Book Review: Stay Awhile and Listen: Book II


Stay Awhile and Listen II book cover

Title: Stay Awhile and Listen: Book II: Heaven, Hell, and Secret Cow Levels

Author: David L. Craddock

Four years later than the first book, we return see how Blizzard North (ex-Condor) deals with the massive success of their action RPG, Diablo. From the outsourced Diablo: Hellfire expansion (a decision they wouldn't make again), to the full development of Diablo II and its expansion, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction (this time, fully built in-house), and the initial development of both Diablo III and a new space-themed action RPG (nicknamed "Starblo").

Where in the first book we read a story about titanic efforts and unstoppable desire to create a great game, of how a small company was able to revolutionize the computer RPGs genre with tons of hard work, this second tale as a grim overall tone. Yes, Diablo II was a success (I've poured way too many hours on it and was one of the first games I played in multiplayer) and technically was impressive, but reading this book one feels sad of how some bad management and egos (and maybe other factors) destroyed a promising company.

I haven't exactly measured it, but probably half of the contents relate with negative concepts: fights between Blizzard North and Blizzard Entertainment, fights between the office's own employees and bosses, fights with the external company that created D1's Hellfire expansion, fights with Blizzard's parent companies... Here most of the struggles are human, social, instead of technical; there are technical problems to solve, of course, but don't feel as impacting as in the first game.

The insanely long crunch periods, the (not very healthy) rivalry between both Blizzard studios, the backstabbing of employees as years passed by, and the sad closing of the North studio after the bosses played a bluff and lost to Vivendi, leaving the company and opening the doors for a restructuring and posterior merge of some of the employees... All sums up to a great loss of the magic formula that created both games. The legacy lives on, and even in the recent early trailers of Diablo IV we can see ideas and characters meant for the third title, but it's not the same team.

I like that the book tries to give as many points of view as possible about many of the topics. For example, when it is talking about how the studio almost halted production for months after Diablo II shipped, you get to read points of view of the three bosses, old employees, new employees, people working on Diablo 2 expansion, people starting to work on concept art or the main story for the third part... even sometimes some opinions from Blizzard Entertainment employees.

It is a very interesting read, full of details and insider info that any fan of the franchise will surely love to learn. It will be interesting to read in a few years the third and last part, fully focused on Diablo III after being its development was restarted by Blizzard Entertainment.

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