Here's What Blizzard's Titan MMO Actually Was

Here's What Blizzard's Titan MMO Actually Was

For close to a decade, details about the multiplayer game that Blizzard called Project Titan have remained secret and elusive. Today we'd like to change that.

In the wake of yesterday's news that Blizzard has officially cancelled Titan, we can share a bit about what the project was meant to be: a massive multiplayer PC game in which players could both maintain non-combat professions and shoot their way through death-matches on a sci-fi version of Earth.

Blizzard declined to offer any details about the game when I reached out yesterday, but over the past 24 hours, I've talked to half a dozen people who saw or played the ambitious project, all of whom spoke anonymously because they were not authorised to talk publicly about what they knew. They have helped paint a broad picture of what was planned for Titan in the years before the game was drastically overhauled in 2013.

It's worth noting: game development is a fluid process, and from what I've heard about Titan, the developers were constantly changing and shifting plans over the months and years they worked on the game. Everything that follows is an amalgamation of information from ex-Blizzard employees, speaking to me individually, who tested, saw, or helped develop Titan between 2007 and 2012.

So what was Titan? For starters, according to three people I spoke with, it would have taken place on a near-future version of Earth, in a science-fiction depiction of the world where mankind has successfully fought off an alien invasion. Players would join one of three factions waging a cold war over control of the planet, and zones planned for the game ranged from the west coast of the United States to Europe, South America, and Australia, according to a source. Blizzard's plan was to make the game world huge, and to keep adding areas with expansions in the years after launch.

The main concept was this: you, the player, would maintain a mundane job -- butchering, engineering, entrepreneurship -- during the day, while waging clandestine warfare against opposing factions at night (or between work hours).

One potential scenario, described to me by a person who saw the game, might have gone something like this: You're working for a corporation, helping run a shop, when you're called for a mission by your faction, so you run into an elevator, switch outfits superhero-style, and go off to fight enemies with a group of friends or allies. Or you can just ignore the combat and keep doing your job, which could mean anything from tinkering with vehicles as a mechanic to running your own business as an entrepreneur.

Players would be able to select from classes with names like Reaper, Jumper, Titan, Ranger, and Juggernaut, each of which had its own special combat abilities and items, according to a source. Jumpers, for example, would be agile scouts with a teleport ability and the ability to quickly leap in and out of combat. Titans were tanks, while Rangers were snipers with cloaking and other abilities (think Nova from StarCraft II and the ill-fated StarCraft Ghost).

All of the people who described the game to me made a lot of Team Fortress comparisons both in terms of aesthetics and gameplay. Three people who saw the game have compared the aesthetics to Team Fortress 2, with one source describing it as a cross between StarCraft II's in-game cinematics and Pixar's The Incredibles. Your perspective would switch between first- and third-person based on whether you were heading into combat or hanging out in a city, according to two sources -- not unlike Bungie's Destiny.

Sources described the game as an MMO split in two parts: the "real world" and the "shadow world." (Similar in some ways to 2012's The Secret World.) In the real world, you'd craft, socialize, and work; in the shadow world, you'd shoot down enemies and fight through death-match missions with traditional shooter objectives like capture the flag. Blizzard's goal was to make both courses fun, interesting, and viable, so players could pick for themselves which way they wanted to go through the game.

Multiplayer games have had non-combat professions and tasks before, but from the sounds of it, Blizzard's take was more ambitious and interesting than anything we've seen in the past. Not only would players have been able to run their own businesses and shops, according to one source, they could maintain relationships with non-player customers and retail staff, even starting families thanks to a complicated AI system that Blizzard hoped to implement. (One source told me that Blizzard had hired a number of former Maxis staff who worked on The Sims in order to help put all this together.)

The goal, according to one person who worked on the game, was to construct cities that felt like living worlds, full of businesses, shops, and NPCs with schedules and behaviours based on what was happening at any given time. One ambitious planned system would have NPCs recognise players based on their previous interactions -- for example, a shopkeeper might have interacted with you differently if you were a frequent customer.

Again, this was all part of Blizzard's plan for the game. We may never know how much they accomplished, or what was changed and overhauled over the decade Titan was in development, especially in 2013, when the team was cut down and direction shifted entirely on the game once code-named Titan.

In an interview Polygon published yesterday, Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime said the game was cancelled because it just wasn't good enough. "We didn't find the fun," he said. "We didn't find the passion. We talked about how we put it through a reevaluation period, and actually, what we reevaluated is whether that's the game we really wanted to be making. The answer is no."

But it's still fun to dream about what could have been. One source described an early internal presentation of Titan that showed a professional cook saying he has to go, superhero-style, putting a dish in the oven, going out on a mission, and coming back to find that dish perfectly cooked and ready to serve.

If you're thinking this all sounds way too cool to be buried forever, here's a bit of good news: One person connected to Blizzard told me that "a good handful" of the Titan team is actually still intact, despite yesterday's news that the game has been cancelled.

"They changed the code-name after that reboot," said that person. "So the project that was 'Titan' did die last year."

So maybe Blizzard's still got a small team plugging away at Titan's world and concepts in hopes of bringing something fun -- and substantially smaller -- out of the wreckage. But it doesn't seem like we'll ever see the Team Fortress 2-meets-Destiny-meets-The Sims-meets-World of Warcraft chimera that Blizzard was working on for so many years. Like Starcraft Ghost and Warcraft Adventures before it, the project once called Titan is no more.


Comments

    Cancelling it was the right move. Sounds dull to me

    If you’re thinking this all sounds way too cool to be buried forever uhh, no. Sounds incredibly lame. Sounds like they made a game where the character can work 9-5 then go out and be a superhero... I'd rather actually work 9-5 then go home and play Destiny.

      Just a guess but I get the impression that it wasn't about doing everything. More like laying multiple games on top of each other, running independently but forming a big picture world. So you could work 9-5, and your character probably did with AI when you weren't online, but you could also branch out into other games.
      Imagine if The Sims was the core game played in an online MMO city the size of New York populated by players and NPCs. You can play it as The Sims, but you can also go out and play Hearthstone with other players, play Guitar Hero at the bar, play Street Fighter in the shady part of town, play Need for Speed around town, or go down the park and play FIFA. You don't have to play Street Fighter end-game to play FIFA end-game, but if you want you can play them both. Sort of like if Battle.net was a MMORPG and all the games were just different zones.
      It's a popular idea for the next level of MMO but it spirals out of control very quickly. When you think about how much trouble they have with World of Warcraft being split into Alliance/Horde content and PvP/PvE content it makes you think twice about it all.

    yeah nah this doesnt really get me excited... imagine wow with only professions and Warsong Gulch... lol

    "the player would maintain a mundane job", so world of warcraft players would feel right at home constantly grinding every day and barely progressing at all.

      You must not have played WoW before. It has one of the fastest progression rates of any MMO.

        for about 6 years, I'm talking end game, not levelling.. players get spoon fed levels now.

          End game has never been a grind in WoW. I played from launch too.

    I was expecting something much better than that. I can see how it would be hard to find the fun.

    The main concept was this: you, the player, would maintain a mundane job — butchering, engineering, entrepreneurship — during the day, while waging clandestine warfare against opposing factions at night (or between work hours).
    That paragraph sounds a lot like Ingress to me...

    lol 6am-7pm work just so i can go in a video game and work 6am-7pm..http://www.quickmeme.com/img/88/883eeecfdec28febd736510b0bfe93add9f9eb221bd2462a99ad83a4e4638ba5.jpg g8 joke

    also ok now that the jokes over can you tell us what the game is about?

      yeh no joke, its sounds so boring it can not be true

    Unless they could make the profession side of the game really engaging, fun and meaningful, this all sounds like a whole lot of crap.

    So Blizz made a game about grinding? Now where have I seen that before...?

      A shame you didn't say "Wow nhere have I seen that before...?"

    Dear Blizzard,

    Thankyou. The last thing I want to do after grinding away doing repetitive reports and tasks for stakeholders at work, is to grind away at a job in VR. If I wanted to do that I'd go play EvE Online.

    Regards,
    Ashi

    Oh man, a whole game about obsessive crafting sounds like the absolute worst. That would never sell any copies. Excuse me while I go play some more Minecraft.

    While a lot of people are gonna say Destiny beat Titan to the punch...it was actually Firefall.

    Yeah.. I have to be honest. This sounds dull.

    As much as I like how they were trying something different, Blizzard has always been best at taking tried and true genre's and completely owning them.

    Flabbergasted at all the comments who judge without STILL knowing a single thing about the game. "Sounds boring". The slogan of the internet generation.

      So did you read the article and thought "yeah damn I really want to work a day job in a game and then play the exciting parts"?

      I didn't. Super glad they cancelled this. When even the devs say it's not fun I think it's pretty reasonable for the internet to also call it boring.

      Last edited 26/09/14 11:31 am

    It sounds like an interesting experiment, but it also doesn't sound like a Blizzard game which is probably where the problem lay.

    EDIT: I also have to agree with those saying it sounds dull. Games that try and replicate mundane life have never appealed to me.

    Last edited 25/09/14 1:48 pm

    So the second coming of mmo craze at the scale of WoW at launch was this? No please send billions more dollars to complete it, I want to watch Francis rage again

    I may be the only one, but the original concept actually sounds interesting. I'd love to see what Blizzard could do with an SWG styled sandbox MMO with a TF2 minigame tacked on.

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