Simple, as it happens, would be the operative word for Diablo. “Back then, RPGs were so overwrought with statistics that the genre had shrunk to a tiny audience,” says Erich’s brother and Condor’s co-founder, Max Schaefer. “We wanted to do an RPG how we’d played Dungeons & Dragons as kids: hit monsters and gain loot. Our mission was that we wanted the minimum amount of time between when you started the game up to when you were clubbing a skeleton.”
Condor, the company that would create Diablo, was founded in 1993, and hit a quirky seam of good luck early on. “We were just starting out with Dave Brevik and my brother Erich,” says Max. “We were in Brevik’s house and he’d just quit his job with Iguana Entertainment. We’re having our first meeting: what’s our company going to work on, how are we going to make money? The phone rings, and it’s someone from SunSoft who heard Dave was free and had some projects. So on our first meeting we ended up getting our first job. We looked at each other and said: ‘Is this real?’”
“For me, the most direct influence was X-COM: UFO Defense,” suggests Erich. “The size of the characters, the camera angle and the tile-based random maps. I felt like it would make a great dungeon crawl.” Blizzard agreed, and Condor soon had a contract.
The game’s central concept – loot and monsters without the waiting – was never in question, but that doesn’t mean it emerged fully formed. Surprisingly, the ultimate action-RPG was originally turn-based. “At first we had it so that you would take a step and then the monsters would,” says Erich. “You would swing your sword and then the monsters got their chance. I think this was based on the Nethack or Rogue-style of game that Brevik liked a lot.”