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Audio Content for Diablo and Diablo 2: Tools, Teams and Products
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Audio Content for Diablo and Diablo 2: Tools, Teams and Products

May 15, 2001 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next


The core development group at Condor during the creation of Diablo was roughly a dozen people. Though that size of a group is considerably smaller than is necessary to make a hit title in these days, it is an ideal number for creating an environment where ideas and content can flow with relative speed and ease. In retrospect, being part of that group at that time was a truly unique and special experience which I was very lucky to have - the team was motivated, talented and remarkably free of the politics and ego which can detract from a productive, creative atmosphere. Though composers often have a natural urge to hide themselves away and present their work in completed form, I found that my ability to try tracks in the game and get feedback from people who worked on a variety of tasks was essential in getting the right feel for the game. When I finally had the breakthrough I had been waiting for with the tune that ended up being the theme for the first dungeon under Tristram, I knew instantly that I had stumbled upon the correct formula judging by the response in the office. It is doubtful that I would have had the breakthrough in the first place in an environment which was any less supportive and challenging.

Crucial help from the company which was in the process of acquiring us, Blizzard, also played a great role in making the game what it was. The team in Irvine gave us excellent ideas and feedback in a variety of areas, and was especially helpful in areas in which we had relatively little experience, ranging from technology and design to actual content like the opening cinematic and the unforgettable performances of the actors who populated Tristram and parts below. The experience that Blizzard had in putting together a polished PC title proved absolutely invaluable, and their creativity and perfectionism proved to be a great model for our team in Redwood City. A great part of the success of Diablo was due to the constructive relationship that was established between our two teams at that time, which was remarkably free of the adversarial posturing and suspicion which too often characterizes the developer/publisher relationship and sabotages what might otherwise be successful productions. Glenn Stafford, director of audio in Irvine, deserves particular thanks for establishing a good part of the Diablo sound design universe. Work done by Glenn on monsters such as the Scavenger Demon, Death Knight and the actual player characters not only provided great content which helped create the distinctive atmosphere of the game, but also provided a good model for me in my own development as a sound designer. Glenn's exceptional talent and greater experience gave his creations a degree of polish and personality which I was only beginning to approach at the time.

In December of 1994, I caught the Nethack bug from David Brevik, the man who can claim to be the creator of Diablo with more justification than anyone else. Before working at Condor, it had been since my early high school years that a PC game had obsessed me to the degree that Moria did for the month or so it held its spell over me. Though the game had absolutely nonexistent graphic and sound design, the fundamentals of the play mechanic were largely unchanged in Diablo, with the crucial difference being that we made the transition from step-time to real-time somewhat early in the development cycle. As evidenced by the high scores (under the name of "Diablo") on the copy of Moria which Dave passed along, the game had been an obsession of his for quite some time. For me, the development of Diablo began the day that I asked Dave if it was possible to stick some basic sound effects into Moria. Though the game was built on "open source" code long before such an idea became a common practice, building a sound engine was significantly more work than was feasible with a couple of console titles needing to get out the door. The implications were fairly obvious - we would just have to make our own version of the damn game.

The process of getting work into the game was actually quite fun - the game was almost a perfect balance between models which we had enjoyed in favorite games in the past with raw experimentation. Quite a few misfires in both sound effects and music were stuck in the game before the formula came to where we wanted it. If any general conclusions could be drawn from my experience in developing Diablo, it would be that in-house production was the best strategy to use. Working with an out-of-house contractor is often the best option for many developers for a variety of a reasons, but in this case, I do not believe we could have achieved something with the originality and style of the final product without the attention that you can only give with an in-house relationship.

More than anything else, the creation of Diablo was a victory for the pleasure principle - if it isn't fun, why bother? Though many might find this attitude towards life and work exasperating or immature, I see no other way to create any kind of entertainment product. If you don't have fun creating it, how can you reasonably expect the consumer to enjoy it?

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