Blizzard on Cancelled Titan MMO: "We Failed Horrifically"
How Overwatch was created from the ashes of Titan.
Blizzard designer Jeff Kaplan has opened up about working on Titan, the cancelled MMO that was positioned as the studio's successor to World of Warcraft. The project was officially announced in December 2010, but remained shrouded in secrecy before ultimately being cancelled in September 2014. Little has been discussed about it after its cancellation, until now.
Speaking in an interview with GameSpot, Kaplan said Titan's development team "failed horrifically," an experience that was unfamiliar to developers that had previously helped craft some of Blizzard's biggest titles.
"You had a really amazing group that was working on Titan," he said. "They were really talented individuals, but we failed horrifically in every way ... In every way that a project can fail. It was devastating.
"You had these people who either came from other companies or from within Blizzard, and were used to working on games that were very successful like a World of Warcraft, for example. To go through such a complete and utter failure is very hard for people who are used to experiencing success."
In the silence after Titan's collapse, the team found itself feeling the pressure of making up for its failure, particularly as strong new projects joined Blizzard's stable of successes.
"Pressure came from all directions," Kaplan continued. "Not that anybody was outwardly putting pressure on us, but because you’re used to doing well and succeeding … having a moment where you didn’t do well was almost like an embarrassment. Here you have these great projects like StarCraft, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and then you're sitting on the smoking pile of a cancelled project.
"Nobody said a word, everyone was super supportive, but I think there was this inward embarrassment of like, 'No, we need to prove that we’re worthy of being at Blizzard too. We can make something that makes the company proud.' It was a trying period of time and there was a lot of pressure. The team is used to pressure, but never quite at that magnitude, and it helped to forge us in a lot of ways."
In the fallout, Titan's development team found itself doing some soul searching and, eventually, that shared experience of failure gave rise to a stronger drive to rebound with something new.
"We saw it as a last chance. We use the phrase often, 'You’re only as good as your last game,' so you don’t get big headed … my most recent game was an utter failure called Titan that got cancelled.
"[We asked], 'What can I do next to prove that’s not who I am?' Having that level of confidence shattered is shocking. But in a weird way, it was the most bonding moment for this group. It was kind of a crisis of confidence and identity, where you start to ask yourself, 'Did we lose it? Do we not know who we are anymore? Are we not capable of making a great game anymore?'
"I think a lot of us were asking ourselves, on an individual basis, that question. So when it came to move to Overwatch there was an extremely tight bond on the team and a ravenous hunger to show the world that we’re not failures and we can make something really fun."
Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer shooter that casts players as colourful group of heroes with unique skills. Overwatch officially launches for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on May 24. A closed beta is currently in progress but will come to an end on April 25 at 10 AM PT. An open beta is scheduled to begin on May 5.
GameSpot will be publishing a series delving into the creation of Overwatch, which is Blizzard's first new IP in 17 years. Over the course of three episodes, Danny O'Dwyer talks to key developers about the inception of Overwatch, further explores the failed Titan project, and discusses how the team is channelling classic online shooters. Watch episode one above.
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