Warcraft's release in late 1994 put Blizzard on the radar map with gamers, and it also had a positive side effect when it came to recruiting. "After Warcraft," explains Morhaime, "employees actually started seeking us out - you know, they had played our game and wanted to become part of the company that made Warcraft." In an industry where talent is always rare, Blizzard found that some of the top developers from around the world were looking to move to Irvine and join a company on the rise.
These two level designers at Blizzard North are among the 200 employees at Blizzard.
In spite of the increase in resumes arriving at Blizzard's door, founders Adham and Morhaime had a strict hiring policy: You must be a gamer to work at Blizzard. Bill Roper, who joined as a full-time employee in July 1994, headed up the recruiting efforts. He says he was surprised at how hard it was to find the right employees. "It's really surprising to see how many people make games but don't play them," he says. "And it becomes pretty obvious in the interview. We will ask people about their favorite game, their favorite characters in that game, and really get in-depth." If interviewees were thinking they could read the latest gaming magazine the night before to cram game knowledge into their heads, they found out the hard way that such a strategy would backfire. "If you tell us your favorite game is Street Fighter," admits Roper, "we're going to want to know about your favorite moves for certain characters."
While some would say Blizzard's strict gamers-only hiring practice precludes the company from acquiring top-notch talent, Roper says the policy has to stick, even if it is heartbreaking to interview a gifted artist who doesn't know anything about games. "We'd love to hire those guys," Roper says, "but they don't play games, and we can't really teach someone to like games." Why would an artist necessarily need to be a gamer to do good in-game art? "It's invaluable if an artist can actually think about how their work is going to look in the game environment," explains Roper.
As if that weren't enough, potential hires also had to jell with the college-chum atmosphere that had existed since day one. Bob Steele, artist on Diablo II, explains that the new hires needed to be "a good fit socially as well as technically." Stieg Hedlund, the designer of Diablo II, who now has his own start-up with Steele, Full-On Entertainment, says that the culture at Blizzard was one of inclusion. "There have been Christmas parties at other companies where I've worked, and you can't wait to leave because you can't stand each other. It wasn't like that at Blizzard."
Two programmers on the Diablo II team enjoy a few laughs in their office.
Aware that growing a company with a strong culture could not be done quickly, Blizzard looked at working with established development groups on new projects that could be developed off-site. Thus it was perfect timing when Blizzard's console-developing comrades at Condor Entertainment showed up on its doorstep in January of 1995 to pitch a potential new game. Already known to each other because of Justice League Task Force, Max, Dave, and Erich from Condor proceeded to tell Mike and Allen about a game idea they had involving a rogue, a warrior, and a sorcerer battling evil forces around a town named Tristram. Its working title: Diablo.
Condor/Blizzard North leaders (l-r) Dave Brevik, Ken Williams (background), Max Schaefer, and Matt Householder.