tattersall, Tyler Thompson, Karin Seis (nee Colenzo), and other Blizzard North alumni. I’m proud to say I count each and every one of those folks as a friend.
On my last day in the Bay Area, Amie and I rushed into San Francisco, tired, dirty, and sweaty from last-minute details, and had lunch with Dave Brevik and Max and Erich Schaefer, Blizzard North’s founding fathers. That was the first time I got to chat with those guys all in the same room. I didn’t do much talking. I was tired, but I was more focused on their interaction. They bounced ideas back and forth at lightning speed, talking about this and that.
After lunch, we gathered together in front of the restaurant and snapped a photo. You can see it for yourself.
The author (second from left to right) with the team responsible for Diablo
What’s next for DM Press?
David: Amie and I hope to expand to international markets. Sooner on the horizon, I’ve got Stay Awhile and Listen - Book II to edit (it’s finished but needs to be put through the fact-checking and rewriting stages) and a young adult fantasy novel, Heritage, that launches next July from Tyche Books. Also on the DM Press side, I’m working on another big project (no hints!), but before that launches, I confess I’m a bit tired. I want to publish some smaller books—smaller in terms of scope—to build our library a bit.
Trust me when I say that gamers everywhere will soak up what we’ve got coming down the pipe.