How Blizzard Turned Titan’s Failure into Overwatch’s Success(?)

How Blizzard Turned Titan’s Failure into Overwatch’s Success(?)

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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18 thoughts on “How Blizzard Turned Titan’s Failure into Overwatch’s Success(?)

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

    No one has been, the servers have been taken down till further notice.

  2. i really wish i could of seen what titan would of been. the best part of overwatch to me is the characters.

  3. Haven’t read the whole article, but it really seems to me like between 2006 and 2012, Blizzard disappeared up their own asses with their success of WoW and felt like they could do no wrong. Hence the poor launch for SC2 ( 2 that debuted with it was an empty wasteland, and they still haven’t properly fixed all the shortcomings), and wrong direction for Diablo 3.

    Seems like they’re back on track for making what the audience actually wants, though.

    • "Seems like they’re back on track for making what the audience actually wants, though."Let's hope your impression is right and Blizz finds its way back to its roots. The articles leaves more of a taste of whitewashing the influence of the corporate perspective in my mouth, though, thus intensifying my doubts of this happening.

    • they aren’t back on track for jack sh*t. Where is the diablo 3 expansion? Titan went down the drain. WoW is falling apart and Legion is just an awful “jump the shark” grasping at straws. All we get are trendy games now with a Blizzard theme to them.

      • Reinventing oneself takes time and tends to fail, if forced. That Blizz goes the way of only repeating, what has worked before, like developers under Publishers like EA or Ubisoft are compelled to do, is nothing any core gamer could honestly want.

  4. I'm looking forward to jumping into this game when it launches. I'm looking forward even more though to hearing things like this about how Titan became Overwatch over the coming years.Most importantly though I'm looking forward to 2.4 launching & what may be coming after that for our beloved Diablo. 🙂

    • impossible to call it a fail at this stage. you might not enjoy it but luckily for them their success does not rest solely on your shoulders.that being said i also was more excited for it prior to playing. after having played overwatch and battleborn i am now more interested in the latter

  5. Me too. It’s installed but I don’t see myself loading it again. Blizzard was known for making amazing RTS and RPGs. And now….we get card games, MOBAs and FPS arenas? What the actual F*** is going on with these people?? \Hey lets crank out blizzard themed trendy games for munnies!\

  6. didn't get into the beta — but tried to watch it on twitch — too flashy — difficult to follow the combat and team strategy — couldn't follow anything really — but watching Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or H1Z1 PvP is SO MUCH more entertaining — and this game is $60 — I just don't see how they can charge that much for it

  7. It’s actually only $40. You’re looking at the origin’s edition, which comes with extra skins etc.

    As for the game itself, coming from someone who is not an fps player (I have never played a multiplayer fps and haven’t played any solo fps since Half-Life 2), I was blown away. I got into the stress test weekend and played literally every second that I could. I haven’t had that much fun playing a game in a long, long time.

    But if the characters in Overwatch are directly taken from Titan, I really wish they could’ve found some way to save the project. I find myself being interested in discovering their backstories in depth. When you can draw people in like that before you even deal with gameplay, I think that’s half the battle.

    • well, 40 is better, and I have heard other streamers say they love the game, but it's just too flashy and fast for me — I just didn't see any real strategy or teamwork in any of the streams I saw  — at least not to the extent I see in other games

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