Blizzard North (formerly Condor Inc.) co-founder David Brevik opened up about the company's founding and his work on Diablo during a recent speaking engagement at the Game Developers Conference.
As Gamasutra recounts, Brevik originally came up with the concept for Diablo – which he named after a nearby mountain peak – during his high school days. Brevik said creating games is all he ever wanted to do and when his first employer out of college went under, he and a few fellow employees decided to launch their own company. They named it Condor after a secret project they'd been working on at their previous job.
Brevik said his early vision for Diablo was for it to be a traditional party-based, turn-based RPG, adding that its visuals were inspired by the hit arcade fighting game Primal Rage. That game used stop motion animation but once Brevik realized how expensive and time-consuming it would be to go that route, he had to change course.
A chance encounter with Silicon & Synapse – which later went on to become Blizzard – during CES one year led to the studio ultimately offering to publish Diablo. At that point, Brevik and company had to get serious about visualizing what Diablo would be and what it would look like.
With Primal Rage's claymation off the table, Brevik said he simply took a screenshot of X-Com and started the design process there. And the whole idea to make Diablo a real-time game with multiplayer came a bit later in the development, not up front as had previously been rumored. It's a decision that Brevik was initially against but once he made the code changes and tried it out, he was instantly hooked.
Diablo didn't have a multiplayer mode through much of its development but the ability to play online was something Blizzard required. To make it happen, a team from Blizzard North had to relocate to work with Blizzard South to get Battle.net support built into the game.
Something Brevik said the studio never saw coming was the rampant cheating that took place. Sure, they knew people would hack the game but the scale at which it was done and how rapidly it spread was described as one of the biggest "egg on our face" moments, the programmer said.
Oh, and speaking of Battle.net, Brevik admitted that it ran on just one computer. He noted that because they had people directly hooking up with each other, Battle.net didn't have to carry a lot of bandwidth. All it really had to do was make the connections.
Another aspect the team focused on during Diablo's development was to make the game easy to jump right into. Brevik said having to spend 25 minutes creating a character in a traditional RPG was a pain point and something they wanted to avoid. I couldn't agree more!
Other random tidbits include the fact that Blizzard held a content that would pay $100 to the first person to kill Diablo. Shortly after, a gamer used what Brevik described as a health-swapping skill to his advantage to make it to the final boss, swap health with him, nearly die then swap back and finish him off. The tactic worked and Blizzard paid the winner but promptly removed the skill.