The Rise of Blizzard North

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The story and triumph of Blizzard North are truly that of Condor Inc, the original company that the three founders, David, Mike, and Eric, built with the aim of creating a game they could call their own. To traverse the rise of Blizzard North is to discover how the friends took the journey towards founding Condor Inc.

The Journey Continues

While in high school, David helped his school as a co-teacher for computers, as he was more advance than most of his classmates and some of his teachers.

For the rest of his time, he spent it playing and writing video games and continuously designing and iterating his own Diablo game.

David Goes to College and Discovers Roguelike

After finishing high school, David went to college in 1986 at the California Statu University, Chico. This is where he discovered a subgenre of video games called Roguelike. Most roguelike games were originally clones of the game Rogue.

David played and studied this genre a lot. During this time, roguelikes are characterized by:

  • They are text-based adventure games
  • The levels are randomly generated
  • Rewards and loot drops are also random

Two of David’s favorite roguelikes are Moria and Angband, both games being based on the book The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

In both games, players create a hero that begins in the town, where he will collect materials, stock up with food and items, and prepare for his journey. Then he will go and venture into the dungeon that keeps on going down. This hero will only have a single life. In other words, there is permanent death. You have to restart again if your hero dies.

If you have played the first Diablo game, you would have easily recognized its essential blueprint in the descriptions above.

David Works as a Programmer - FM Waves

David spent the rest of his college playing and developing video games and, of course, iteratively designing Diablo. By the time he graduated in 1991, he knew exactly what Diablo would be.

He also knew what he wanted to do after graduation. There is only one thing he wants - to work in a video game company. His parents didn’t like his decision, but they were supportive.

There is more money to be made in working for a computer company creating business software. Moreover, video game companies are not only risky, but they also pay lower. But these didn’t deter David. He convinced his parents by saying that he would only give it a try for a short time. If it does not work out, he will shift into software development, creating spreadsheet programs.

While searching for a job, he got help from a recruiter, who matched him to a Clip Art company called FM Waves. They were looking for a computer programmer. There is no video game development involved, though. Not yet. As expected, David turned it down and shared he was not interested. The recruiter informed David that the company is transitioning into video game development and that he could be a part of the transformation.

David Meets Max and Erich Schaefer

David finally agreed and joined the company, and it was here where he met the two Schaefer brothers, Max and Erich Schaefer.

Max and Eric Schaefer were very similar to David. They were both big fans of Dungeons & Dragons and loved to play video games.

The brothers became friends with David, and the three clicked right away.

In FM Waves, their video game project is called Gordo 106, a Spiderman clone game starring a mutated monkey.

The Birth of Project Condor

While working on the Gordo project, the three friends started to entertain the idea of creating their own company. They discussed this often during their lunch breaks, and it gave birth to their plan called Project Condor. They have to start their own company and make games for themselves. They need to iron out many challenges, though, to make this happen. They can make games, but they will need a publisher to finance the cost of the development.

This stage didn’t last long, as FM Waves faced financial issues, missing payments on their bills and their employees. In the summer of 1991, the cheque David received didn’t clear. This led him to decide to find a new job. He only worked for five months in FM Waves.

David Joins Iguana Entertainment

David didn’t take much time to find his next job. He joined a newly founded gaming company called Iguana Entertainment. It is too new that he was hired as employee number one.

Iguana’s main projects are about converting arcade games to consoles, in this case, to the Sega Genesis. David joined as a developer, and as he was familiar with arcade games, his first project with Iguana was successful. This led to more conversion projects for the company.

One of the arcade games that needed conversion to both Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo was a violent fighting game, similar to Street Fighter. Iguana’s management didn’t like to proceed with the conversion for obvious reasons, but David wanted to. In the end, Iguana had the final decision, and they skipped on the conversion of this violent game.

Its title was Mortal Kombat.

Because of this missed opportunity, the management learned to listen to David’s input and feedback. After this, more projects came for conversion to home consoles.

FM Waves Goes Down

While David was having success in his conversion work for Iguana Entertainment, the Schaefer brothers were still working for FM Waves. The company’s financial issues didn’t go away, though, and finally, it closed down after a few months, and the brothers were forced to look for a new job.

Mike and Erich were in this stage of their journey when David learned that Iguana Entertainment plans to move to Texas. They would like to have David with them. Hence, he would have to relocate. David decided to stay in California, and instead of joining Iguana, he called the Schaefer brothers.

It is time to make Project Condor a reality.

The Birth of Condor, Inc

David called Mike and Erich, and they discussed their plans. They are going to create a company and operate it from David’s house. It will just be the three of them, as they do not have the money to hire new programmers.

With luck on their side, during their first meeting, they received a call from one of David’s previous contacts, from a company called Sunsoft.

They were offered a choice to work on three new games:

  • A Scooby-Doo game
  • An Aerosmith game
  • Justice League Task Force

The three decided to work on the Justice League game. Their goal is to create a successful Street Fighter 2 clone using the Justice League characters for the Sega Genesis console.

But they need to formalize their company first.

They decided to name and register it as Condor, Inc.

Continue reading David’s journey in the creation of the Diablo series.