Blizzard resets Titan in MMO shocker … oh wait: the changing MMO landscape

Raise your hand if this was a surprise?  Anyone?  No?  Thats a good thing, you know.  One of the reasons I have so much respect for Blizzard as a company is that they can and do pull the plug on sub-standard products.  Who else remembers Starcraft Ghost? Many companies (*cough* EA *cough*) would have just thrown Titan out of the door early and milked it for what they could knowing it wouldn’t last long.

What went wrong?
Blizzard haven’t said, but I have some ideas I’m going to share with you.  This is all speculation on my part.

The first thing to have happened is the changing landscape of MMOs.  Until late 2011, there was little to no competition for World of Warcraft.  It had a huge subscriber base because everything else released did not come close to the level of content, the polish and the accessibility WoW offered.  The only other MMO in the game was EVE and EVE is both different and significantly smaller.

This is no longer the case.

Rift has to take some credit for getting in there first, closely followed, for all its problems, by SWTOR.  These games offered a similar experience in a different environment.  For all they lacked some of the polish and scale, they both have unique features that made them stand out.

Next came Guild Wars 2.  ArenaNet should be commended for Guild Wars 2.  Rift and SWTOR iterated.  GW2 thought outside the box.  And it was buy to play.

Another change is that small scale free/buy to play MMOs are increasingly common.  People don’t mind that they are smaller because they can just play another one.  The level of polish is getting ever better in these games (Neverwinter, Defiance, etc.)  Free to play done well seems to be successful too.  Guild Wars 2 and SWTOR are very happy with the success of their cash shops.  Rift is going to follow them.

How does this affect Titan? 
In a couple of ways.  In terms of subscription versus buy/free to play.  I imagine Blizzard intended a subscription system for Titan when they started it.  I equally imagine they are revising this idea and that will mean development changes for Titan.  A good cash shop is one that is integrated into the game from the start, rather than added later.  A good selection of free/cash/subscription options is likely to be the most successful at the moment.  There are different types of players with different opinions on free to play versus subscription and the best chance of maximizing your playerbase is to cater to all of them.  I don’t believe Titan was ever intended to be specialist.

Also, these developments have set a lot of new standards.  Here is my personal list of things I would expect from a new MMO right now:

  • Full voice acting in my quests
  • More features by account rather than character
  • Ability to join more than one guild
  • Cross-server/no server/mega-server play
  • Regular updates (at least every 6 weeks)

And then there are the features I would like to see:

  • Good casual raiding (likely through a variety of difficulty levels)
  • Positive contribution of alts towards the account as a whole
  • No need to repeat the same content on different alts excessively (at end game in particular)
  • Flat leveling (i.e. no increased xp requirement as you go up)
  • Optional grinds
  • Puzzles
  • Mini games
  • Large and small scale PvP
  • Accessible PvP and reward schemes that allow casual players to take part
  • Customisable leaderboards
  • Content for a variety of group sizes

Everything I have listed here exists in one game or another!  Most of them have been added to games in the last year and a half, however.  I imagine that Blizzard took a look at what they had developed, compared it to what was out there and being successful and went ‘Hmmm, this isn’t going to work is it?’

This is one of the biggest challenge of MMO development.  These things take time to develop and during that time someone else comes along with a new idea.  When they started, the ideas for Titan were likely ahead of the curve.  With the changes recently, my guess is they fell behind.  I would suspect that some of the above are the reasons for the reboot.    For example, I would say the tools to make more regular updates are something they hadn’t planned for, but might now need.

Its for these reasons that I also don’t expect this is a complete reset.  The stories and the art will likely remain.  Its the way players experience the game that is likely being rethought.  This also ties in with the way WoW has evolved, but I will write a separate post about that as this is quite long enough already!

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One thought on “Blizzard resets Titan in MMO shocker … oh wait: the changing MMO landscape

  1. I agree with what you wrote. Personally, I suspect that Blizzard is scared of the current competition. Knowing them, they used a lot of resources into Titan and they really want to make sure that they pull off a new WoW-buster. Some other upcoming MMO’s most likely scared them as well, such as World of Darkness, which I consider a potentially insane game that will crush the opposition.

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