Project Titan: A brief history of a game that doesn't exist

Project Titan
For the last several years, the MMO community has been abuzz with rumors regarding Blizzard Entertainment's Project Titan. Long reported to be a brand-new MMO based on an entirely original intellectual property, Titan was a top-secret project discussed only through occasional interviews, job postings, and hearsay. No footage ever slipped through the cracks; no early alpha build accidentally leaked to the web.

Unfortunately, Project Titan as we knew it is no more. Rumors broke in May that development on the project had been restarted from scratch, and Blizzard offered comments that didn't so much as confirm those rumors as lend them a hefty amount of credence. Now it seems as though whatever we might have known about Titan may no longer apply, and whatever Blizzard had created so far may never see the light of day.

With that in mind, let's take a little adventure through the rumorsphere and look back on the history of Project Titan and the stories surrounding it.

In the beginning, there were jobs

Rumors regarding Titan go back as far as 2007. Savvy fans of World of Warcraft noticed a job listing for "Lead 3D Character Artist - Next-Gen MMO" on Blizzard's careers site and took to the WoW forums in hope of finding an answer. Community representative Drysc answered, explaining that Blizzard was on the hunt for new talent to help with the company's "unannounced next-gen MMO." Drysc confirmed that the new game was not a World of Warcraft expansion but offered no details. Blizzard, as you might imagine, provided no further comment.

Project Titan
Rumors swirled for a while with no concrete information emerging; comments from those in the know were vague at best. In 2008, Blizzard co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime talked a tiny bit about the project with Wired magazine, noting that Titan was "not going to be a World of Warcraft sequel" and that the goal was to create "a different massively multiplayer experience." Jeff Kaplan, longtime game director for World of Warcraft, half-joked in an interview with MTV's Multiplayer blog that Titan would be sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic, and historical combined. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick briefly addressed the game in 2009, claiming Titan would have "a little more broad appeal."

Things went mostly quiet on the Titan front until late 2010, when a leak of Blizzard's five-year product roadmap found its way to the web. Listed in the leak were potential release dates for Diablo III and StarCraft II, expansion and movie plans for World of Warcraft, and of course, the release of an entirely new MMO known as Titan. According to the roadmap, Titan was set for release sometime in 2013. The schedule was never confirmed or denied, though Blizzard China's general manager, Ye Wuilun, left the company soon after, which provoked rumors that his exit had something to do with the leak.

Escalation

As the hypothetical 2013 release date approached, a clearer vision of Titan's development cycle began to emerge thanks to Blizzard's increasing willingness to talk about the project. Mike Morhaime discussed Titan in February of 2011, noting that Blizzard had "some of [Blizzard's] most experienced MMO developers" working on the project. Morhaime stated again that Titan was not a WoW sequel and claimed that "people who spent years working on the World of Warcraft team" were focused on its production. He briefly mentioned core MMO concepts like playing in guilds and making new friends but did not reveal anything previously unknown or unsuspected.

Project Titan
About a month later, COO Paul Sams went on the record regarding Titan. Speaking with Venture Beat, Sams claimed that Titan was being built by a "dream team," and that the game was going to "blow people's minds." He also echoed previous claims from other Blizzard executives that the game could co-exist with World of Warcraft, noting, "we believe that it will be more complementary than competitive." In other words: Project Titan was very likely not a fantasy-based RPG, or at least not so fantasy-RPG as to be confused with WoW.


"From an outsider's perspective, it certainly seemed as though the game might finally be on its way toward some sort of official reveal."

In a different interview (from the same month), Sams explained that Blizzard was "very confident" in Titan and that "the reach of that product [would be] greater than anything that [Blizzard had] done before." Sams set a lofty goal for Titan: "Hopefully in 10, 15, and 20 years, that [new MMO] will still be growing strong and will have set a new mark in the industry for that type of product." He also let it slip that the game was finally in playable form.

By September of 2012, development was apparently moving at full speed. Blizzard president of game design Rob Pardo confirmed in an interview with Curse that the title was "in the middle of development" and revealed that the Titan team was made up of over 100 people. He did note that Titan was "a very big project [with] a long way to go," but from an outsider's perspective, it certainly seemed as though the game might finally be on its way toward some sort of official reveal.

The scrap heap

If the fall of 2012 marked the high point of anticipation for Titan, spring of 2013 marked the crash. May brought rumors that the entire Titan project had been rebooted, with all existing work being scrapped in favor of starting anew. Blizzard spokesperson Shon Damron explained, "We've come to a point where we need to make some large design and technology changes to the game," revealing that some developers had been pulled off the project while the "core team adapt[ed Blizzard's] technology and tools" to the new changes.

Project Titan
Mike Morhaime went a step further on an August Activision-Blizzard earnings call, noting, "We're in the process of selecting a new direction for the project and re-envisioning what we want the game to be." He didn't jump any deeper into the details of what Titan might have been before, but he did say, "It is unlikely to be a subscription-based MMORPG." As of the writing of this article, the only further tidbit of data on Titan is that it was quietly removed from the Blizzard Entertainment careers page.

In summary

Over the last seven years, Blizzard has ducked, dived, and dodged questions related to Titan. Fan rumors pegged it as a StarCraft spin-off, an MMOFPS, a WoW sequel, and anything else that seemed to fit. Meanwhile, no official art was ever revealed, no trailer ever shown, and no release date ever mentioned. With rumors now hinting that Titan's earliest launch window is 2016, it appears as though we are no closer to concrete information on the project now then we were seven years ago.

Still, one has to wonder what the folks at Blizzard are cooking up in the magic, money-printing building they call home. After all, no other PC-exclusive studio has managed to assert such dominance over the marketplace for so long, and the world has yet to see any game that could accurately be labeled a "WoW-killer." Whatever Project Titan was and whatever it may become, it will remain one of the most anticipated projects in MMO history.

(The images in this article are taken from Blizzard's gallery of concept art for existing games.)
This article was originally published on Massively.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.