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Book Review: Stay Awhile and Listen

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the stay-awhile-and-read dept.

Books 66

Many of today's adult video gamers grew up with a gaming industry that was still trying to figure itself out. In the early-to-mid 1990s, most of the gaming genres we're familiar with today were still indistinct, half-formed concepts waiting for that one game necessary to define them. Thus, many players sat up and took notice when a relatively unknown company named Blizzard managed to exemplify not one, but two separate types of game in quick succession. Warcraft: Orcs and Humans put real-time strategy on the map, and Diablo set the standard for action RPGs. The two games immediately elevated Blizzard to the top of the industry, and many gamers wondered how one studio could put out two games like these so quickly. As it turns out, it wasn't one studio; it was a blending of two very different but extremely creative groups who had a passion for making video games. In Stay Awhile and Listen, author David Craddock lays out the history of the two groups, from how they first got into the gaming business to their eventual success launching now-legendary games. Read on for our review of the book.

Before going into the content of the book, I want to discuss its form. Stay Awhile and Listen, unlike most books that chronicle past events, flows almost like a documentary film. Craddock conducted years worth of interviews with former Blizzard staff, and the story of what happened is tightly interwoven with actual quotes from those interviews. The effect is illustrative; during the narrative parts, it's easy to imagine, for example, a group of young developers hunched in front of faintly glowing screens. During the quotations, you can picture the older and wiser industry veterans sitting in front of a camera and explaining those early days with smiles on their faces.

The structure of the book itself is rather unusual as well. Because of the author's extensive research, the sheer volume of historical material is almost overwhelming. In order to keep it focused on the development of Blizzard's early games, Craddock narrowed down the main story to only the most relevant events. However, to preserve all of the extra background information without cluttering the pages with endless footnotes, he added a secondary section appropriately named "Side Quests." When the author or the one of the developers mention a side-topic, there's a small link noting the availability of a Side Quest. Hitting the link takes you to the exact page it's on, and when you're done, there's a link returning you to the exact page you left. Some of these excerpts are even sourced with shortened URLs, in case you want to dive even more deeply into the history.

The Side Quests contain anecdotes, lessons on game design, technical bits from early development, and even information on content that never made it into the games. When reading Stay Awhile and Listen, I was struck by how nice it was for somebody to finally take advantage of the flexibility of digital books. One of the advantages of real books over ebooks is that it's much easier to flip backward or forward with a physical copy. The links within this book made that a non-issue. In addition to the Side Quests, there are a few extra chapters called Bonus Rounds, which contain background on the parts of the gaming industry that supported Blizzard during its rise.

For somebody who played a lot of the early Blizzard games, I was still surprised by a lot of the information in this book. I remember years ago firing up Diablo and seeing the Blizzard North logo. I wondered what made that group different from the "normal" Blizzard developers. It's easy to look at a company and assume uniform identity or uniform goals, but Stay Awhile and Listen makes clear that Blizzard Entertainment and Blizzard North were two fundamentally different studios that had their own ways of doing things, and strong opinions about how their games should work. Fortunately for them (and for us), the biggest thing they had in common was a real love for gaming, and for making the best game they could. This let them work well together despite their frequent and contentious debates.

Getting a look into the development of Diablo and Warcraft was interesting as well. Usually, when we think about design decisions, we imagine the developers debating the finer points of the finished product. (Do we let players use a rail gun or a rocket launcher? Is our last class a Paladin or a Mage?) So, learning that some of the most basic aspects of these games were almost very different was fascinating and perplexing. For example, Dave Brevik conceived of Diablo as a graphical interpretation of the text-based dungeon crawlers of the 80s. These games were largely turn-based — and so was the earliest incarnation of Diablo. Looking back on it now, it's jarring to think of Diablo as a turn-based game. It's like finding out that Looney Tunes was almost stop-motion animated, or that pizza was almost salad. Stay Awhile and Listen provides perspectives on the game's transition, and a fascinating description of how, once the decision was made, Brevik sat down and hammered out the code necessary to turn the game into the Diablo we now.

It was also nice to read about some of the technical details behind the games. Strip away the last 20 years worth of lessons in how to develop software, and you end up with talented programmers putting out brilliant, but ugly and hard-to-maintain code. I'm always curious to know what technologies underpin the software I use; if you're the same way, you'll enjoy reading about what they used and how they decided to use it. (Necessity is a powerful thing.) At the same time, you'll get a feel for how shaky the whole business proposition was to start. Nowadays, Blizzard is largely inscrutable as a business. But budding game developers will be heartened to see how a successful company arose from humble beginnings.

Stay Awhile and Listen is incredibly well sourced. Over three dozen former Blizzard employees contributed to this book. This goes all the way to the top — Dave Brevik, Erich Schaefer, and Max Schaefer were the three co-founders of Condor Inc., which became Blizzard North, and all three feature prominently. We also hear from Mike Morhaime, Frank Pearce, and Allen Adham, who founded Silicon & Synapse, which went on to become Blizzard Entertainment. There are also discussions with Blizzard veterans like Pat Wyatt (whose anecdotes we've discussed before), Bill Roper, and composer Matt Uelmen.

The book is well-written, and the story flows well. If you played these games when you were younger and you're interested in how they came to be, Stay Awhile and Listen is well worth picking up. It'd also be useful to anybody jumping into game development (probably start-up software development, too), as it gives a perspective on how Blizzard adopted the ideals it still holds to this day, like "we'll release when it's finished," and "if you can defend your idea, everybody will consider it." It's also the first in a series documenting Blizzard's history; future volumes will focus on StarCraft, World of Warcraft, and the continuation of each franchise.

Stay Awhile and Listen is published by DM Press on the Kindle and iBooks platforms, and will soon be available for the Nook as well. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) — to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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really? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292115)

I'm an adult who grew up with video games and I feel like the industry knew more of what they were doing in the early 90s than they do today. Now, it's like the industry doesn't have a clue.

Re:really? (5, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45292147)

Oh no, they have a clue, but their clue is that more marketing=more money. Better game = not much more money. The real problem we have today is that the "games industry" has gotten into the same degree of consumeristic manipulation as other industries.

Also, video games used to target a more intellectual audience, because there was a time when you had to be seriously interested in computers to play most games.

Re:really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292375)

Lets not forget that, back in the day, games were exclusively the domain of the young straight male.

Now, the gaming universe has been polluted by genderqueers, feminists, furries, weenies, and other polymorphously perverse individuals who demand that the more degenerate aspects of their lifestyle be incorporated into games and game support. The net effect is a generally lower-quality culture and sweeping censorship and ban-itchy moderators, due to the incessant whining and crying of the deviant horde.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:really? (3, Informative)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | about 8 months ago | (#45292505)

If there is a veritable 'horde' of deviants, if there are so many of them, could it be that perhaps they should be heard?

You know, being a straight male (arguably young), I somehow do not feel emasculated by these 'perverse individuals'. If you do, perhaps that's *your* problem to deal with.

Re:really? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45292571)

Yes, because we certainly [rockstargames.com] don't [callofduty.com] have games targeting [battlefield.com] adolescent [ridetohell.com] male [borderlands2.com] power [giantbomb.com] fantasies [teamninja-studio.com] anymore [crimenet.info] .

That's totally the underrepresented demographic here.

Re:really? (3, Insightful)

Frigga's Ring (1044024) | about 8 months ago | (#45292959)

You're definitely correct about most of your references, but I want to mention that, while some of the characters in Borderlands 2 are typical of the male power fantasy, there are a number of important characters who are gay but not defined by their sexual orientation: something the other games you list can't also claim. Also, I might also argue that most of the male characters are showed as flawed or inferior to their female counterparts. Compare the stories in Borderlands 2 of BL's male playable characters to Lillith or the one-sided Scooter and Marcus to Ellie. I would even go so far as to say that the game does more to parody and mock the male power fantasy (see Mr. Torque) than to perpetrate it.

I may be acting nit-picky here, but if I had the mod points, I would have just modded you up instead.

Re:really? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45292993)

Oh, no doubt that there are positively excellent games that are not teenage male power fantasies(and even some parts of some games that are that do quite well). I was just being annoyed at the GGP for being a whiner of the "how dare minorities encroach on my media slightly" sort.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45293355)

Bulletstorm was pretty gay.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45296683)

BL2 is dead to me, but in original BL, Lilith was my fav. That whore was fucking unstoppable. I was a big masher guy and I still picked her over pistol pimp Roland. Crawmerax is Lilith's fucking shrimp cocktail.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292855)

For 500 XP, figure out if that AC post was Ethanol-fueled trolling hard, or Ethanol-fueled being trolled hard.

Re:really? (2)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#45292427)

Oh no, they have a clue, but their clue is that more marketing=more money. Better game = not much more money.

They learned this from Hollywood and, if Hollywood is anything to go by, things in the AAA game field will only get worse. If the movie industry analogy pans out, which it more or less seems to be doing, then we end up with two clusters: 1) A load of expensive, technically impressive, but derivative titles. 2) Titles that are cheaper and less technically impressive (i.e. shorter, less content, graphically simpler) but more creative, more thoughtfully made, etc. The rare happy moments occur when 1 & 2 meet in a single title.

The other thing the game industry and the movie industry have in common is that they both flood the market with shit and it's down to the consumer to navigate their way through the cess pool to find the hidden gems.

Also, video games used to target a more intellectual audience, because there was a time when you had to be seriously interested in computers to play most games.

Are you sure this isn't the rose-tinted glasses talking? Was the NES more intellectually stimulating than the Wii? Ditto with PCs. You used to get flight sims back in the day and you still get them now. Civ has continued to come out at regular intervals and has spawned clones. There were shitty platformers and cheaply made crap back in the Amiga days and you still get that now. The difference with now and then is that there is much more of everything now. In particular there is more marketing and, like with Hollywood, most of the marketing in gaming is promoting the blockbusters.

Re:really? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45292599)

Eh, it's a little nostalgic, but intellectually simplifying and, for lack of a better phrase, "hurrying" games is definitely part of the work, even with indie games today. I miss turn based strategy games that depend on reflection and planning, for example. That's not to say they don't exist, but they're place in the market has diminished.

Re:really? (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#45292837)

I miss turn based strategy games that depend on reflection and planning, for example. That's not to say they don't exist, but they're place in the market has diminished.

I miss them too. I spent AGES playing the first Civ on my Amiga 1200 and that was a really big title back then: a big deal. I agree you don't often see a game like that being marketed heavily nowadays. I don't know much about Eve Online, but perhaps it's the spiritual successor of games such as Civ. I think the increase in computing power that we've seen over the last 15 years has pushed things towards real-time and away from turn-based.

Re:really? (1)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 8 months ago | (#45293263)

I'm going to disagree on one metric. While they may make a much smaller proportion of games released nowadays, I honestly feel that there are more of these games around. Not to mention, the older games are still here, and more accessible than ever through GOG.com or even re-released classics on Steam.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45293313)

Part of the "hurrying" trend is just a reflection of the aging gaming demographic, I believe. I can't tell you how many hundreds of hours I put into Civ 2, but I know that there is no way I can sink that kind of time into any game at age 30.

Unfortunately, it's pretty difficult to make strategy games faster paced without dumbing them down... and I don't think anyone is looking for that.

Re:really? (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 9 months ago | (#45301751)

Yeah, that's totally true. I get put off some of these open world games because I worry I won't have the time for them. I messed around a bit with Oblivion when it first came out and, while fun, I felt I couldn't give it the attention it deserved.

Re:really? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 8 months ago | (#45294683)

I sometimes get the idea that a game that has 200+ hours of game play is seen as a bad idea by the makers, because it means less money being spent to buy more games. Thus the rise of paid DLCs that feel not much better than fan made mods, and only a tiny fraction of a real sequel.

Re:really? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 8 months ago | (#45294653)

Games used to be a niche market. The buyers wanted a certain amount of game play and were willing to put up with mediocre graphics as long as the game was fun, and the game companies had much smaller budgets as well. Today though games are becoming mass market items (and are already there in some demographics). So the game companies now are following a Hollywood model: spend a lot of money to make things look nice and sound nice, follow a fixed formula that creates a blockbuster and do not deviate from it or experiment, and use sequels if you can.

Re:really? (2)

Clsid (564627) | about 9 months ago | (#45298191)

It's not even the marketing that bugs me, more of an issue with DRM taking down whole games like Anno 2070 for instance. One hell of a game but so screwed up by DRM that in my case there was a gamesave file corruption that wouldn't go away even if I reinstalled the whole PC, since it was in their cloud tied to my account. And for some strange reason they would even refuse to reset my account back to normal.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292747)

I agree. The gaming industry has lost its mojo and it's because of companies like EA and Activision. Back then there was more desire to put out good content and game play. Now, they have changed to try and get more money out of people, instead of concentrating on the content. They go for quantity instead of quality.

It all comes down to money, money, money.

Re:really? (1)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 8 months ago | (#45293231)

They may not have a clue what you like, but that's because they definitely have a clue where the most money comes from and don't really care what you like. And unfortunately for those of who were early gamers, we are now a niche in an industry that expanded well past us.

Although to be fair, that's mostly speaking of big budget games. Indie gaming has almost never been better. If you can't find something you like there, I daresay you aren't looking beyond the big budget marketing.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45293845)

"Although to be fair, that's mostly speaking of big budget games. Indie gaming has almost never been better."

90% of indie games are worse then NES and SNES games. Very few indie games are any good and they suffer all the dumbing down of mainstream games. This is especially true of 'story based games' where all you can do is walk or move. Dear esther is not a fucking videogame. It's one example of indie garbage sold to clueless masses.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45293395)

I'm an adult who grew up with video games and I feel like the industry knew more of what they were doing in the early 90s than they do today. Now, it's like the industry doesn't have a clue.

That's because back then most of the companies were still run by the engineers who founded them. Today they are run by the lawyers/marketing people who were brought into the company after it became successful.

Now instead of trying to make GAMES they are trying to emulate hollywood and make interactive movies.

Re:really? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 8 months ago | (#45294611)

How about the 80s, they knew a lot then too.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45296541)

Blizzard is garbage. They weren't first for shit. Dune II, Ultima VIII and Crusader were out long before Warcraft or Diablo.

Re:really? (1)

Clsid (564627) | about 9 months ago | (#45298279)

DRM might be a bit bad, but in general we have so many choices today that I truly feel that even if I have two lives I wouldn't be able to consume everything that is out there. Sure there were a lot of gems back then, but don't be too nostalgic and try to enjoy what you have today as well. And today you have stuff like Bioshock Infinite, Civ V, Anno 2070, racing games like Grid 2 or any NFS, and don't even forget about things like World of Warcraft, Battlefield et al. I mean, Doom was fun but that doesn't even compare to the rush you can feel when you use a freaking aircraft then eject, use your parachute and try to land in a hard to reach spot, and then use your sniper rifle to take down targets at extremely long distances.

And this is without even mentioning true gems like Journey on the PS3, Super Mario Galaxy, and Halo 4. So I'm really happy how things are today actually :)

Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

Sique (173459) | about 8 months ago | (#45292169)

For me, Diablo always looked like Nethack with fancy graphics, and when I first saw Warcraft, I thought: Hey, they used the Dune II engine and replaced the SF artwork with a fantasy one...

As a consequence, I never played Diablo, and I only played one map in Warcraft.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45292209)

Diablo was nethack with fancy graphics(and a lack of absurd combinations of effects). That's what made it succeed. People like roguelikes(i.e. randomly generated worlds, permadeath, and RPG-like advancement), that's been borne out again and again recently. Many don't like text interfaces.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (2)

stewsters (1406737) | about 8 months ago | (#45292445)

Unfortunately those same people have continued to streamline newer Diablo release far past the point they should have. When i play a character based rpg, I don't want to respec for each area I go through. It breaks my sense of character, and they all feel the same. I really enjoyed playing Skyrim, but after a while it turns into a 'follow the waypoint' sort of game, and even though every character has individual stories, I don't end up caring.

Personally, I prefer something like Brogue [google.com] , Sil [amirrorclear.net] , or Dwarf Fortress [bay12games.com] . Even if they have ascii graphics, the emergent gameplay is far more in-depth than AAA titles.

There must be some happy middle ground where we can have the depth but also acceptable graphics.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45292463)

Eh, I personally love dwarf fortress, and still sometimes play nethack or angband. But that has little bearing on popular tastes.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (2)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 8 months ago | (#45292495)

Actually it was Moria with fancy graphics. The problem I had with Diablo is the same one I had with Moria. Each time you went down into the dungeon, the map was different. Nethack saved the levels so going through them was the same each time you went, for that character's incarnation. I was much more of a fan (and programmer for a bit) of Nethack.

[John ]

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (0)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45292615)

Nethack does no such thing as diablo. New game=new dungeon. Continue game, same dungeon(multiplayer excluded due to natural restrictions).

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (2)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 8 months ago | (#45293937)

Well, that is what I said.

'i kan reed', eh :)

[John]

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292299)

For me, Diablo always looked like Nethack with fancy graphics, and when I first saw Warcraft, I thought: Hey, they used the Dune II engine and replaced the SF artwork with a fantasy one...

As a consequence, I never played Diablo, and I only played one map in Warcraft.

I noticed the same things, but I played through the games. I enjoyed their new take on old ideas.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 8 months ago | (#45292991)

when I first saw Warcraft, I thought: Hey, they used the Dune II engine and replaced the SF artwork with a fantasy one...

That's exactly what WarCraft 1 was. It used the Dune 2 control scheme and included silly restrictions like forcing you to build roads before you could build buildings next to them just like Dune 2 forced you to build cement slabs. I want to say you had to build units centrally like Dune 2, but that may be wrong. WarCraft 1 also ran tediously slowly and I don't remember it having a game speed control.

WarCraft 2 added a bunch of new controls, like right-click to move instead of right-click to cancel, removed some of the dumber building restrictions, and added the game speed control. Oh, and also upgraded the multiplayer component from 2 players (yes, WC1 only supported 2 players) to 8 players.

StarCraft changed things up by making it so that the various units for different races weren't carbon copies of one another, made it so multiplayer matches started with your command center/nexus/hive and 4 peons instead of a single peon with enough resources to build a town hall.

And then WarCraft 3 came out, which added Hero units. The less said about those the better.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

oreiasecaman (2466136) | about 8 months ago | (#45293975)

And then WarCraft 3 came out, which added Hero units. The less said about those the better.

Like you, I never really liked WC3 much, but it spawned DotA, DotA2, LoL... arguably the most played PC games ever made. One man's junk is another man's treasure :)

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 8 months ago | (#45293289)

I am not what one would call a Diablo or Warcraft fan, but this seems an odd reason to avoid a game. We still read poetry with iambic pentameter or purchase phones that are just "Newtons with network access". Derivative doesn't necessarily mean boring.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 8 months ago | (#45294709)

I tried Diablo demo and it seemed very shallow, not at all an RPG and it was all about how fast you could click. And I was never a fan of real time strategy. So Blizzard was completely off my radar as just another game company that doesn't make stuff I like.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

Clsid (564627) | about 9 months ago | (#45298233)

You forget that the true smash hit was Warcraft II. But to say that Warcraft was like Dune 2 is totally forgetting what the two main rivals represented, and by rivals I mean Westwood Studios and Blizzard. So with Dune/Command and Conquer you had the nameless unit, weak soldiers but strong vehicles. In Warcraft, you had badass units that sometimes only the sight of an enemy mage or catapults near a bridge crossing would make you stop.

And the thing about Diablo is that it was a combination of the fantastic music (I still listen to Tristram from time to time), amazing graphics, one of the first Windows 95 games, top-notch story (I mean the hero sacrifices himself in the end, wow) that made it feel so immersive that you can still play today and have fun with it.

And even today that bar is being raised all the time. Multiplayer games in Battlefield are something to behold, World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 are a thing of beauty, Bioshock Infinite has got to be the best violent and artsy game ever. Plus you get indie stuff like The Cave, Don't Starve and you suddenly realize that it is really cool to live in this time and age, especially for not having to deal with autoexec.bat and himem/memmaker stuff just to play your goddamned X-Wing.

Re:Hm. I am not so sure about the two games. (1)

qwak23 (1862090) | about 9 months ago | (#45309471)

Seconding this. I've been gaming since the early 80's, damn near my entire life. While there are plenty of games from days past that I still think are amazing, there are also those that were only good at the time and remain good only from a nostalgia perspective and I get sick of hearing about how everything used to be better.

Oh sure, there have been some genres that have received little attention in recent years, but the medium is constantly evolving and there are experiences to be had now that just couldn't have been done before, technically or economically. We have well written and immersive single player narratives. Cooperative and competitive multiplayer with large groups, distinct roles, leadership structures and voice communications. Network capable board games in our pockets. We're even at a point where you can have full body motion control for almost any game (Kinect hacks and Omni), including ones that weren't designed with that kind of control scheme in mind.

Blizzard advertising? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292181)

Blizzard did not invent the game industry, and this patting on the back has ignored some of the real pioneers in the video game scene.

Take Origin for instance. They had far more IP than Blizzard, but because they didn't have the market engine of Blizzard, they have received nowhere near the credit they should have for gaming.

Blizzard makes decent games, but they were lucky to be able to step on the heads of pioneers and just focus on marketing as opposed to the effort of breaking new ground with new IP. Take Warcraft, which (IMHO) uses a lot of the Warhammer IP. Diablo isn't really groundbreaking, as there have been dungeon crawlers on other platforms. StarCraft is pretty original, but compared to all the worlds, genres, and generations that Origin had, it isn't much at all.

Blizzard did one thing right, and that was marketing. Their marketers know their stuff. Release a little tidbit of info a day to feed the hounds, which buys the devs time to actually make a release-quality product. This is what they do right... no early releases, no late betas with a 1.0, just releases when the time is right, no earlier.

However, just because Blizzard is able have decent QA doesn't mean they are the best game company ever. There have been a lot of pioneers whom have made far more engaging and interesting IP which are forgotten because they didn't have the market muscle.

Re:Blizzard advertising? (4, Insightful)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about 8 months ago | (#45292439)

I agree that Blizzard wasn't a pioneer, but to claim that they succeeded due to marketing is selling Blizzard short.

What originally made Blizzard great was their attention to detail, production value, and they didn't cater exclusively to high-end gaming PCs. They had quality art, sound, music, refined gameplay, placing impressive (for the time) video cut scenes, lots of whimsy and flavor, and were just overall solid games that ran stable.

Even their instruction manuals were well made and aesthetically pleasing. Their games showed they cared about the craft of games, and their presentation.

They still have some of these qualities, but over time there seems to be an increasing amount of the business becoming prioritized over the craft.

Saying Blizzard was all about marketing is like saying Apple's success was all marketing. I'm not a big fan of Apple, but they obviously did more than market.

Re:Blizzard advertising? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292963)

StarCraft is pretty original
 
...if you hadn't already played Total Annihilation.

Re:Blizzard advertising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45293745)

Or C&C or Dune II...

What they hit was something a little different that set them apart. 640x480x256 graphics. When most others were still 320x240x256

The 4x bump in res did not hurt. They were essentially the same games as earlier. But with better graphics. Best of the lot of them? I would argue that point...

What made Blizzard stick around was the huge cash cow that the WoW MMO is.

If you are not affiliated to a large company you usually live game to game. Blizzard made a different Everquest at a better price. Take Valve for example. The only reason they are still around is Steam. They had a few out of the park games. But much of that money did not go back to them. It went to EA/Vivendi. At this point they should have cranked out a HL5.

Take Origin for instance.
Which now has the backing of EA. Most of that catalog sits idle. Origin kept making games no one could play. You needed a computer 2 years from the future to play it now. They had great games. But forgot who their target base was.

Re:Blizzard advertising? (1)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | about 9 months ago | (#45299735)

sort of water under the bridge...no?

Stay awhile... (4, Insightful)

the_skywise (189793) | about 8 months ago | (#45292303)

Stay FOREVER! "Many of today's adult video gamers grew up with" THAT!

Re:Stay awhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45293095)

Well done sir. I loved this game as a kid.

Re:Stay awhile... (1)

bunkymag (1567407) | about 9 months ago | (#45296749)

That game was scary as when I was a kid! Still remember the flying cannonballs (both pathed & tracking varieties), and those robots ...

Obama Aren't 'Technology Geeks' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292467)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/30/joe-biden-obamacare-glitches_n_4179464.html

"Biden said he and Obama were under the impression the site was ready.

"Neither he or I are technology geeks and we assumed it was up and ready to run," he told HLN."

Ohhhh. Imagine that. Of course neither this moron nor Obama are Navy Seals, yet somehow they killed Bin Laden.

Extremist Democrat socialists in action, fucking up your lives.

Fuck you weenies who voted for this crap.

I hope it comes close to as interesting as... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292501)

Patrick Wyatt's blog entries. Although they're indirectly linked through other Slashdot submissions in the above review, anybody interested in this book (I have not read it yet but will because of Wyatt's inclusion in interviews and endorsement) may also want to check out http://www.codeofhonor.com/

where's the research (2)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 8 months ago | (#45292801)

I realize this is a history of Blizzard, but I find it disappointing when authors write histories of video games and stop at 1990. Diablo didn't set the standard. Wizardry, Ultima, and Might and Magic set the standards for RPGs. Diablo successfully "Michael Bay"d them with 3D and 'splosions and the most robust, practically uncrashable game engines ever seen.

Re:where's the research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45297471)

Diablo is not a RPG. It set the standard for real time roguelikes. Too bad they never made any sequels after Diablo 2.
Btw, check out Path of Exile.

Rose-Colored Glasses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45292969)

Does this book include the part where Condor was shut down and then all their leaders left the company, and then blizzard Irvine became WoW Inc. and stopped making good RPGs?

Sorry but... (4, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 8 months ago | (#45293073)

"most of the gaming genres we're familiar with today were still indistinct, half-formed concepts waiting for that one game necessary to define them."

This is a bunch of nonsense. Genre's were well defined very quickly, if anything the more mainstream games became the more watered dowm the genre's have become. Just one look at Mass effect is overwhelming proof of this. You can't look at any modern FPS and pickup old 90's FPS games and say modern fps are 'more well formed'. The reality is modern games are movies with a small bit of gameplay. The game parts of videogames have been stripped out to expand to the mainstream audience because the mainstream audience doesn't get or like gameplay.

Re:Sorry but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45294091)

"The reality is modern games are movies with a small bit of gameplay. The game parts of videogames have been stripped out to expand to the mainstream audience because the mainstream audience doesn't get or like gameplay."

You are playing the wrong games.... the 3 I play the most are StarCraft II, DOTA 2 and Counter Strike. They are all have highly competitive and/or challenging gameplay.

Plus there are so many indie games out there and $30 titles that you just need to sift out what you want. If you just buy games that you see ads for on TV, then you will generally be dissappointed.

Re:Sorry but... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 8 months ago | (#45294141)

I'm sorry but you obviously don't understand. It's the other way around, you obviously don't play enough games to be able to detect and see how different the paths say UT2004 is from any modern first person shooter. Oldschool gamers are disappointed that we've had gameplay stagnation and regression in so many genre's. The less participation, game modes, and interesting things to do there is in a game, the less gameplay there is. Since all the player needs to do is watch rather then play with the most minimal input.

Re:Sorry but... (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 8 months ago | (#45294747)

If this were completely true, then I should have no problem going back to some of the old games I grew up on, like Mario Bro's, Daggerfall, or Final Fantasy 7. Except that I do that once in a while and, after the nostalgia wears off, I begin to notice all the little things that are missing from those games that I now take for granted. Stuff like better controls, deeper stories, and obviously more engaging graphics.

It's the same thing with older movies, or even non-computer games. I can go back and enjoy watching Dirty Harry, but it doesn't mean I long for the days of cheesy acting and grainy footage. Hell, I recently started playing AD&D 2nd Edition again with some friends. It's been really fun, but the reality is the system isn't nearly as good as I remembered. I still like it, but I'm glad the industry has moved forward, even if there are misteps along the way (4th Edition, for example).

I'm sure in another 15 years I'll be looking back at games I enjoy today and thinking how much better they were compared to the stuff that's coming out in 2030. Same with music and just about anything else.

Re:Sorry but... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 8 months ago | (#45295281)

I'm sorry but everything you mention that is 'better' is TRIVIAL and is practically ALL non gameplay related. "better controls"? like wtf? Older RPG's have deeper battle systems then 99% of the crap they push today. 90% of all RPG's have been fully automated and you just manage points in skill trees. There is little variance in combat systems between MMO's because the online requirement and the fact that most developers are clueless and unskilled at RPG combat systems.

I despise autocombat, some old games had this problem. I dislike the combat of infinity engine RPG's because it's totally automated for casuals. Same goes for ultima online, World of warcraft, guild wars, etc. These are all examples of what is wrong with modern gaming. The participation has been reduced to chimp level. I'd take older ultima games, Eye of the beholder, lands of lore, etc over Baldursgate/torment/wow/guild wars auto combat bullshit, why? because you actually get to participate. I fucking loved legend of grimrock, it was far from perfect on it's first outing. I'm hoping the sequel fixes the problems with the over basic combat of the first. But this was what was missing from RPG land for like forever. It's a valid attempt to bring back player participation rather then 'stand and watch' guildwars 2 / world of warcraft kinds of games.

http://www.grimrock.net/ [grimrock.net]

Not all old games were great I totally agree with that statement, many old games have certain problems and weaknesses. For instance modern games are better at weaving story and game together for a more smooth experience. And have more hollywood 'you're in the movie' wow, and that is important but it isn't gameplay that's where you are confused.

This is the thing that you and many modern gamers are missing. The problem is while modern games 'cut the fat' so to speak, they took THE EASIEST way out by compensating for repetitive gameplay with movie set-pieces and storytelling. In the old days developers tried to find addictive and great gameplay systems. Think civilization, or alpha centauri. A game where the fun is *intrinsic* to your participation, rather then relying on being pushed along a conveyor belt of simple fps levels like in Mass effect 2, if you remove all the VA, hollywood and graphics from ME2, you got a pretty boring game. You could make the graphics of civ or AC even simpler and the game would still be fun. This is what you are missing completely. I remember playing text based games ffs like LORD (legend of the red dragon) on BBS's. So when you compensate with graphics/VA/Hollywood emotional stimulation you're leaving the actual gameplay system behind. This is what has most gamers like you confused, without being able to take actions inside a game or system there is no game, just a lot of set-pieces, voice overs and music. ALL TOTALLY PASSIVE. They are not gameplay but they can act as emotional/stimulus substitutes and this is why you think older games 'have so many problems' because you're getting your HIGH from the AV, not from intrinsic gameplay systems.

In modern games because of CPU power they don't have to do the hard work finding intrinsic fun anymore because most gamers today just aren't interested in gameplay at all, they are a generation raised to believe games = movies. Anything that doesn't look like a movie is shunned. It isn't just nostalgia and if you think it is you're not competent enough in understanding games to comment.

Re:Sorry but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45295693)

I agree, and I've gotten really tired of hearing my friends complain how much better the games were when we were in high-school. I recently tried out D&D online, which unfortunately is a very accurate reproduction of all the problems in the pen-and-paper version.. I found myself saying "Wow, so it turns out I can't get this prestige class at level 10 because I should have started getting prerequisites at level 2." This is an good recreation of my gaming experience at age 16, but I no longer enjoy spending hours figuring out my character development.

Just identify (1)

The_Star_Child (2660919) | about 8 months ago | (#45293817)

Just identify my unique armor you old coot!

A well-written review for once (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45294223)

Thanks for writing a pretty good review of the book. Unfortunately most book reviews that make it onto here are quite poor.

So wrong. (1)

scdeimos (632778) | about 8 months ago | (#45295011)

Warcraft: Orcs and Humans put real-time strategy on the map, and Diablo set the standard for action RPGs.

Bullshit. Warcraft launched in 1994, following Dune and Dune II (1992). The Dunes in turn were influenced by TechnoSoft's Herzog (1988) and Herzog Zwei (1989) on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive consoles. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples.

XXX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45296575)

Many of today's adult video gamers grew up with a gaming industry that was still trying to figure itself out.

Am I the only one who read that first line as, "Many of today's ADULT VIDEO gamers ...".

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