overwatch-tracer1Nothing about Diablo 3, but an article in the LA Times shares some interesting info about how Blizzard cancelled the long-developing Titan, the turned the game assets and team into Overwatch. Obviously no one can rule Overwatch a success (or failure) yet, but early reviews and beta testing reports are very positive. At any rate, it’s more of a success than the cancelled Titan.

    Blizzard Entertainment spent millions of dollars and more than five years designing a vast, ambitious video game only to realize that it wasn’t fun. The project, code-named Titan, “utterly, completely and miserably” failed, according to the guy who ran it, veteran designer Jeffrey Kaplan. Higher-placed executives killed Titan in early 2013, long before it was ready for the general public. Kaplan felt crushed. But Blizzard didn’t fire him. It didn’t demote him. Instead, the Irvine company put him in charge of another huge project.

    Titan numbered 150 workers. “Overwatch” has 80. Kaplan counts no magical number. Rather, he stayed tightknit enough to minimize bureaucracy and maximize individual creativity. “You don’t want to create an army,” he said.

    Another Titan lesson: Unshackle the team. The Titan crew was suffused with tension because of frustrating constraints, including most vividly a ban on virtual “flying cars.” Kaplan’s cheeky “Overwatch” response is the project’s lone arbitrary rule: Every car must fly.

    Feedback also has come from new sources. “Overwatch” is the first game for which Blizzard created an internal online forum, allowing the entire studio to collaborate.

    The collegial spirit has spread. Blizzard’s quality assurance testers focus on certain games but constitute a separate department. Kaplan, though, included the 14 “Overwatch” testers in his team meetings to the point where there was little separation. So when quality assurance managers gave “Overwatch” testers cash to party, the testers organized an internal tournament for the game for the entire development team, buying pizza and beers for the championship.

    The article is for the financial section, so there’s nothing about how Titan’s art assets and programming were recycled into Overwatch; instead the article focuses on the organizational issues and how the bosses chose not to fire everyone. But I found interesting the bits about the internal forum, and how the QA team was included in the full dev meetings. Maybe they’ll do more of that with Diablo 4, and we’ll get a great game from launch, instead of requiring a year of patching to elevate the quality to that level?

    Any of you guys doing some Overwatch beta testing over the holidays, and appreciating Blizzard’s repurposing of the game that never was?

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