Based on the limited amount of information available on Titan and Blizzard's history, I can make some educated predictions on what the game will probably be like. As of today, Blizzard hasn't released any details about the game whatsoever.. but there are tidbits of information collected from resumes, Tweets, and job positions. What I'd like to do is "sticky" these posts, so that years from now when the game comes out, you can go back and compare. Plus, I can show a chronology of expectations for the game as new information is made available.
Expectations: What It Will and Won't Be
Blizzard Will Be Playing It Safe
- There's a lot of hype around what Blizzard means by "Next Gen MMO". The imagination can run wild with this title, with gamers hyping up a brand new approach to gaming. But really, all they mean is a game for Next Generation consoles and systems with improved graphics.
- Most of the team members developing Titan all come from heavy console gaming development backgrounds. Blizzard also really wants to break into the console market, so it's highly likely that Titan is being developed for the PC, X720 & PS4.
- Even though high quality graphics are being created, the job requirements for some of the Next Gen MMO artists include converting high-poly sculpted characters into lower poly game models, and to develop graphically appealing but lower resolution images for older PCs. They want the game to run on as many systems as possible, just like what they've done for their other games.
- Blizzard might experiment internally, but they play it safe when it comes to the finished product. Even Bashiok has admitted that Blizzard does not innovate; they copy, improve and refine. Blizzard will not take chances, and they will only create games that they know will be successful. So, they pay attention to the success of their competitors and they create competing games. They'll take a really great game, and then improve it even more.
- Activision and Blizzard will not compete with their own games. Activision won't release a fantasy MMORPG, just like Blizzard will not create a warfare FPS shooter. They will try not to cannibalize players from one game until it's popularity wanes. For example, during the height of Starcraft 2 popularity, there will never be a World of Starcraft. WOS would only be a possibility once SC2 dies down.
- I wanted to have this up at the top before you read any further. Your imagination can be your own worst enemy, so I want to make sure you're firmly planted on level ground before you jump to conclusions about how amazing Titan will be.
- Don't get too excited. Titan will be fun, but it won't be groundbreaking or innovative. Much like the gameplay and graphics, the lore and storyline will also be repetitive and contain derivative works.
- Blizzard is not hiring a brand new team of professional writers, scientists, and psychologists to create the greatest fiction ever written. They're not even looking for new writers, and they used internal writers for Titan who have been around for a really long time (the ones who have written lore and stories for Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft.)
- Your mind will not be blown. It will have cool new graphics though, and it will be fun to play.
- Although there are a lot of indications that this will be a post-apocalyptic title, it's not going to be. Titan will include many post-apocalyptic environments, but it will never be strictly a post-apocalyptic game. It's the same reason why there will never be a Fallout MMO. Future Fallout installments will probably have multiplayer features, but it can never work successfully as a MMORPG due to the issues of content consumption.
- Players constantly need new environments and new colorful stimuli to remain interested in a game. The Fallout series works very well as a single player game, but MMOs require frequent injection of brand new content to prevent players from growing bored. In Fallout, the environment, players, and buildings are pretty much the same wherever you go and it can grow repetitive and tiring. So, they introduced virtual environments, alien space craft, national parks, canyons, and underwater locations to keep things fresh.
- SWTOR has many different planets to explore with wide varieties of environments. How successful would SWTOR be if the entire game were to take place only on Tatooine? It would be a huge planet to explore, but it would only consist of desert environments and repetitive buildings. This is what a Fallout MMO would be like. An Elder Scrolls MMO would be much more sustainable and longer lasting than a Fallout MMO would. Blizzard knows this very well, and have learned quite a bit from World of Warcraft player behavior.
- Because of the constant need for novel content and new stimulation, Titan will be a lot like World of Warcraft in that there will be a very large variety of environments (as well as other activities, like crafting and minigames, to keep players busy.)
- Since Blizzard is planning on In-Game advertising within Titan, that can give you an idea of the type of environmentals as well where the most emphasis will be. And yes, Blizzard said In-Game ads within the world (not in chat channels) that enhance gameplay. For example, Blizzard was originally planning on putting in-game ads into Starcraft, but they can't do it for Diablo or World of Warcraft. And because in-game ads are so important, it means that this world will have a modern or near-future look. So, your main character's home environment will be modern or "real world", and from there they can travel (somehow) to all of the other environments.
- Jeff Kaplan said that the Next Gen MMO would be "sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic, and historical" combined. Cameron Dayton hinted that Titan would include Atlantis and Teotihuacan, and that Stan Sakai (16th and 17th century Japan) would be involved in some lore aspects of Titan.
- These are strong indications that Titan will take place on Earth (or a version of Earth), with a real world setting, and players are able to travel to historical or ancient civilizations. That leaves open possibilities for time travel, parallel dimensions, or a telepresence (Surrogates / Avatar) based storyline. Or possibly, it's a dystopian future with several events taking place worldwide and you can explore ancient and buried civilizations, but it all takes place during the same time.
- It won't be a strictly sci-fi game, though, and it won't compete with Starcraft. There may be a lot of environments or assets borrowed from the Starcraft Ghost game though.
- It will have a lot of similarities to World of Warcraft, including Blizzard's artistic style, but they need to make the game distinct from WoW to maintain long term interest.
- Many of the first employees working on Titan were part of the Console Development Team (ie, the SAS group.) Titan will be a lot like WoW in some aspects, but because the game is also being developed for consoles, and they're bringing in game ideas from Ghost (and other iterations), you can expect the gameplay to be quite different. The issues of content consumption also apply to gameplay after all.. it's not just content that needs to be new and exciting, but also the gameplay. You can expect gameplay to be much more faster, "in your face", and action oriented.
- Although players could adapt to a new WoW style game quite easily, it also become boring and repetitive too quickly. Plus, with consoles, gameplay needs to be different to adapt to the new controls.
- The User Interface, for one, will be drastically different than World of Warcraft. It will most likely be closer to Diablo 3 in comparison; designed to work well on both PCs and consoles, streamlined, more simplified, smaller in size, not as many options or keys that are typically expected on a PC, etc. The interface, combat nor movement will need to be mouse driven (think Skyrim UI) either, so combat will be much faster than WoW.
- This also limits the number of skills, abilities, or "spells" within Titan. There will be a much shorter list of skills and talents within the game, with more emphasis probably placed on loot or collecting "something". Loot could easily be replaced by pets, creatures, or anything else for example. Since a lot of skills will be cut out of the game, many of them will be saved up for future expansion packs.
- Blizzard's merchandising plans for Titan include Comic Books, Books/Novels, Action Figures, Short Movies, and Apparel. This can be hard to do with a brand new franchise, unless the characters are quite memorable and colorful. Cameron Dayton has also confirmed that the game will have major Heroes and Villains.
- If the game was targeting children or older moms, it would have been more reflected in their merchandising options. The merchandise they selected for Titan are the same that they have for World of Warcraft player demographics. The more "general appeal" most likely refers to accessibility on consoles, but they are still targeting the same demographics as WoW players but with possibly a slightly younger age in mind (so they are expanding their targeted market by just a little bit). This won't necessarily cannibalize WoW players, for example, since they're targeting the demographics but not the specific players.. they want the same age groups, but not the ones who only play fantasy RPGs.
- It won't be a casual game, but it will have casual mini-games within the world. It will have Blizzard's artistic style, and they want the game to run on older machines. Titan will probably be a lot more dumbed down and easy compared to WoW, with combat being much faster and more engaging. Because the combat is slightly faster, you might define some elements of the game as FPS, but, it will still be a looting, collecting, and achievement based MMORPG and it won't be a MMOFPS. A MMOFPS is currently unproven, and Blizzard won't risk the chance of releasing one. Plus, it's too limited in scope, and Blizzard needs several addictive gameplay elements that exist within familiar RPGs.
- Blizzard won't compete with their own games, but they do intend on stealing market from their competitors. They will take a successful franchise, but then improve upon it using proven and successful gameplay methodologies. They won't branch out into every game genre, of course, they'll stick with something they're familiar with. For example, they won't try to compete with sports or racing titles, but they will try to compete with Fallout, Mass Effect, Halo, Pokemon, and possibly The Sims. I can understand a big push into Pokemon territory, for example, like what Activision has been doing with Spyro and the pet changes to WoW. They also hired employees from Ensemble Studios (who were working on the Halo MMO also nicknamed "Titan"). So, many of the ideas or designs from the Halo MMO will probably be carried through to Blizzard's Titan. (The Halo MMO rumor has already been talked about to death, so there's no point in speculating on that.)
- There's no way they can steal all of their competitor's markets. So, they'll use pieces from each successful franchise to build something new, to attract as many people as possible, improve upon it, and use proven systems to create an addictive game (like loot-centric gambling gameplay).
- Since Blizzard won't compete with any Activision Blizzard titles, you can also know what Titan won't be. For example, it won't be a modern shooter like COD, but there might be fast paced combat in historical or other unusual locations. Activision already has Spyro, so it won't be a MMO targeting children. It won't be a horror title like Doom 3. It will have scifi RPG elements, though, because that won't compete with Starcraft's RTS style gameplay.
- The game is going to have various interfaces for both single player and multiplayer combat and participation. The UI Artist's responsibility also includes creating a "world class UI system that is movie quality (but still highly usable)."
- You might assume that because the career page I linked above includes "various interfaces in single player, in multiplayer, and on our websites for our current, and future products and expansions" that the game is going to be single player.. but remember, this is a MMO. You will always be connected, and they basically mean your primary interface when you're playing with yourself versus interfaces when you're grouped with other individuals. For example, World of Warcraft has a "single player" interface that's customizable. When you're in a Raid or Party, you also get a special "multiplayer interface" for easier group management and communication.
- A faster combat system within the game also opens up Titan to possible e-Sports options with small or large scale battles.
- Much like WoW, Titan will also have "icons, stats, inventory screens, in-game HUD elements", and expansion packs.
- Regarding future expansion packs, I wanted to point out something interesting in the Next-Gen MMO careers page: "Blizzard Entertainment is looking for an outstanding professional to build and manage a world-class art outsourcing program for a team focused on next-generation massively multiplayer online (MMO) games."
This is the standard introductory paragraph in many of their hiring posts. You'll see that they wrote "next-generation MMO games." Plural, not singular, and not a typo.
This means that the Next-Gen MMO team will be working on more than one game. This could either mean follow up expansion packs (which really shouldn't be called "a game"), or it means that they're developing a Next-Gen MMO engine for future (other franchise) games. Having an in-house engine with modular design and graphics expandability would be quite awesome for cutting down development time on future games. This could be where that "Titan As A Development Platform" opinion came from. But, Blizzard wouldn't be making this available to third parties, it would be for their own internal games.
- Cameron has already confirmed that the lore, philosophy, world, heroes and villains have been created. Since they also have merchandising planned for the game, you can assume that this is a fixed world. It won't be a craftable world or created by players like in Second Life. The world and environments have already been created, just like WoW.
- However, the Blizzard team has learned many lessons from World of Warcraft and Diablo 3, especially in the areas of content consumption. There's a very strong possibility that Titan will have randomly generated content. Not so much in the "overworld" but rather within dungeons. To a lesser extent, Titan might also take a different approach to loot and adopt a "global loot table" approach like what Diablo 3 has done. Automatically creating new content within Dungeons, having random encounters, and randomized loot ensures fresh adventures for players and significantly reduces future development time. It also plays an excellent role in internal security protection and discouraging server emulation.
- I think a lot of the systems within Titan will depend a lot on the success of Diablo 3. Read this post for more information. For example, it's really hard to determine if Blizzard will be making this a subscription based game, or if they intend on using a Real Money Auction House. Things are looking very likely, though, for a non-subscription (free to play) based game because they're planning on in-game advertisements for revenue and their finance team is focused on the business analysis and visioning for the D3 Auction House. It's highly probable that it will be a F2P game using multiple revenue models, including paid services, RMAH, a player or crafting marketplace, microtransactions, DLC, and/or in-game advertising.
- What Blizzard originally intended for World of Warcraft, they might do instead with Titan: smaller expansion packs, shorter development and delivery time, and DLC packs that expand the game.
- Very unlikely, but I thought I would throw it out there. Next Gen MMO as an on-demand streaming game service? The problem with streaming video games is that it's currently unproven and not very reliable. If the game could be streamed, it would certainly open up the game to many platforms without the porting development time needed. Unfortunately, the Next Gen MMO positions are looking for artists to convert high poly graphics to low poly, and this wouldn't be an issue for streaming gameplay. If Blizzard starts testing out streaming gameplay at Blizzcon 2012 or 2013, though, it might be a possibility for future games.