Titan's Possible Past and Future -- Part 2

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Team 3"

Most gamers believe that "Team 3" was the group working on Diablo 3 back in 2007. But D3 was still being worked on dating back to 2005 (and from 2000 by Blizzard North) and there was never any official statement linking D3 to "Team 3". Most users, including myself, believed it was called "Team 3" because of Diablo "3" and the timing of "Team 3" and the Diablo 3 announcement.

When speaking to Gamasutra in 2007, Frank Pearce had this to say:

"Our global headcount is 2,700," said Pearce, "And most of that is customer service for World of Warcraft! In terms of development staff it’s probably around 350. World of Warcraft is about 135 people, 40 for Starcraft II, 40 for team 3, our cinematics team is about 85 guys. Then there’s sound and Q/A and that sort of thing."

When pressed for details regarding the new project, Pearce was cagey. "Team 3 is working on something really awesome. I can’t give you any hints, but it’s totally awesome."

Gamasutra was able to confirm that, in spite of Rob Pardo's comments at Hollywood and Games that they weren't giving up on StarCraft Ghost, this Blizzard project remains something different.
Diablo 3 wasn't a new project though, it was just an old unannounced on-and-off project. Swingin' Ape Studios was the third division of Blizzard and later renamed to Blizzard Console. Blizzard North was the old team responsible for Diablo 1 and 2, and they were the team working on Diablo 3 from 2000-2005.

The phrase "Team 3" was not revealed publicly until just a few months before the Next Gen MMO was revealed too. Also, coincidentally, "Team 3" had 40 employees which was also the number of SAS employees that remained with Blizzard. SAS had become a separate team, they had 40 employees, and they were Blizzard's 3rd division.. "Team 3" maybe?

They were specifically working on Next Gen Console games too, and were in a state of flux at this time (2007) trying out new things. Rob Pardo did confirm, after all, that they had not given up on Starcraft Ghost and there were about 40 employees working on it.

Now, there's very strong evidence to support that "Team 3" was also the Project Hydra team, but there are also hints that "Team 3" could have been the group from SAS and they were continuing work on something "totally awesome" that might have evolved from Ghost. At the time, there was never any official confirmation of who "Team 3" really was, but today it just refers to the Diablo 3 team. I thought I would mention this, because their team and project names have been known to change when they take different directions. For example, Cataclysm was rumored to be called "Project South Seas", then it was changed to "Project Worldbreaker", and then finally "Project Cerberus". SC2 was rumored as "Project Alpha" and then "Project Medusa".

Kaplan Connects Titan with SAS

In 2008, during Kaplan's infamous "Blizzard's new MMO is going to be sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic or historical? All of those combined!" speech, Kaplan talked about the SAS crew while on the subject of the Next Gen MMO, broader audiences, and Consoles:
"So I don't think 'World of Warcraft' would really work that well on the console, but that's not to say that other MMOs couldn't. And we have a pretty savvy group of console developers -- a lot of the guys we inherited from Swingin' Ape really know what they're doing on next-gen consoles. So we might have a few tricks up our sleeves in that regard."
A History Of Blizzard Repeating History

Have you ever noticed that Blizzard tends to repeat the past, or bring things back from the past?

They're bringing back in-game advertising (planned for Titan, but they had originally wanted it in SC2 because they didn't have any games that could support it.) They're getting back into Next-Gen Console gaming. They're reintroducing Real ID, but in a different non-offensive flavor. They frequently reuse assets from older or abandoned games (e.g. WOW or SC Ghost assets used in SC2). They reintroduce classes or races previously planned for older WOW expansion packs (e.g. Pandaren planned for TBC instead of Draenei.)

I had always wondered why they bought Swingin' Ape Studios so quickly, especially when the SC Ghost project wasn't doing too well, Metal Arms didn't sell very well, and SAS only had the console game Metal Arms under their belts. There must have been something else about the company that impressed them.

Diablo, for example, was being developed by Condor Games. Blizzard was so impressed by their game and creativity that half way through the development of the game, Davidson acquire Condor Games and they renamed it to Blizzard North. They were still very new to project management during this time, but they recognized just how valuable Diablo was going to be.

In SAS's case, Blizzard outsourced the SC: Ghost Console project to them. Perhaps there was something more within the company that Blizzard wanted, like other video games or ideas they were working on, much like they had done with Condor Games. :)

It's possible that a very early version of Titan was around at one point, but it was put on the back shelf due to the immense popularity and new resource requirements of World of Warcraft. It would have been an early prototype but with very ambitious plans. It's possible that Titan isn't a very new idea, and it's something that has been sitting on a shelf for a lot longer than people might think.

In order to know more about Titan or predict it's future, it's important to understand it's past.

Nomad and Guerrilla

Swingin' Ape Studios was secretly working on a next-gen console game called Guerrilla. The demo was a post-apocalyptic themed game, which eventually evolved into something more military ("FarCry") themed. This game was demonstrated to Blizzard before they were contracted for the SC Ghost project. I wonder if they showed the post-apocalyptic version along with their ideas for the future of the game, or they were showed the FarCry version that EA had wanted? :)

Whichever the case, the engine was adapted for the SC Ghost game. In a way, SC Ghost could be a precursor to Titan. (I won't be surprised if Titan contains scifi assets from the old Ghost project.)

Right after StarCraft, Blizzard also started working on their own post-apocalyptic scifi (squad based) RPG entitled Nomad. Blizzard had put a lot of work into the game, but they decided to work on WOW instead because they just weren't ready for Nomad at the time.

Nomad was mentioned again in 2008 (along with other cancelled projects). The cancelled Shattered Nations was also a post-apocalyptic scifi themed game by Blizzard, and some people have suspected that Nomad might have mutated into MMO form.

SAS's Metal Arms

If Titan has a past history with Guerrilla and SAS, there might also be a connection to Metal Arms. For example, since many of the current employees working on Titan came from SAS and they worked on MA, they might have adopted some of the ideas from MA or what was planned for Metal Arms 2. (If you read the SAS post, Metal Arms was originally the story of a bounty hunter traveling to many different planets, with one inhabited entirely with various types of robots.)

For example, a lot of robots or a "Control Tether" feature borrowed from MA. Glitch was able to "possess" other robots, gain their abilities and control them. (Sort of like an Avatar-like or mind control game, something that's missing from a lot of games these days.)

I haven't been able to find too much online, but here are some examples where Steve Ranck commented on future work:
SAS_Steve [Source]

We (the developers) would love to work on a sequel. Glitch on next-gen would be really fun to work on. Vivendi owns the property, though.
SAS_Steve [Source]

BinfordKid, we're sitting on a huge amount of AMAZING story that's just waiting for a sequel.
I often wonder if "Project Titan" name was chosen as an internal joke to the Next Gen MMO team's previous work on Metal Arms. There were infamous Titans in Metal Arms (dangerous robots), and Project Titan might have originated some MA after all (e.g. MA -> Guerrilla -> SC Ghost -> Titan).

Heck, for all we know, it could have been borrowed from Blizzard's scrapped "Path of the Titans" too. In Path of the Titans, the player could join various cults and investigate history. :)

If there is a connection between SAS, their old IP, and Titan, we might see a lot of their ideas or innovations being inherited. This is why I'm interested in old game ideas or early game concepts. So, if you discover any old sources or mentions about "SAS/Blizzard games in development" from really old magazines, for example, let me know.