Digital Monument Press
Circa 2013 -2014
Digital Monument Press existed to document the making of video games, the personal accounts of the developers who made them, and the culture that drove the video-game industry.
Kudos David Craddock, Anne Kline, and Andrew Magrath.
Content is from the site's 2013-2014 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.
About Digital Monument Press, LLC
Every video game begins as an idea. Over time, that idea evolves, growing from wispy what-if into a virtual world made from craftsmanship, ingenuity, and imagination. Step by step through the creative process, a story takes shape—not the story told in the game, but the story of the game; the origin of the idea, its gestation, and the triumphs and tribulations of the people who built every bit, byte, pixel, and polygon.
Digital Monument Press exists to document those stories. Our books chronicle the making of video games, the personal accounts of the developers who make them, and the culture that drives the video-game industry. The end result is more than just a book. It is a digital monument, one erected page by page, story by story, in celebration of the people, games, practices, and culture that paved the way for those that followed.
Upcoming Book Explores the Making of X-COM: UFO Defense
Posted by DMPress Mar 26, 2014
March 26, 2014 - Digital Monument Press is excited to announce The X-COM Files: How Alien Invaders, Rebel Squads, and Gooey Blobs Took Strategy Gaming by Storm. Written by David L. Craddock and due for release on Amazon's Kindle platform later this year, The X-COM Files chronicles the making of X-COM: UFO Defense, Laser Squad, Chaos, and other strategy games created by legendary designer Julian Gollop.
Released in March 1994, X-COM: UFO Defense remains one of the highest-rated computer games in history. Popular review outlet IGN.com named it the best PC game of all time in 2000 and 2007, and numerous other outlets including Computer Gaming World and GameSpot.com inducted the game into hall of fames and awarded it high placement on best-game lists. In 2012, publisher 2K Games and developer Firaxis Games released a reimagining entitled XCOM: Enemy Unknown for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 platforms to critical acclaim.
Julian Gollop remains an influential designer beyond the scope of X-COM's success. In March 2014, Gollop launched a crowd-funding campaign for Chaos Reborn, a reboot of his RPG/strategy hybrid Chaos, released on the ZX Spectrum home computer in 1985. As in the original, Chaos Reborn sees players don wizard's robes and draw from a deep reservoir of spells to battle over treasure and explore fantastical realms.
"I read David Craddock's book, Stay Awhile and Listen, and I thought it was quite an intricate, deep-dive into the inner workings of Blizzard Entertainment," said Julian Gollop. "I would like to see the [X-COM] book as kind of a historical record of a game that was influential. Hopefully it can provide some inspiration, and also some fascination for how things were done in the early days of the games industry. And in some cases, how badly things were done as well."
The X-COM Files is the next entry in DM Press's catalog of books devoted to the culture, people, and games of the video-game industry. The publisher's debut title, Stay Awhile and Listen, became a bestseller within 24 hours of its release on Amazon's Kindle platform in October 2013.
The X-COM Files is due for release in 2014 on Kindle, with availability on other platforms following thereafter.
Hall of Heroes
Welcome to the DM Press Hall of Heroes, where your gaming legends live on. Every so often, we hold contests where you, our readers, write in with your favorite memories related to the games we document in our books. After reading through all submissions, we immortalize winning entries by etching them into the pages of our books.
In the Hall of Heroes, you can check out the winning entries as well as the runners-up in each contest.
Stay Awhile and Listen - Book I
Contest: "Tales of Fresh Meat"
Shacknews readers recounted their first (or most memorable) encounter against the Butcher in Diablo's dungeon.
Winner: User "allaryin"
We played Diablo on a pair of midrange Pentiums connected by an Ethernet crossover cable my freshman year of college. Five or six of us took turns playing the game. Between swapping players regularly and the newness of it all, strategy was the sort of thing that happened by accident.
The first time I remember encountering the Butcher was a complete ambush. The Sorcerer opened the door and was killed before we knew what was happening. I was playing as the Rogue at the time and foolishly tried to kill this hulking mass that had just eaten my friend. It didn't go well.
So now both of us were naked and in desperate need of our gear. Relying entirely on Holy Bolt for damage, we worked our way back to our corpses, picking up garbage equipment on the way. I don't know what we were thinking; we couldn't take the guy fully outfitted. How could we hope to kill him wearing rags and clubs? But whatever.
Then, in the final approach, a bow "of the Bear" dropped. I hadn't ever seen one before, and I didn't pay any attention to the affix's stated effect, but when we rounded the corner and I started shooting the boss... and kept knocking him back... well, there was much rejoicing and also maniacal laughter.
We got our stuff back, but I kept that bow as my primary weapon. To this day, "knockback" is one of my favorite game mechanics, regardless of genre.
Runner-up #1: User "RogerDandy"
A friend of mine had parents that lived in the bush out of town on a fairly substantial property. There was a guest cabin out back in which my friend lived. We were all around 16-18 at the time and eagerly awaiting the release of Diablo II, and honoring said release with a replay of Diablo. Warrior, Sorcerer, and Rogue were our character classes and we played on a LAN with one massive speaker set blasting from one PC.
We had all played the game before multiple times for years up to this point, but we were all totally hooked again. We were well aware of the existence of the Butcher and had walked past his room and cleared to the 5th floor of the dungeon before figuring we were finally strong enough to take him on. We went back up to the 2nd floor and approached the famed room with bravado. I stood at the front ready to open the door; my Sorcerer buddy to my left and my bow-wielding Rogue friend to the right. I opened the door and "AAAHHHHH FRESH MEAT" echoed throughout the cabin.
At that exact moment my friends proceeded to unload all their ammunition into the back of my Warrior, sending me to a stun-locked death at the hands of the Butcher. Fifteen seconds after opening the door we were all dead. We turned to each other in shock and amazement. Even though we thought were more than prepared the Butcher, he proved with a few swings of his mighty cleaver that we weren't.
Runner-up #2: User "Rehevkor"
Dark, clotted blood covered every visible surface. Shredded bodies dangled from hooks like spent piñatas. The smell was unspeakable. I had seen horrors that would hobble lesser men and soldiered on, but this... this was different. Pain was sewn into the very fabric of this room; horror and despair permeated the air.
I had made up my mind to close the door and move on when I caught movement out the corner of my eye. A bloated monstrosity leaned over a table covered with gore, clutching a huge notched cleaver. It turned to me and spoke.
"Ah, fresh meat!"
The thing thumped across the room with sinewy speed. I fell back through the doorway, barely raising my shield in time to block the swinging cleaver. The force of the blow numbed my arm. I struck back, but my meager blade barely scratched the demon. It laughed and struck again.
We battled, for how long I can't be sure, but the clever brute maneuvered me back into the room as I dodged its attacks. I was out of potions and the demon had cut off my escape. My feet skidded in blood and I fell. I closed my eyes and waited for death.
But the killing blow never fell. Instead I heard an explosion and opened my eyes to see the room around me engulfed in flames. A horrible gurgling screech issued from the demon as it perished in the fireball's blast. My Sorcerer companion stepped into the room casually and looked down at me.
"WTF?" I said.
"Dude sorry, I was AFK. Mom made pizza bites."
Runner-up #3: User "happynoodle"
I was a Warrior my first time through Diablo. I remember opening the door and blindly running into "Ah fresh meat!" I saw this huge monster running towards me, so I bolted out the door and I just remember running all over the map trying to avoid him, agro-ing all the other monsters along the way. Eventually I get to a dead end and try to fight off what I created. I was holding my own, but at the same time every skeleton I killed only allowed the Butcher to get closer and closer until he was in my face and offed me in two hits.
That was pretty scary and intense, so after that I would avoid that little square room until I cleared out the first four floors. Then I would go back and fight him toe to toe, which seemed to work pretty well. I also remember heading back to his den and zooming in on all the dead corpses. My cousin and I were like "Oooh, that's so gross and awesome!"
On Battle.net, I remember creating a game with the name, "1v1 duels." Next thing you know, dueling games were norm. That was pretty damn fun. All my ear collecting also got our "Happy" Clan onto a Diablo Bounty Hunters website's Top 10 targets.
Runner-up #4: User "Teiresias"
The doorknob was red and sticky. That's all that remained: one blood-smeared doorknob. I came through the cathedral basement injured but intact, wading through the undead one axe-swing at a time. I was weary, my weapon was starting to crack, and all I wanted to do was run away and forget about any treasure that Tristram may have held.
A dozen skeletons lay shattered behind me, this single door in front. I downed a red vial that closed my wounds. I cracked open the door.
What I remember most was the whisper. Not the overwhelming stench of blood and excrement, not the sounds of chopping meat, not the beast that stood at its work. The whisper: "Please, kill me." Whoever on that hook didn't have long: their limbs were gone, and an oozing pile of flesh lay below.
Then the monster realized I was there and turned, thrilled to see me. "Ah! Fresh meat!" it yelled through a yellow grin.
It was on me before I could react, swinging a gigantic cleaver. It carved right through my armor and into my shoulder, but I twisted aside in time.
I'm not ashamed to say I ran. I sprinted across the basement, pulling doors shut behind me and knocking barrels into the beast's path. Finally, my legs limp and my breath raw, I bought a few seconds. I pulled out a scroll and let the words wash over me, invoking a blue portal ahead. I leapt through it and heard the giant cleaver crunch on the floor where I stood a moment before.
Maybe someday I'll vindicate myself and conquer that beast. Once I fix my gear and visit the healer, maybe I'll make another trip back into that basement.
And maybe, just maybe, I'll lay that whisper to rest.
Runner-up #5: User "darthfusion"
I remember playing the first Diablo, back in the day where there wasn't a lot of voice acting, and running around the dungeon hearing "FRESH MEAT!" That scared the crap out of me. The instant, Oh my god. What the hell said that?feeling of panic.
Contest: "Best Blizzard Stories"
Shacknews.com readers shared their memories related to any Blizzard game.
Co-winner: User "lord_omega"
I was around 12 years old when my neighbor lent me his copy of WarCraft, my first real-time strategy game. I started the install straight after getting home from school. I wondered what was in store for me as my imagination went wild over the medieval imagery—the universe felt solid and real right from the onset. From the first "My liege," I was hooked. WarCraft was the first game to truly captivate me.
I had great times playing FPS games like Wolfenstein and Doom. Playing the action hero was great, but [those games] lacked the feeling of power I was craving: A feeling that can only be gained by spawning new life, looking down on your minions, and sending them to their death in your name! I was playing god, only I didn't have to feel bad about the poor insects I was toying with. Building tiny towns was my favorite thing to do, until I realized how much fun it was to raid an enemy village.
I was snapped back to reality by my dad's shout: "Are you still up?!" I was covered in a cold sweat, tired, hungry, and had to pee badly. It was 2:00 a.m. and I had school the next day. WarCraft made me lose my sense of time and space. I felt elevated above my mortal coil and into a plane of existence in which intellectual stimulation and enjoyment was the only thing of true value.
Co-winner: Andy Lee (ahlee)
What I remember fondly from Diablo was the mystery of it all. There were items like "The Thinking Cap" made for wizards that my friend and I thought was so clever and appropriately named. The mood was dark and gothic with the dungeon floors streaked with blood. Sounds in the periphery were haunting and put you on edge. The whole experience was so new.
My friend finally got up from the computer seat to take a break and let me try, so I picked a Warrior and entered the dungeon. I clicked on a barrel, and my Warrior walked over and cracked it open. Just from the visceral feel of that action, I instantly understood the appeal of the game and fell in love.
Even though Diablo II was an improvement to the original in almost every way, Diablo had two things going for it—a noticeably darker, more gothic feel and the fact that it was a completely new genre for a huge audience.
Having played other games that defined their respective genres, that sense of mystery and thrill at experiencing something completely new is an amazing feeling that genre creators have access to. I'm happy I was there to experience it with the original Diablo.
Runner-up #1: User flagg209
StarCraft was the first multiplayer game I ever played on the Internet. To think that I was "playing with my friends" when they were in their own houses was amazing. I became part of the first of many online communities through a SCclan that originated at Drexel University. We rallied behind our best players and had tons of fun playing.
On more than one occasion I remember waking up on a Sunday, grabbing something to eat for breakfast and the next thing I remember was logging off and going to bed for the night. There was even a con of sorts. We went to the Philadelphia Art Museum and hung out on Kelly Drive. A white, 19-year-old, a bunch of early 20s Asians, a middle-aged woman from the mid-west and three of her kids.
The clan broke up. Two of them ended up getting married, but I heard through the grapevine that it ended badly. The person who got me in the clan (I didn't go to Drexel) ended up somehow hated by nearly every member. I'm still not sure how or why that happened.
Man. SC1 and the late '90s were awesome! To this day I wish I had a group of people like the old [PEST] clan who liked playing SC2 the way we played the first game.
Runner-up #2: User "DewFuel"
When WarCraft III came out, I used to play tons, mostly as the Night Elves. I started doing that Ancient of War rush, basically guaranteeing a victory against most opponents. I had a ridiculous record, something like 74-3. Eventually, the strategy started gaining popularity, and Blizzard fixed the problem, but I remember one instance before it was patched where I was sitting in my bedroom doing homework and I hear my brother scream from the other room: "GODDAMMIT NOT AGAIN!"
I figured he had a gaming mishap, which wasn't the first time, and outbursts like that were common.
About 10 minutes later: "YOU GOTTA BE JOKING ME!"
Which was promptly followed by him throwing a mattress down a flight of stairs while ripping his shirt off, just completely flustered. I asked him what happened, trying my hardest to contain my laughter, and he told me he got AoW rushed like 5 times in a row on the ladder. Probably my favorite rage-quit moments in gaming history.
Runner-up #3: User "FreshwaterAU"
WarCraft II was the first Blizzard game I played and the first game I played multiplayer on. I started playing on Kali. I recalled from the campaign that hordes of enemy units would run through my towers to their deaths. So, in one of my first 2v2 games, I rocked the towers hard, trying to get up as many as possible.
This took a considerable amount of time and resources so I MIGHT not have built a barracks by about 10 minutes in. My ally says "BUILD A FUCKING BARRACKS" and as he's saying that my towers are getting death-and-decayed by Death Knights. Good times.
Oh--I also was worried my mom might see "Temple of the Damned" in the game so I hacked the game file to rename it "Temple of the Doomed."
Runner-up #4: User "Ambient80"
Back when I was in high school, World of WarCraft was released. A friend of mine was seriously into WarCraft III, and he practically begged me to check out WoW. So I got it, and decided to make a Night Elf. After I completed the starting quests outside of Darnassus on launch day, I went into the city. Wow! That place was incredible!
I walked around for what seemed like hours, and then headed back to the main gate to do more quests. I saw an Orc player running around outside, and watched him run up to the gate. One of the guards, an Ancient Protector, ran after him, and from my point of view, simply stepped on the player, and he died.
At that point, I was instantly hooked. The rest, as they say, is history.
Contest: "Tristram's Tune"
DiabloFans.com and DM Press wondered what memories stirred when readers listened to Matt Uelmen's iconic Tristram tune.
Winner: René de Hoog
I have a terrible confession to make: I have only defeated the Lord of Terror once or twice. Even though battling the denizens of the burning hells was the primary focus of Diablo, I spent most of my time on the surface in the darkened village of Tristram: talking to all the townspeople about the terrors below, listening to them gossip, while Matt Uelmen's music played on and on.
I've led many Warriors, Rogues and Sorcerers to their doom in the depths below Tristram. Diablo was a harsh game and your hero started out brave but very vulnerable, fighting hordes of demons and undead. Death--and the potential loss of your arsenal of weapons and armor--was a very real threat. Every time the howling, ghostly music swelled and my hero noted that the sanctity of the cathedral had been fouled, I'd get goose bumps.
My heroes battled bravely, but often they had to flee. Whenever the monsters were too numerous or all healing potions had been gulped down, I'd quickly cast a town portal and scamper through it. The first chord of Matt Uelmen's defining music always was a welcoming beacon of relief. Tristram was a desolate, nearly abandoned village where the cold wind howled trough the rickety shacks. But it was a safe haven. My safe haven.
I've only dared to take a handful of heroes into hell to confront the Lord of Terror. Sure, I defeated him, but I liked it better on the surface, just staying awhile and listening. Not to Deckard Cain, though. I was listening to Matt Uelmen.
Runner-up #1: User "Blaqksmith"
Rather than submit a text entry, Blaqksmith shared his recollections in a YouTube video that captured the mood of Diablo perfectly..
Runner-up #2: User "Rencol"
I've played Diablo since the first demo release in 1996, which included only the first 2 levels and the Warrior class. I was 8 years old by then and didn't know English at all (I'm from the Czech Republic), but that didn't stop me from being instantly sucked in and it never let go.
I remember, that my first self-learned English words were "large" and "axe" using a dictionary and this was basically the start to learning the language. Thanks to Diablo (and, later, other games such as World of WarCraft), I can speak English quite fluently and it even resolved into me correcting my English teacher´s pronunciation sometimes. :) The most memorable is an argument over the word "Butcher" which he pronounced as "Batcher."
Thanks Deckard Cain and nameless dying fella by the church!
Runner-up #3: User "Lorthalus"
This is probably one of the earliest video game memories I have. I was around 7 years old. This was a time where there was one PC in the house, with a dial-up connection, and you'd be lucky to get a half an hour in before my dad or sister had a turn coming up. There was no going over your half hour.
I played single player, I mean, if someone wanted on the phone... Yeah, no Internet. So I had been playing the game for a few weeks, but due to the short turns I never got far. I decided to try playing online. I mean, why not? I was a badass! I joined a game and we started working our way through the catacombs. It was fun! I couldn't believe you could have more than one person in the game. This was fantastic!
And better yet, my companion threw me some armor! Awww man! It changes the way you look?! Dude! I look so cool!My companion left and I continued down. I made it to the caves! "This is so cool!" So I continued along and things started to get a little bit scary.
And then it happened. I died. I dropped my chainmail armor. I was in a panic. And then the worst possible thing happened... Dad told me it was time to get off of the computer. "BUT I JUST NEED TWO MORE MINUTES I NEED TO GO GET MY ARMOR!"
It didn't matter. He pulled the cable out of the modem. I lost my connection. I cried for a solid hour. Oddly enough, I play [Diablo III]on Hardcore all the time now.
Runner-up #4: User "thugacati0n"
I started a Rogue, because face it: who as a kid didn't fantasize about shooting a bow? I played for about two hours until my mother came in told me go to bed. I was near tears. I was hooked! So I "Okay! Okaaaay!'d" her to death, pretended to go to sleep, and proceeded to sneak back on the computer around 10pm when she fell asleep.
I was glued to my monitor until I heard my mother' alarm go off. I jumped out my chair into bed and pretended to sleep. I thought I got away with it. Then my mom was like, "You think I'm a dummy? At least turn the monitor off if you're going to try to play behind my back." SMACK! Right upside my head.
I then had to go through a day of school with no sleep, and I came home to no monitor in my room for two days.
Runner-up #5: User "seraphim4"
Back when I was a kid, before I cared much about games, a friend of mine invited me over to try out this new game he had. We sat down at the computer with Diablo running. I got to try it out first. I made a Warrior and started the game.
Right then and there, as the first chords of the song began playing, I felt something. I clicked around on the screen and learned a bit about how the game worked from my friend and proceeded to explore Tristram, listening to the townsfolk. The feeling of the story started to grow on me immediately. Upon approaching the cathedral, there was a dying man lying before the door, giving me my quest to kill the Butcher.
That quest, and that fight, made up my first and most vivid memory in gaming, and Diablo is what made me gamer. I think the Tristram tune captures the feeling of that game better than any other song has ever done for any other game. Whenever I hear it, I get goose bumps and nostalgia floods my mind.
Contest: "You Can't Take It With You"
In Diablo, death resulted in the player's hard-won gear spilling over the ground. Diablo.Incgamers.com's readership regaled us with stories of fighting the hordes guarding their treasures.
Winner: User "rkvanraay"
My friend and I were playing Diablo, and we had spent a good 6 hours making our way past the Skeleton King. We had played the game many times before, but we had never actually gotten as far as this. Fortunately for us, we ended up farming a plethora of amazing unique items so we were bashing through nearly everything.
We headed down into the caves thinking we were going to just destroy everything like we had before. We soon found ourselves getting surrounded by monsters. My friend died, but I managed to snake my way out of the caves.
So here we were, my friend's body unrecoverable because of the congregate of monsters throwing a party over his body and me too terrified to risk going back. I said we should just farm up and get him new items, but apparently his items were more valuable than my safety.
The perfect plan we devised was that I would run through the dungeon leading the monsters away from his body using the excellent parkour skills I had honed from our last encounter. Sure enough, I went scrambling down into the caves leading the monsters away, but only about half of them followed and the other half stayed near his corpse. I waited eagerly for him to come in and try to reclaim his gear.
Well, as it turned out, Internet in the dial-up days was not so reliable. While I was running through the dungeon, I ended up dying and he ended up getting a phone call and disconnecting. Our bodies and loot were lost forever down in those caves.
Runner-up #1: User "sectoid"
It was my first time in the Hell levels on Hell difficulty. My Warrior was not ready. A stronger friend set up the game using a shaky connection via modem. He went in first; I followed a bit later. I exited the stairway to Hell and walked through a long room, turning right at the end. His Rogue was picking a lone monster, arrow by arrow. I rushed in and spilled its guts on the floor.
Impatient, I went alone down the corridor, then a small room, another corridor and found myself in a new, large room. A LOT of lightning demons appeared and I had to flee, but several packs of Hidden trapped me. I fought desperately, using almost all my potions, and managed to make an opening. I began to flee, clicking with my right hand and typing "RUN" with my left. I saw the Rogue still standing at the same spot, a horde of monsters at my back. She stood and fought so I could flee to the stairs.
I stopped there to catch my breath and heal. Moments later a few lightning bolts appeared. Then MANY more followed. And here comes the Rogue, running for her life, the same horde at her back. Before I could close my inventory, a pack of Hidden trapped me again, and there I fell. The same pack killed the Rogue shortly after.
The rest of the game was almost a mini-game of gear recovery. We tried using our secondary gear, then using all our money for a tertiary gear, then going "naked" until we finally got our original gear back. All the while we prayed that the modem connection wouldn't break, because modem games on shaky lines were the devil's worst weapon.
Runner-up #2: User "softshack"
While in college, my friends and I used to hold all-night gaming sessions in the computer labs over the weekends. Arriving late one night, I started up a game of Diablo, but soon found my character stuck due to a combination of rushing into new areas and having been unwise with my stat point distribution. My Warrior was cornered and killed by both ranged and melee monsters in one of the caverns.
As the other gamers in our group took a break from what they were playing, they'd come over to watch me fail at retrieving my corpse. One guy in our group swore he'd be able to reach my corpse easily, but said it would require him spending the remainder of my gold on scrolls, potions, and new armor and weapons. To stop his endless bragging, I finally turned my chair over to him so he could prove himself.
By that time, we'd attracted a small crowd of gamers around my station, and a few even began making wagers. To the moans and laughter of the group, the hotshot, who thought for sure he'd be able to reclaim my corpse, died almost instantly as he tried to take on the monsters in a full frontal assault.
For the remainder of the evening, it became the secondary attraction of whoever was on break to take a turn at running my now armor-less character, wielding the wimpiest ranged weapon we could find, against the horde of monsters now guarding my corpse and other loot we'd lost through countless attempts.
It wasn't until the wee hours of the morning that we'd whittled down all the monsters to the point we could start to reclaim the loot we'd lost and finally outfit my character in his original gear.
Runner-up #3: User "teppo69"
I recall it was quite funny watching my friend play Diablo back in 1996. He died in Hell in a tough place. He shouted "Daaad! Come get my items back!" His dad was a 30-year-old Diablo freak.
"Stay Awhile and Listen - Book I" - Chapter 8 Now Available
Posted by DMPress Sep 3, 2012
Greetings, Diablo and Blizzard fans!
Since announcing Stay Awhile and Listen on Halloween last year, we've been busy rewriting, editing, fact-checking, and stuffing the book chockfull of Blizzard history, and the making of the Diablo, WarCraft, and StarCraft games. It's been a fun process for us, getting to learn about how all these cool people came together to make such cool games. But, alas, it left you with little more to go on besides the knowledge that someone, somewhere, is writing a book about Blizzard, and it will be available someday.
Sorry about that. Let us make it up to you.
We've partnered with Shacknews.com to put together a series of articles that divulge behind-the-scenes details about Diablo and Blizzard North, the book's main focus. Every week or two leading up to Monday, 10/29, Shacknews will slip you more SAAL stories.
Beginning on October 29th, the content goes into overdrive with a week's worth of coverage doled out each day. What can you expect? A complete chapter from Stay Awhile and Listen; two contests that give Shacknews readers the chance to win a free copy of the book; and an interview with your humble author.
How can you follow along with all the coverage? Bookmark this page and follow us on Facebook for links to new SAALcontent as it appears. In fact, Shacknews has already posted the debut article, which you can read below.
We hope you'll stay awhile and listen/read as we gear up for lots of exciting SAAL coverage this fall.
~David L. Craddock, author, Stay Awhile and Listen
Stay Awhile and Listen: Meet the Team #3 - Eric Sexton
Posted by DavidLCraddock Jan 31, 2012
The team that created Diablo was so small that even a single departure from or addition to the team would have resulted in a very different game. While individuals on today's teams, comprised of 100 or more members, can still make a mark, smaller teams mean each individual makes a bigger impact. The opportunity to make crater-sized impacts fosters a powerful sense of ownership and encourages team members to step up.
Eric Sexton was one individual who not only seized opportunity during the original Diablo's development, but created it. Starting out as an artist, Eric rose to the call for design ideas. Monsters, quests, spells, character classes—Eric feverishly wrote and submitted every idea that popped into his mind. Most of the quests you've played over and over again came from his brain. Eric's commitment to the game earned him a designer credit along with the recognition of his peers—programmer Rick Seis once described him to me as a "design fire hose"—and Blizzard North's three founders, who spoke with me at length about Eric's significant input in both Diablo and Diablo II.
But as vital as Eric was in the making of the action-RPG genre's two most celebrated titles, he was just as vital to helping me get Stay Awhile and Listen, the book that chronicles Blizzard North's history, off the ground. I met Eric shortly after moving to San Francisco in 2007. Upon submitting editorial ideas to magazines in an effort to revitalize my freelance writing career, Official Xbox Magazine gave me the green light on a piece concerning stereoscopic graphics in video games. I got the assignment, but I lacked the resources needed to write it: developers to interview. Fortunately a relative happened to be running a game studio and put me in contact with two artists in his employ: Kelly Johnson, also an artist extraordinaire on Diablo and Diablo II; and Eric Sexton.
Eric and I met for lunch to discuss my project and quickly struck up a good rapport. We talked about games, games, and games, pausing only long enough for me to ask my questions before diving back into conversation about games. After lunch, Eric invited me to stop by his place sometime to kill some aliens in Earth Defense Force 2017, a game he'd soured on due to only sampling the lackluster single-player mode.
I was elated. I'd made my first friend since relocating to the Bay Area, and he was a gamer, and he'd worked on my two favorite computer games of all time. How cool was I, getting to pal around with one of the artists and designers on Diablo and Diablo II? Then, a light bulb: If I was going to start hanging out with Eric, maybe I could get him to round up a few of his ex-Blizzard North buddies for a Diablo LAN party. Good idea, right? How often do gamers get the chance to play their favorite games with the developers who made them?
Then, light bulb number two. Why stop at just playing Diablo with Eric and the others? Why not write the definitive account of the making of the Diablo series and the Condor/Blizzard North studio? I ran the idea by Eric and asked if he'd be willing to get in contact with any old Blizzard friends and colleagues he could round up. He latched onto the idea immediately, wondering, as I did, why Blizzard North's story had yet to be told in full.
Thanks to Eric's support, I got hold of individuals I'd have had a difficult time finding otherwise—Michio Okamura, Rick Seis, Pat Tougas, and Matt Uelmen, to name a few. More importantly, Eric set off a chain reaction of contacts. His contacts reached out to other contacts, who in turn supplied me with more contacts, and so on. Within a few months, I'd reached out to roughly the entire Condor staff and was well on my way to touching base with most of the later Blizzard North hires.
Today, I can trace my plump Blizzard North rolodex, as well as the very existence of Stay Awhile and Listen as something more tangible than a "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if...?" idle thought, back to my friendship with Eric.
Q: How did you come to work at Condor/Blizzard North?
In 1993 or '94 I received an internship at Iguana. I basically went in for three days to do this animation test. At the end, they decided that my skills weren't good enough to hire me, which was a little bit devastating because I really, really wanted to work there. I thought that'd be the best thing ever. It kind of forced me to buckle down and turned me toward doing more computer-based art. At the time, there was a program called DPaint. By '90 or '91 I had a PC. By that point games like X-COM had come out and I'd stay up until four or five in the morning playing.
At some point I bought a copy of 3D Studio R4. I buckled down and taught myself just by trial and error. Then in '95, a buddy told me about a job he saw in the newspaper for a digital artist, or maybe computer game artist—I don't remember what it was.
I put together a resume, and I think it included a 3D fly-through of a sci-fi hallway with neon blue lighting. I put it on a 3.5 floppy disk and I hand-delivered it to the guys at Condor. I drove up to Redwood City and hand-delivered it. I was just there to basically say, "Here's my resume. You guys were close by so I figured I'd just bring it by." They gave me an interview right there on the spot, like, "Oh, hey, why don't you just come on in?" They were all hanging out. A couple of guys were hanging out playing NHL '94 on the Sega Genesis.
I went into one of the rooms and it was hard to keep track of who was who because there were so many people coming in going, "Nice to meet you." So the guy interviewing me, he's got his feet up on the table, no shoes on, and I'm just thinking, "Yeah, this is what I want to do. I don't want to work somewhere where I've got to wear a suit and a tie. I want to be lounging around with my shoes off playing video games."
They didn't hire me for another year. I think I called them up like once a week, like, "Hey, how's it going. I'm still here." I think at one point they said, "We really want to hire you, we just can't right now. Get back in touch with us every so often and we'll let you know what's up." I think I took that as a cue to call them every single week. And at some point they told me, "Hey, why don't you check in, like, once a month?"
I might've slowed calling to every other week. I don't remember what prompted it. I do remember them calling me in to the office and them telling me, "We've wanted to hire you for awhile, we just haven't had the funds to do so. But now we do." I was just like, "Okay, yeah! I'll take it!" I wasn't going to negotiate and risk not getting it.
Q: Between Diablo and Diablo II (with or without Lord of Destruction), which game do you prefer and why?
I love Diablo, and feel that there were a few things that game did better than Diablo II. But I felt that Diablo II was a more satisfying game as a cohesive whole. From the unique boss monsters to the character skill trees. The massive number of new items and special magic-item types to the incredible number of creatures. I think the love of the original Diablo is mostly about the good times before things started changing part way through the development of Diablo II. But despite its problems, Diablo II is a better game.
Q: Is there any particular anecdote or memory from your time at Condor/BN that you could share with our readers?
For me it has to the be the time Ken Williams burnt the popcorn in the microwave. He left it in there for something like 8 minutes, and what came out was something akin to a baseball dipped in tar and set on fire. The smoke and stick was so horrendous we opened a window and tossed it out on the roof. It sat out there smoking for a good 10 to 15 minutes. As I recall Ken was forever banned from using the microwave again.
Q: What made Condor/Blizzard North a memorable place to work?
It was the friends I made there. Michio, Rick, then a bit later Joe Morrissey and Ted Bisson. Chris, Matt, Dave, Max and Erich. And finally the late great Ben Boos. Even now, I miss them all and think of them often.
Q: What were the most important lessons and experiences that you carried with you after leaving Condor/Blizzard North?
Sadly, I think the most important thing I took away from my years there was "Get it in writing." If someone is telling you about something great you are going to get for all your hard work, make them put it in writing. And hold them to their promises.
Q: What have you been up to since leaving Condor/Blizzard North?
Immediately after BN, I formed a company (or 4 depending on perspective) with Michio. Over the 4 years we picked up a few Blizzard alum along the way. My role in it dissolved in 2009 and in early 2010 I moved to Texas to work for Gearbox Software on the Borderlands 2 project.
Q: What prompted you to share the story of your time at Condor/BN in Stay Awhile and Listen?
I think there is still a lot of old wounds about how things went down. Lots of hurt feelings about promises never fulfilled. Lots of different views of how we all view the past. Even though we were all there I think we all remember things a bit differently.
For me, I have mostly forgotten or forgiven all of the bad stuff. I think back on it all with great joy and fond memories. But I know that this is a rosy view of it all. I guess this felt like a good opportunity to get it out and talk about it.
Q: What would you like readers to take away from Stay Awhile and Listen?
Just having the story out there would be great. Knowing that behind all of the success was a lot of turmoil and hard times, both personally and professionally. People lost their families and friends during the bad crunch days of Diablo II. Know that people sacrificed a lot to bring that game to light.
Q: As someone who took part in Condor/Blizzard North's history, what are you most looking forward to from the book?
Closure. It was great times, but it's time to make some new great times. I can't live in the past, and if I always have to compare where I am to the good old days, I'll never be happy. Those days are long gone, and I need to move on. I know people will always ask me about my experience at BN, and I am happy to tell them, but I hope that this will let me focus on what comes next.
David L. Craddock
Co-Founder / CCO / Author
David L. Craddock lives with his wife and business partner, Amie Kline-Craddock, in Canton, Ohio. He writes short and long fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. His first publication from DM Press, Stay Awhile and Listen - Book I, rose to the #1 spot on Amazon.com's "Video & Electronic Games" category less than 24 hours after its release. His young adult fantasy novel, Heritage, will be published by Tyche Books in summer 2014.
Amie C. E. Kline
Co-Founder / CEO / Artist
Amie C. E. Kline sees to all the business and artistic needs at DM Press. She designs cover art for publications, develops and maintains the company's websites, edits manuscripts, develops the proprietary formatting used in the company's eBooks, and oversees the direction of the company and its publications and products.
Andrew Magrath brings several years of editing experience to DM Press. Having honed his craft in the US and Japan, Andrew harbors a love of gaming eclipsed only by his passion for the writing process. He has published scholarly works and presented at several academic conferences. When not on the clock at DM Press, Andrew works as a professor of philosophy and a writing tutor.