Last year on October 31, I announced Stay Awhile and Listen, the book that chronicles the history of Blizzard Entertainment and Blizzard North, to the world. Yes, "chronicles." Not "will chronicle," because on May 7, 2012, I branded the final chapter of the first draft with THE END and declared that sucker done.
But, as the saying goes, I've only won the battle. The war is far from over.
In the near eight months since the revealing SAAL's existence, I've kept relatively quiet on the book's status. As I enter the first in what promises to be a long stretch of rewriting, I thought I'd quench your thirst for more concrete information by going in-depth of some of the book's features, a few community events in the works, and hopefully provide a rough estimate for when the book will finally be made available.
A note before we get into the heavy stuff: Most everything I discuss in this blog is subject to, and probably will, change. Nothing is sacred! Hide your cows!
With that out of the way, I think we can proceed. If you haven't already, pour yourself a drink, get comfy in your chair, and--you knew it was coming--stay awhile and listen as I regale you with tales from the writing trenches.Chapter Titles
I thought we'd start off with something fun. Below, you'll find chapter titles sans page numbers; no point in sharing those since they've already changed. Feel free to litter the comments section with guesses as to what some of the more cryptic ones mean.
Chapter 1: The Big Three
Chapter 2: Project: Condor
Chapter 3: No Experience Necessary
Chapter 4: Superman Can't Kick
Chapter 5: Blizzard in the South
Chapter 6: The Game We'll Make Someday
Chapter 7: The Velvet Hammer
Chapter 8: Behind the Code - The Making of Diablo
Chapter 9: Blizzard in the North
Chapter 10: Golden Times
Chapter 12: First Strike
Chapter 13: Transitions (I)
Chapter 14: Transitions (II)
Chapter 15: Behind the Code - The Making of Diablo II, Part 1
Chapter 16: Why Our Game Sucks
Chapter 17: The Crunch
Chapter 18: Behind the Code - The Making of Diablo II, Part 2
Chapter 19: Separate Ways
Chapter 20: Destruction
Chapter 21: The X Factor
Chapter 22: Smoke and Mirrors
Chapter 23: The Perfect Storm
Chapter 24: The End of Everything
Chapter 25: Blizzard North 2.0
Chapter 26: Solidarity
Chapter 27: World Craft
Chapter 28: Untitled
Chapter 29: Untitled
Chapter 30: TOP SECRET
Chapter N: TOP SECRET
First Draft Stats
Page count: 901 (Don't be alarmed! First drafts are always bloated. I plan to trim plenty of fat, but I still anticipate the final draft weighing in around 600-700 pages. There really is that much to talk about.)
Word count: 257,286 (shared between narrative I wrote and quotes transcribed from interviews)
Total writing time: 4 months, 19 days; or 20 weeks
I know, I know: Big numbers, but otherwise a paltry collection of stats. I wanted to throw a few other interesting numbers at you such as the number of quotes used, total hours of audio recorded from interviews, and the project's total completion time from the moment research began until the date the book finally goes on sale. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to gather all that stuff, so we'll save it for the final draft's book breakdown.
Let's talk about that "total writing time" stat for a minute. I pride myself on being what I call a blue collar writer. Every morning I wake up, exercise (well, on most mornings), wolf down some breakfast, shower, and sit down at my computer until I've put 1500-2000 words on my screen. I strive to hit that goal every day, minus the one day a week where I shoot for 500-1000 words total then spend the rest of the day recuperating for the coming work week.
My set-in-stone word count has served me well so far. The goal of a first draft is to make words. Some writers go back and fuss over those words, but not me. I turn myself upside down, shake out all the words, then worry about massaging them into place later.
Before SAAL, my word count goal helped me bang out first drafts in four to five weeks, six weeks tops. If you do the math, you'll note that I didn't always achieve that goal while writing SAAL. That's because there was more involved in writing SAAL than just pounding keys to make words. Even though I knew I'd go back and reshape the story numerous times, I had to spend time grabbing the right quotes to use and double-checking certain information (which I'll end up triple-checking later, but it still felt necessary).
Second Draft and Beyond
The question you might be wondering is, if the first draft took me 20 weeks, how long will the second draft take? Honestly, I don't know. I can only say two things: I intend to devote as much energy as possible to releasing the book, in e-format, by the end of the year; and that I am so, so excited to show it to you.
I love this story. I wouldn't have spent over four years of my life researching it, conducting interviews for it, and putting other exciting projects on hold for it, if I didn't. The moment I finished the first draft, I opened chapters at random and grinning like a fool as I scrolled through the words that, collectively, made up pieces of the Blizzard Entertainment/North saga. It has been a privilege and a joy to assemble those pieces into a story that I know will captivate and entertain you.
I do want the book available by the end of the year, if not sooner. But for the book to live up to its potential, and for me to be satisfied with the final product (even if every review outlet in the world awards it 11 out of 10), I need time to smooth those pieces out, maybe spread a few of them around and see if they fit better elsewhere. If that means holding the book back longer than I would like, I'll do it. It's that important to me, and to the people who opened up their lives for me to examine.
Ask any creative individual how they feel about their creations, and they might awkwardly explain that they think of those creations--films, books, games, music, interpretive dance routines, what-have-you--as their children. That's how I think of my books, at least, and I won't send my children out into the world until they're good and ready.
When I announced SAAL, I claimed that the book focused on Blizzard North and the Diablo series. That's still true, but I made the decision early on to expand the book's focus to chart Blizzard Entertainment's/"South's" journey as well. The two companies were linked like Siamese twins, and I found it impossible to write about one without talking about the other.
SAAL, while still rooted firmly in Blizzard North, explores the Irvine, California studio in great detail. In this book, you will observe the similarities between the two Blizzards in their early days, witness how and why they grew apart, and realize the enormous influence their push-and-pull relationship had on many of their games.
While I do intend to nurture SAAL until I feel it's ready to succeed, that doesn't mean I want it to take forever, nor does it mean you'll have to wait until the book is released to see how it turned out. Before David Kushner released his excellent Masters of Doom, he and his publisher coordinated the release of 2-3 free chapters, spread over a month or two, that gave readers a chance to snitch samples from the main course. I plan on doing the same.
More on those plans as they develop.
As you read SAAL, you'll take in a riveting story, but you'll also learn a thing or two. In fact, you will learn a great many things--about people, about the way games are made, and about how two halves of one of the most powerful and prolific game development studios in history operate, and operated.
I don't know about you, but I enjoy learning more when a given subject matter is picked up at my choosing. In that spirit, I've stuffed SAAL to the gills with quotes from the 70+ developers I interviewed for the story, and I've broken those quotes into two main categories: story mode, and side quests. You know how most role-playing games feature lots of optional side stuff for you to do, but there's also the main story path that takes you from the beginning of the adventure to the end? The story mode and side quest categories in SAAL, and indeed all the books I publish under DM Press, work similarly.
As you read SAAL, you'll come across quotes planted squat in the middle of the main narrative. Each of those quotes includes a label. The story mode label indicates a quote that ties directly into the story. You'll want to read it to better understand what's going on. But side quests, broken into several sub-categories, are optional. Skip them, and you can continue the story without missing a beat. Read them, and you'll be privy to some of the technical details behind the making of games, and other useful nuggets of info.
Here are the different side quests you'll encounter as you read SAAL, and what they indicate.
* Foot in the Door. The stories of how particular developers broke into the industry and landed their dream jobs.
* Behind the Code. The nitty-gritty behind how games are made, with a concentration on game design theory and execution. You'll find BTC quotes strewn throughout every DM Press book, but you'll also find entire chapters dedicated to the making of games made by the people whose stories a particular book chronicles.
If you take a gander at the chapter titles above, you'll note an entire chapter dedicated to Diablo and two chapters set aside for Diablo II--and even those weren't enough to contain all the info I'd collected on Blizzard North's juggernaut sequel!
* Roundtable. Game developers are gamers, and like gamers, they often launch into heated arguments to defend their stance on particular characters, features, levels, and the like. When a particular subject divides developers, Roundtable quotes divides arguments for both sides of a particular issue and allows you, the faithful reader, to draw your own conclusions.
* Bonus Round. Sometimes a chapter just isn't big enough for all the material I gathered on a particular subject. Other times, I have information or quotes to share that I think you'll find interesting, but bog down the narrative instead of streamlining it. Bonus Rounds are sections, rather than individual quotes, that you'll find at the end of the book. Each Bonus Round corresponds to a specific chapter (e.g., Chapter 1: Bonus Round, Chapter 17: Bonus Round) and can be read at your leisure, or never. Although that would hurt my feelings.
* In Retrospect. Alternatively, End Credits. These quotes are of the hindsight-is-20/20 variety, illustrating lessons the developers have learned or insight into company matters they ruminated on following their time at the company.
* Fan Interaction. Video games inspire such fervent followings, especially games as popular as Blizzard's. So, I thought it might be fun to include fan quotes discussing favorite moments and memories. In each book, FI quotes won't actually be called "fan interaction," but rather a title that reflects a game covered in the book. For example, in SAAL, this section is called "Sanctuary Speaks." Sanctuary is the world in which the Diablo saga takes place, and as Diablo fans, we've all inhabited Sanctuary for, oh, probably more hours than we care to count. Fan quotes will be included in each book's bonus round chapters.
Actually, fan quotes deserve their own section, because they relate to a big impending announcement from DM Press.
Rather than turn over every digital rock in search of insightful and entertaining quotes from gamers like yourselves, DM Press will hold contests on its Facebook page that ask fans to answer specific questions. One question might be, "Describe your first experience going up against the Butcher in Diablo." After a set period of time defined in the contest's rules, we'll sort through the quotes, choose the one we like best, and stick it in the book. Not only will the winner get to see his/her name in print along with the quote, but each contest winner will receive a copy of the book in which their quotes appear.
Nifty, right? Hope you dig it. If you haven't already, follow along with us on Facebook so you don't miss any fan quote contests!
Don't worry: quote contests represents just one way to score a free copy of the book. When I reached out to websites to give SAAL's Halloween announcement a boost, I asked each of them if they'd be interested in running giveaways, and most replied enthusiastically. As with everything else, we'll post alerts on the Facebook page when these giveaways spring up.
Wrap-up and Catch-up
Before I sign off and return to rewriting, I'd like to post several links for those of you who only recently started stalking DM Press online. (Not that we mind.) Follow these links to catch up on information we released last Halloween, and to learn more about the developers you'll be reading about when SAAL hits digital shelves.
* Meet the Team #1: Interview with Blizzard North's Co-Founders
* Meet the Team #2: Interview with Diablo II artist Mike Dashow
* Meet the Team #3: Interview with Diablo I and II artist and designer Eric Sexton
* GamesRadar.com Interview
Whew. I promised a big update, and I hope the content of said update didn't disappoint! Hopefully I won't need to wait so long before posting another sizable update. In the meantime, I hope the information discussed here gives you plenty to look forward to, and makes the book--which will be excellent!--seem more real.
Until next time,
~David L. Craddock