The Story of Overwatch: The fall of TitanIn the first of a three part series, GameSpot's Danny O'Dwyer talks to the Overwatch team about what happened with Blizzard's cancelled MMO Titan, and how its death led to the birth of Overwatch.
Maybe sometimes I look back to tighten and where we got a little, we got a little squirrely under the weight of this giant idea we were chasing and everyone starts going after their own [UNKNOWN] and building their own part. And just trying to protect the part of it they can be uniquely responsible for and we frayed a little bit and we lost that That space where we're so strong. Right where we pull it back together and everyone shares a little bit of that big picture. And in so many ways over watch is from its themes to its gameplay. Everything about this project whether its visible to the end user or not. It is our story. It is a redemption story. We needed this as people. [MUSIC] Action Quake was One of the greatest mods of all time. There was a split. What was gonna become of the Action Quake community? And it was Action Half-Life and Counter Strike. [MUSIC] [SOUND] Before Geoff Goodman, who's our designer working on Overwatch, he and I were actually in a Team Fortress clan. We didn't actually know each other. [SOUND] I think we had a self expectation of like is this the kind of company we are? Are we the MMO company? So, I think there was a lot of pressure there, that we put on ourselves to deliver something a lot like WoW, another WoW. And it led us down strange paths. [MUSIC] [SOUND] [MUSIC] Hello and welcome to a three part video series about Blizzard's latest video game, Overwatch, a first-person multiplayer shooter which comes out on PC and Consoles in early May. My name is Danny O'Dwyer and I love Like shooters more specifically. I love PC online shooters. My formative years were spent playing games like Quake, Unreal Tournament, Team Fortress, and Counterstrike. And I still dabble today recently trying out the Doom beta and Epic's new UT. But I also found Blizzard a studio on the opposite side of the PC gaming spectrum. A studio which dominated the real time strategy, iso-metric roleplaying, and massively multiplayer online genres. Lizard make great games. So great they tend to even attract people who don't necessarily play that genre. I mean world of warcraft is where I spent most of my college years. Well there and too. But in recent months I've been enjoying a lot of Overwatch a game I first played at BlizCon 2014 that's had a long running on and off closed beta since late last year. So when given the opportunity to travel down to Blizzard's headquarters a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance. You see Overwatch is more than Blizzard trying to invade a new genre. It's more than an attempt to bring back classic class based shooters of old. It's also the child of Blizzard's biggest game they never made A game which a substantial portion of Blizzard spent years working on before it went dark and was eventually cancelled. A game we know almost nothing concrete about. A game known as Titan. So to fully tell the story of Overwatch, where it came from, and why it's chosen as Blizzard's first new IP in 17 years, we have to first tell the story of a group of people who spent years of their lives on a game nobody has ever Ever seen. A modest group of savvy designers, who years earlier combined to create one of the biggest video games of all time. My first project I worked on at Blizzard was Justice League Task Force [MUSIC] I'd never animated a thing in my life. But the boss saw that i could draw. And that there as something there in this 19 year old punk. And they stuck me on learning Deluxe Animator which was a pretty simplistic program back in the day where you animate four frames at a time. And it was super fun and I learned a lot. And it wasn't really until about a year later. [MUSIC] After I got hired we were really parking the ideas from Warcraft two and I fired up you know what that's you know I got this idea for the story and the boss serve me out as Pete would have it or whatever he took a chance another chance on me and let me write Warcraft two that's been Kind of crazy journey, ever since. Yeah, you sort of have your fingerprints in, essentially, if not all, most of Blizzard's games since the early 90's. For good or ill. [LAUGH] I didn't know much about Blizzard, before I joined here, which is super bizarre. I was more into the FPS community. I had known a lot about Id and Quake and Doom and I'd followed all those games and I was very into mod making for Half-Life and games like that. They hired two quest designers to start at the exact same time. It was me and a gentleman named Pat Nagle. Pat and I literally started on the same day and shared an office. And together we designed the Quest system, along with guys like Eric Dodds and Allen Adham. Allen's one of the founders of Blizzard. Eric is the game director on Hearthstone. Our little group designed the Quest system on World of Warcraft, and then in the early days when we first started, we split up. Pat did Elwin Forest, and I did Westfall and Pat and I would just sit in this, we sat back to back in the office and we were always leaning over like hey I'm trying this out, what do you think about that and it was really together that we sort of came up with the questing system in world of warcraft. You guys were back to back just like Crestfallen [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah exactly and then there was the scary death wood river outside of our office. [LAUGH] That we rarely crossed. [INAUDIBLE] other [INAUDIBLE] .>> Yeah and Pat made stitches. Really? yeah that was his quest. I started o what was called the Dungeon team. nd the Dungeon team was primarily the people that Would build all the dungeons and cities in the world. I start on that. I gotta build some of the dungeons in the game. I built a bunch of the original cities that were in the game. I worked on it all the way through shipment. It was such a blast. Awesome. So you built Storm Wind? [LAUGH] Yeah, I've got to build Storm Wind I guess, I'll like hold onto that one until my grave you know. Did someone else do Iron Forge, or? No, I did Iron Forge, I did a lot of the cities in there. Thunder Bluff, Iron Forge, Darnassus. Some of the other guys did the Under City. And so I was kind of a city guy. What was it like to seeing Stormwind realized on film? It was kind of a emotional moment for me. It was two years ago at BlizzCon. The first time Stormwind just popped up onto the screen I kind of teared up a little bit. It's amazing to see some of the work that you've done put into another medium and other people use it. After about a minute though everything changed and I started to get a little embarrassed and critical. Lovin'. I was pointing to things in the trailer because I watched it a number of times going I can't believe they actually used this thing that I put in there and never really liked it. But hopefully I'm the only one thinking that. Got a lot of the initial raid bosses starting with like Inixia I did like a blackened layer, blackened layer And then throughout that I just continued on that, a ton of raid bosses and the game started encounter team, I haven't been on the team awhile now and it's obviously grown significantly and theres a lot more to the world, but back then there was like 4 of us It was a different time, but it was a lot of fun. Were you part of the team that was working on [UNKNOWN]. Yeah, I was part of that initial team. At that point, I was out of work a while for a really long time and I kind of jumped at the opportunity to try something new, and it was a lot of fun for awhile. In World of Warcraft, Blizzard created one of the largest, most profitable, and most beloved game series ever made. A game with a fan base of millions over a decade later, a game with a multi million dollar movie coming out later this year. So when it came to Blizzard deciding what their next project should be, they gathered many of those same leaders [MUSIC] And set the sights on a new adventure. With all the success of World of Warcraft, it's no wonder their sights were aimed high. I think that we were feeling the success and thinking like, we could turn around and do another one of those. How hard was it? [MUSIC] Has anyone remember how rough it was the first time? But For all the 10,000, you know, wheels you need to reinvent just to make one of these work. And maybe there was a little bit of, you know, pridefulness in thinking that we'd just turn right around and rock one out. Blizzard doesn't talk about Python. It's notorious for being a no-go area during interviews And when you consider they're launching Overwatch next month, you can't blame them for not wanting to show the skeletons in their closet. So, what if anything we know about this game comes from rumor and uncredited sources. We know it was an MMO. It was possibly a multi-verse or a multi-genre game. It was larger in scope than World of Warcraft and a lot of the Blizzard was working on it. In fact, from my time talking to the [UNKNOWN] watch team, it had become clear that the majority of them had worked on Titon. So, I was interested to find out what happened that pushed all of these towns of people off of Titon, and onto overwatch. Maybe sometimes I look back to Titon and where we got a little We got a little squirrely under the weight of this giant idea that we were chasing. It's that we in some ways lost some connectivity with each other. Everyone starts going off to their own camps. And building their own parts. And just trying to protect the part of it that they can be uniquely responsible for. And we frayed a little bit. And we lost that That space where we're so strong, right. Where we report back together and everyone shares a little bit of the big picture. I talked to or I didn't talk I was at a Press Event at BlizzCon 2014 where you [UNKNOWN] kinda briefly He talked about the passion that sort of came from Titan and was sort of funnelled into Overwatch. Can you talk about that sort of time frame, like where Overwatch existed and was it split off from Titan or was it its own separate project that then everyone went ok we're working on this now. It was a little bit of both. So Overwatch is its own thing. The team that was working on Titan Which was a very large team and a very large project. Basically we shrunk down. When Titan was cancelled, we decided we were going to take a smaller group of people, and rethink what we could do. You know, let's think about doing something very different. The thing that was super special about that is. You had a really amazing group that was working on titan. They're really talented individuals. But, we failed horrifically, in every way. We failed in sort of every way a project can fail. And, it was devastating. You had these people who either came from other companies, or came from within Blizzard, and were used to working on games that were Very successful like a World of Warcraft for example. To go through such a complete and utter failure is very hard for people who are used to experiencing success and having that level of confidence just be shattered is kind of shocking. I think when, at the point in which we How would I say it, shut tight and off. We were pretty low. And being very honest about it we weren't used to feeling that way. We had so much good luck, and failing was rough and it tested us in ways that we had not been tested before. And that's why as we attempted to regroup And build a new idea, we decided to do it in very different ways and kind of account for the things that might have led us down those weirder paths. With the previous MMO idea we had to pull together. We had to take an honest, naked audit of What got us there and we want to work going forward got us to look at each other and treat each other and invest in each other regardless of what we made next It was the most bonding moment for this group because it was kind of a crisis of confidence and identity where we start to ask yourselves did we lose it do we not Know who we are anymore and we're not capable of making a great game anymore. So when we took that smaller group and said hey what do you guys want to do or what do you guys really believe in? We saw it as a last change. You know we kind of use the phrase often, you're only as good as your last game. and so you don't get big headed like yeah back in you know, for me in 2008 I worked on world of warcraft, well guess what that was in 2008 you know? My most recent game was an utter failure called Titan that got canceled. What can I do next to prove that that's not who I am? In the years during Titan's development video game dev sizes exploded. Studios like Ubisoft, EA, and even Blizzard's parent company Activision have made teams of thousands commonplace. But Titan, this massive idea which had multiple teams working on it, never came together for Blizzard. So i guess there two things a studio can do at that point, push on and try and fix the problems with more time, energy and money, or call it quits. Try and refocus their efforts. This decision was a very real moment for the titan team. What are we really doing? Are we just selling product for a corporation? I guess that's a part of it. But we're artists and craftsman, technologists and writers and poets, and all these other things coming together. [MUSIC] To build something that's greater than any of us could have achieved on our own. That has always been the story at Blizzard. And when we recognize that and come back to that very simple stance as we look around at each other. That is always where we've been strongest. Not worrying about the scale or the business. Not worrying about the scale and specificity of the video game we're trying to build for 12 different genius regions. It's coming back to people. What are you prepared to spend the next five years of our lives on, together. It was almost an embarrassment. And you wanted to stay with the company, because here you have these great projects, like Starcraft, Cheers of the Storm, [UNKNOWN], World of Warcraft. And then, you're sitting on the smoking pile of canceled Project and nobody said a word, everybody was super supportive to us but I think there was like this inward embarrassment that we need prove that we're worthy of being at Blizzard too and we can make something that makes the company proud as well. Yeah, it was a trying period of time. But it helped forge us in a lot of ways. I think the need to prove ourselves was really, really big following Titan to ourselves. Making video games takes time, it takes years and for dozens of people likely hundreds at the peak of Titan's development that was years down the drain. Some of the over watched team haven't shipped the game in a decade. Some of the team came to blizzard years to go And it's still yet to ship a game at the studio. This was a team heavily scared by years of work that nobody ever saw. Which is why when it came to Overwatch you can understand why&nbsp;they kept their cards so close to their chest. Nobody ever saw footage of Overwatch before it was announced at Blizzcon 2014. In our next two videos we'll explore what happened during those years. But The outside world didn't get a sniff of what this game was until Chris Metzin took to the stage. At the Anaheim Convention Center and showed it to the world. I was actually in the crowd that day covering the event for Game Spot eager to see if the rumors were true, that Blizzer were set to announce their first new IP in seventeen years, but for the over watched team, many of who were part of the titan team Who lined the first few rows of this audience of thousands. This was much more, it was the first time the world would actually see their work. It was proof that unlike Titan, Overwatch was real. Where were you when that happened? Man, I was bawling my eyes out in the front row. [LAUGH] You're not the first person to say that [LAUGH] Yeah it was really emotional. I think most of the team was near the front of the stage just watching Jeff an Chris unveil the game and it was incredible. I was one of the highlights of my career. That was one of the most amazing moments ever in my career and I've been doing this here for 22 plus years. I walked out, and I was so excited to share this thing with the world, I was trying to hopefully do a good job and set it up really well and I had 1000 things running through my head and I look out, it makes me emotional now, I'm a very sensitive kind of emotional Irish dude and so. Amen. It's hard for me to contain my excitement, passion, whatever. And I remember looking out, I'm like this is going okay so far, you know, I'm about to do the thing. And I see, I can't remember who it was anymore, it was like one section back. A couple familiar faces of my teen four brothers and sisters sitting there and everyone's just so owning the moment together, and it's like I almost started crying I'm like because as excited as I was to tell the world about Overwatch and as excited as I am about Overwatch, I was so. over joyed for my friends, whether one kid in that room liked it or not, it didn't matter, we pulled this thing together, we pulled our boots back on after you know, kinda falling in the dust after a few short years before, we pulled it together and we did a good job for each other, and we built this idea that just felt life sized. In a stupid way the thing that flashed through my head was we're back. Back from where I don't know but that feeling of like we did it, we climbed the mountain. Overwatch born from the ashes of Titan is an entirely different beast from whatever game that game was. And in the next two videos in this series, we'll fill in the blanks on those years Blizzard went under ground. We'll explore the shooters that Blizzard mined inspiration from and learn how the team designed Overwatch's maps, modes, and heroes. In fact here's one last little snippet that nicely ties the two together. We don't know much about how much [UNKNOWN] made its way into Overwatch but we did learn one thing. One of its lead heroes is staring us in the face this whole time. From the very beginning, when this entire thing started, we knew it was Tracer. Right, what is it about Tracer that was so, cuz a lot of people have said, that Tracer is one of the first characters. But Tracer actually seems like one of the more unique Characters on the I think it was, and this goes back to Titan, there was a character who had the ability like Tracer has. Don't worry love, cavalry's here. [MUSIC]