Stay Awhile and Listen – The Book About Blizzard Entertainment

I was searching for something new and fresh to read. I don’t remember exactly on what website was it that I found a book about Blizzard Entertainment that was recommended as a good read for a gaming fan. The words I used for this search might have been something like “good gaming books to read”. I used this phrase and made a search through Google and I immediately found a website that recommended about five books. Some of these were already familiar for me and some of them I had already read. But a book about Blizzard? That sure sounded interesting to me.

As I started to read this book, it was titled “Stay Awhile and Listen”, I first noticed that text was written with a large and somewhat loose font. I didn’t let it bother me and kept reading. This book managed to capture my attention very efficiently. It introduces the people that were actually behind games like WarCraft and Diablo. It describes how they got inspiration from games like Dune II and UFO – Enemy Unknown and from earlier role-playing-games, not so graphical rogue-likes, and also from Dungeons and Dragons.

Diablo was very different than those other role-playing-games that were released on PC in the 90s. It defined a whole new genre of games combining action and traditional role-playing elements. It focused also in gathering different kinds of items that could be weapons, armor, rings or amulets that had special attributes. There could be, for example, an axe that gave, once equipped, more strength and maybe more resistance to enemies spells to its user. At first Diablo was designed to be turn-based but eventually it was made to be real-time. It featured an ability to play with multiple players through internet. Back in 1996 that was something revolutionary.

There have been two sequels made for Diablo and there was a whole genre of these new kinds of role-playing-games that many of us gamers have had the joy to play. I wasn’t so excited about traditional role playing or Dungeons and Dragons. To me Diablo was about the first RPG that I played, ever. I remember it being released for PC and PlayStation. The game that brought me closer to enjoying RPGs was definitely Diablo II. I liked Diablo 3 also very much. WarCraft then made something out of the genre that was initiated by Dune II. This genre was called real-time-strategy. WarCraft made some improvements to Dune II.

Before releasing these legendary games the guys of Blizzard were involved in computer technology as programmers and visual artists. They were working in this field already. They had some other interests also. It is told in this book that they really much enjoyed playing games like Sega Mega Drives NHL 94. Back in the 90s they were very young and very talented. So the book describes also their other activities and tells something about how this team worked and who was responsible for visual look, animation and programming. This was an effort of the whole team so you couldn’t tell so much about which member was actually responsible of the whole game. It was more like about they working as a team and every ones effort was needed.

I can recommend this book for any fan of 90s video games and especially for a fan of WarCraft, Diablo or them both. It was actually for me a fast read and I read it in about two weeks. At least that’s a fast read for me. It wasn’t a pricey book. It cost me about 20 euros and I bought it from a Finnish web store. So you should definitely read this book.

Golden Axe series

My experience with Golden Axe series begins as I find this series second game for Sega Mega Drive. Mega Drive was already very popular as it had more power under its hood than NES. These memories bring me back to the beginning of 90s. As a kid I didn’t understand so much about ongoing console wars between mainly SEGA and Nintendo. Their gaming consoles got released one after another. First NES was released in 1983. Then there appeared Master System. Then Mega Drive got released. After that SNES was released. This war got started some years after the crisis of video games occurred. In 1978 everything looked fine. Atari 2600 made its way to many homes. There were so many bad games released and it eventually left game developers with empty hands. But this crisis that lasted some years was over as Nintendo released its Entertainment System.

So Mega Drive was the console to have back in my childhood. Golden Axe 2 was the sequel to the game that had been released already on Master System with also Mega Drive version being produced. The game caught my attention and I think it strongly influenced me to buy this console a moment later. Even today I think Golden Axe II is one of the best games ever released on Mega Drive. When I now play it I think it’s still worth playing for some hours. If I could modify it, I’m not sure if it is even possible, maybe it is, I would add some roleplaying features and theability to develop the character that you choose to play as. It already has many moves and characters have different qualities. It was good so see a female character also.

Soundtrack of this game was very inspiring. It brought tension to the game and along with amazing graphical effects affected and appealled to me as a kid growing up. My little brother also loved this game. I don’t know what’s up with him playing all these violent games. It sure was only fantasy for us and all players that ever got involved in virtual axe swinging. Back in the day there weren’t so many limitations as there is now. You didn’t have this large sticker on every damn piece of video game that tells for every human being that “this game is so and so violent, so brutal…” and so on. It left the decision to parents solely. We played these games as the graphics were poor. Only limitations were that we had to study and go to school and to practise some sports. And back then gaming went after those. I don’t know how this relationship with gaming is doing right now in my life. I think it’s not a thing to worry.

So the first Golden Axe game was released on Master System, Mega Drive and also on Commodore 64. Many gamers had also an opportunity to play it in an arcade. It was also released on PC. So there were many gaming systems that it made its impact on. There was second and third game released on Mega Drive. There was a game released on Sega Saturn, but I really didn’t get into that so much. There was also newer game released on PS3 called Golden Axe: Beast Rider in 2008. After that we haven’t seen any new game in the series. This game is all about action in fantasy world. It brings the player to this world that is a mixture of fantasy and medieval. You swing your axe, ride with a dragon, fight against evil enemies and release spells as you collect your mana and health. I recommend this game when you are getting to know Sega Mega Drive keeping in mind that this game and system are both retro stuff. If you hate retro this game is not for you.

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