Hearing the news that Blizzard had canceled the MMO project it had codenamed Titan after seven years of development, I can’t say I was surprised. What I really was was curious just what the game was planned to be. Leaks emerged soon afterward, and if they are to be believed, Titan might have been a game that offered something for every type of player. Yet the ambitiousness of the project could also be why it ultimately failed before ever being fully realized.
The description of what Titan was seems to point to a divided world game where players could choose their own destinies. We have a lot of MMO players who complain about sameness and criticize the impact WoW had on the genre, streamlining everything and being responsible for inspiring a more limited style of gameplay. What Titan seemed to be going for was something accessible like WoW, but also more open and large - very large. Not simply just large, but feature packed and full of choices. People could go between the worlds within the game and their own desires of how they wanted to play the game seemingly by choice. So you could be the badass hero if you wanted, or feel like a chosen one, but you could also choose to live a virtual life within the game’s world and be a tradesperson or be “Uncle Owen” if you wanted. You could’ve totally gone out there really heroic and progress that way for a while, but if you felt like you want to switch gears for a quieter in-game life, you could have arranged that too. Titan seems like it could’ve been a project with multiple ways for players to play.
The game’s near-future Earth, post fought-off alien invasion, would’ve been the setting for a struggle between several corporations, all battling behind the scenes for power. Thee would’ve been the game’s factions, and players could work at their jobs in the ‘real world’ and, when contacted, head into a shadow world where they could fight on behalf of their side and more. Players in the real world could work, craft, be in business for themselves, develop relationships with NPCs, and develop a full, Sims and Fable-like part of the game where starting a family and living those decisions out were options.
There were also other elements planned to add to the options and feeling of a full virtual life. If that seems like a huge, ambitious project, that is the case. It may have simply been too much to get right.
The reason I’m writing about this in a community-focused column is because Titan seemed to be going for a lot of different players - everyone. World of Warcraft’s success is because the game was so accessible that barriers kept falling down all around it. More and more people fell in love with the genre through their experiences with WoW. Many stayed, others played other games, and many of them returned back to WoW. WoW was lightning in a bottle, so the phrase goes.
Blizzard is looking now to focus on smaller titles, which is very much in line with other online games right now. The quicker turnaround and the narrower focus just seems to fit today’s online gaming atmosphere, especially when it comes to shorter, more portable, and easier to share experiences not necessarily tied to one place or space.
While many of us would love to get lost in a large virtual world again, many just don’t have time to live in a vast world with a second job in the game (though a significant role for crafters and the crafting process with a player-driven economy would’ve been my wish for the project). It’s a commonly cited reason, but there’s truth to it. Currently, The Elder Scrolls Online fills that niche nicely in my opinion, but for those tired of fantasy games or who would rather be in something more modern that isn’t The Secret World, options can be limited.
Trying to go for everyone, again, may have just been the project’s ultimate undoing. WoW helped create a certain sense of risk aversion in the MMORPG genre similar to what we see from AAA developers in other genres as well. So while Titan was scrapped, it may have been a victim of the same type of risk aversion whose groundwork WoW laid.
That said, MMORPGs still have a place, and Titan seemed like it would’ve served a lot of gamers and given many what they wanted. No, not a sandbox, but a lot of player-driven choice. This is all, of course, mere speculation, but it’s the most we’ve had out of the project so far, so it’s natural to think ‘what if?’. Blizzard is no stranger to canceled games, but it seems that it has decided to refocus on WoW and its loyal players as well as try to bring its brand of fun to other genres.
MMORPG players, and the genre, have evolved and changed over time. Online gaming has changed. Many of us walk around with small, connected devices in our bags and pockets that we can use to game on the fly. Hearthstone is a great success and part of that is due to the short sessions and iPad presence. Still, it’s kind of sad that we won’t get to see this dense, multi-layered world it sounds like the team was working on. It sounds like many different types of players might have found a home there.