Team Titan Timeline and Tribulations

Posted by Daeity On Monday, October 3, 2011

Below is some informative information gathered from Sam "Slouken" Lantinga's blog (Direct Link) where he talks about his work on Titan Blizzard's other Untitled Project (not the Next Gen MMO). (* Updated here.)

(There are no details about the project, but rather his working experience with Blizzard on this project which is quite interesting.)

Sam was previously their Lead Software Engineer but now works at 38 Studios.

Here's a summarized timeline of everything that happened:

January 2009

(* Note: His resume says January 2008 which is when Titan began, and a year before the Untitled Project. However, Mike Sacco claims that this is wrong and January 2009 must be the correct date.)

First beginnings of Titan Blizzard's Untitled Project.

a job opened up for technical lead on a small unannounced project that was getting underway. It was a small project, with a short timeframe, at least for Blizzard, and it was a project that I personally was very interested in.
Approx. Feb/Mar 2009

Sam was promoted to Engineering Lead for the small project.

Between Feb/Mar 2009 and June 2009

Research phase, planning, and hiring for urgent positions.
researching engine technology, getting some of the infrastructure set up, and worked with the producer on a detailed technical plan for the project.

After that, since the designers had a solid idea for the game and were making great progress in the prototype, I started work on proving out the gameplay systems and hiring the most urgent engineering positions.
July 2009

Starcraft 2 launch became Blizzard's top priority, so most of the team were reassigned temporarily to help get ready.
"Since our team was so small, most of us went to help out, including our producer and UI artist."
From July 2009 to July 2010

The team consisted of approx. 6-8 people, while everyone else was helping out with the SC2 launch.
"We kept a small crew of designers, an artist and our newly hired graphics engineer to keep the project alive during our tour of duty on"
Between July and August 2010

SC2 launched, and team moved back to Titan the Untitled Project to continue the work that had been done over the following year.
"our producer was promoted to lead producer, and the designers made great strides in evolving the game design and the gameplay model. The graphics engineer had completed the core of the graphics engine and was roughing out the tools pipeline and content creation system.

When we returned from, I jumped right on getting our AI/gameplay engineer up to speed on the gameplay systems and started the herculean task of migrating code I had already finished over to the new gameplay model and tools systems that were developed while we were gone."
If you recall, this is when Kotick announced (August 2010) that they were ramping up production of the game, but it looks like the reason for this was partially because the Titan team was working on the SC2 launch and there was just a skeleton crew left behind.

November 2010

His various tasks (e.g. "migrating code to new gameplay model") upon returning to the game were completed.

Sam was called into a meeting and told that there were issues on the team. He knew of issues with the gameplay engineer, but apparently there were more, and goals & milestones were not being met.

A few days later, he was asked to perform an interview for his own job.

Other Notes

The team was feeling a lot of time pressure and increased stress during the beginning phases of Titan the new mystery project. Sam didn't feel like he received any support from management, and they never provided him any details regarding the "issues" on the team.

It sounds like they were pretty much an independent group for 2 years (2008-2010) without any management involvement. But, with an accelerated deadline, management started taking notice (esp. with Bobby Koticks August 2010 announcement) and early 2011 is when they really really started stepping up hiring, with management more involved and setting clear goals.

Apparently, Blizzard was planning on developing and releasing this product at a faster rate than their previous (historical) development periods. Since they're rushing this game more quickly than previous installments, this might be one of the reasons why they brought in Kim Sellentin in Feb 2011 (i.e, Scrum and quick development principles).

If any of you follow up with this information and find some new interesting pieces of information, let me know.