Mike Morhaime on why Project Titan became Overwatch: ‘It sort of never really came together’

    
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We have a whole stack of these by now: these retrospectives from former Blizzard folks on what Project Titan could’ve been, had the MMO not been canned internally and then turned into Overwatch years ago. But we’re always game for another one, and former Blizzard President Mike Morhaime has obliged.

According to VG247, Morhaime spoke at GameLab Barcelona earlier this week, discussing how Project Titan was an “exception” to Blizzard’s traditional announce-nothing-until-it’s-really-ready philosophy.

“Titan is an exception to that where we wanted it to be our next generation, our sequel to sort of World of Warcraft. We took a lot of our senior developers and put them on this project. And I think where we really failed was we failed to control scope. It was very ambitious. […] It was a brand-new universe, and it was going to be the next generation MMO, that did all sorts of things, and it had different modes, and we were kind of building two games in parallel at the same time. It sort of never really came together.”

“At some point the team basically came to us and said that the engine really wasn’t where it needed to be, and the team had grown to a point that it was really difficult to get the engine to where it needed to be while keeping the team busy,” Morhaime told the audience. “And so they wanted to basically take some time to redo all the tooling and the technology to be able to be more productive making the game. And instead of doing that, we asked the team to take a couple of months and think about” other ideas and projects they could do with what they had.

One of those ideas was Overwatch, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Source: VG247
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Nathan Aldana

and so Blizzard birthed the current lootbox hellscape thats gotten regulation involved due to the sheer greed the industry quickly displayed over the verwatch style lootbox economy

kjempff
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kjempff

Problem with scope, two games in parallel, nextgen … SoundEQ familiarNext?

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Dug From The Earth

Here are my thoughts, which is mostly speculation based on me viewing the playing field.

1. Titan was most likely set up to be a “Destiny” like mmo, with a Blizzard twist.
2. Destiny’s launch and first year were REALLy rough, due to it not meeting players expectations until they released Taken King.
3. WoW was still going strong, having STILL the highest number of active subs of any mmorpg on the market.
4. Two things were bugging the suits at Blizzard — 1. Players typically commit to ONE mmo at a time, and they didnt want to cannibalize players from WoW for Titan — 2. Seeing how Destiny had left a poor taste in mmo players mouths, the hype for a similar style mmo wasnt nearly as big anymore.

Thus, Blizz canned the game, salvaged the assets to make a competitive shooter instead, which wasnt hard to do since a “Destiny like game” is already a shooter.

Ironically now, a few years later, WoW’s subs are hurting BAD, and Blizzard is probably wishing they had another mmorpg for players to swap to, so they could keep their customers.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Are WoW subs that bad? I’m having a hard time figuring out the most recent numbers. I’ve seen numbers thrown about ranging from 1 million to 4 million subs.

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Bruno Brito

They aren’t exactly bad, specially considering they stopped caring about sub themselves and more about box sales from xpacs.

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agemyth 😩

There are no numbers for WoW subs anymore. If you’ve seen numbers they are fake or based on incomplete/unreliable information. There were reports of subscriber info leaking through the Battle.net api that provided the numbers you’ve seen, but even the person who posted that info warned people of taking it as a hard fact.

Logically, it makes sense that a game as old as WoW, that hasn’t really put out content that would broaden its playerbase since 2012-or so, is losing popularity over time. There is a ton more competition in the games-as-service market now combined with the largely negative conversation around BfA working against them.

They still tend to perform great at the launch of expansions and are likely still the biggest game in an ever shrinking pool of subscription games.

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Dug From The Earth

There are no hard factual numbers.

There are many datamined values though that while are in NO WAY 100% accurate, they are close enough to give us a ball park figure.

For example.. Lets say the actual numbers are 3 million subs. These “Ballparked” figures might state there are around 2.5 million.

2.5 or 3 million… really isnt a huge difference when you are comparing what the subs USED to be at when Blizzard decided they didnt want to cannibalize WoW subs for Titan (which was more around the 9-10 million sub range)

Dropping from 9 million… or even 7 million, down to 3 (or 2.5)… is pretty freaking drastic.

Those lost subs are customers blizzard COULD have had for Titan.

And, you have to remember.. players look at subs as “There are enough (or not enough) people playing this mmorpg for me to enjoy the experience” So a game going from 5million to 2 million subs might not affect the players experience (2 million is still a decent amount), to a company its a whole other story.

Subs to Blizzard are PURE $$$.

Dropping even 1 million subs is
$180,000,000.00 for the year.

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mike foster

Titan was originally VERY similar to Destiny and Bungie got to market first. That’s the other major part of the story.

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Arktouros

“And instead of doing that, we asked the team to take a couple of months and think about” other ideas and projects they could do with what they had.”

“Then one of the developers was being super sarcastic and said ‘eSPORTS!’ and everyone laughed but an Activation exec was walking by and overheard and popped their head in asking ‘Did someone say eSports?’ and we were all like ‘Fuck.'”

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Ashfyn Ninegold

My tinfoil hat is quivering. Can anyone fact check me here?

We took a lot of our senior developers and put them on this project.

Like “a lot” senior developers from WoW? Like the guys who knew what they were doing? Which WoW expansions would have been effected by their senior developers moved to Titan? Of course this is old news and its been years, but one does wonder if we would be where we are now with the WoW team being led by who is leading it if “a lot” of talent hadn’t been directed elsewhere.

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Sorenthaz

Yeah most of the A Team devs during early/mid-WotLK were shuffled over to Titan including Jeff Kaplan who’s obviously heading Overwatch now.

Then Alex Afrasiabi came back to WoW like mid/post-WoD I think which is where Blizzard had a big reorganization of the WoW team it sounds like. I.e. that’s probably the point where they moved folks back into WoW after canning Titan and Overwatch was revealed.

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Alex Willis

This can be read as an alternate-history of Star Citizen’s development path.

And I think where we really failed was we failed to control scope. It was very ambitious. […] It was a brand-new universe, and it was going to be the next generation MMO, that did all sorts of things, and it had different modes, and we were kind of building two games in parallel at the same time. It sort of never really came together.

xpsync
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xpsync

Yea but with SC, instead of admitting that, they make NEW outrageous stretch goals, crazy new expensive virtual ships, grow the unrealistic scope even more unrealistic…

YES i’m being facetious, i honestly and truly hope Star Citizen launches one day i know i’d love a game like that… but yea thinking about it “apparently” Blizz couldn’t even do it?

Sometimes i get the feeling that SC is going to end up no different than SotA, shell of a game, sold on promises, hopes and dreams which really never came to anyone’s dreamed fruition, but yea here is the (mediocre) game you all payed for and where the only difference was Roberts was a better con artist than Garriot.

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Arthen Wolfsbane

I was thinking the same thing , Chris Roberts has fallen into the same trap in regards to failing to control the scope of Star Citizen .

The big difference is Blizzard did it with their own money , didn’t off subscriptions for an unreleased game and wasn’t selling virtual items for an unreleased game .

xpsync
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xpsync

I honestly hope this turns out in the end but omg right. Yep exactly and when it’s other peeps $ who gives a care? He only fell into a hole he dug.