Thursday, December 9, 2010

Clash of the Titans (Again!)

You may have read previous posts where I waxed lyrical about PlanetSide and stated that it was truly ahead of its time, and also that Sony are apparently hard at work on a sequel, tentatively codenamed PlanetSide Next.

Something that is also semi-common knowledge, at least in MMO circles, is that Blizzard, creators of the monolith that is World of Warcraft are also working on an as-yet untitled and unannounced MMO which they have already confirmed is based in an entirely new universe and is a completely new IP (so no World of Starcraft I'm afraid, at least for now; given how long it took Blizzard to get Starcraft II out the door you can probably consider this a good thing).

One of the persistent rumours that I have been hearing on and off for over a year now is that Blizzard's new MMO is actually an MMOFPS and is apparently known internally at Blizzard as Titan.  Recently, a supposed "leak" of Blizzard's upcoming games and their timelines did the rounds on the web:

There is no guarantee that this is legitimate or even accurate, but I am going to proceed under the assumption that it is because, frankly, it gives me something to write about, and for other reasons that I will get into down the line.

As you can see from the chart, some interesting highlights are the Zerg-centric Starcraft II expansion pack Heart of the Swarm tentatively slated for Q4 2011 (no idea what "SC2 Phoenix" is) with the same Q4 2011 set for Diablo III; the next World of Warcraft expansion in Q2 2012 and the expansion after that one in Q4 2013.  After that check out the entry right at the bottom: Titan, also scheduled for Q4 2013.  Given that Blizzard have apparently been working on Titan for 2-3 years already, setting that game up for release essentially three years from now would give it a 5-6 year development cycle, broadly similar to World of Warcraft when it first launched in 2004.

I find this interesting for several reasons.  Firstly, the name Titan.  I thought the name rang a bell, and after some searching found out why.  Ensemble Studios, a now-defunct developer famous for the Age of Empires series, was also working on an MMO before being closed by its parent company, Microsoft.  The codename of that MMO project?  Also Titan.  It was going to be an MMOFPS set in the Halo universe and was apparently worked on quite extensively by Ensemble before Microsoft pulled the plug on both the game and the studio.

Like House, I do not believe in coincidences.  What I do believe in are higher-order designs masquerading as coincidences that we simply do not understand right now because we do not have all the pieces assembled in front of us.  Completing one piece of this particular puzzle, an employee of Ensemble, Greg Street, now works for Blizzard (you may know him better as Ghostcrawler, if you have ever plumbed the depths that comprise the official WoW forums) and was rumoured to have been working on Ensemble's Titan before that project ended.  Coincidence?  Like I said, they don't exist.

Secondly, if true this would put Blizzard and Sony on opposing sides in a large-scale battle for supremacy over another portion of the MMO market, again.  Earlier this decade it was World of Warcraft versus EverQuest II, a fight that WoW decisively won.  Now, history could be repeating itself by setting up the next clash between Sony and Blizzard, this time between PlanetSide Next and Titan.  Sony must be shitting themselves.  One minute they have the corner on the MMOFPS market with a new PlanetSide to reinvigorate the series and get people back into thinking of large-scale epic combat, then they hear that those upstarts over at Blizzard are now making their own MMOFPS, and on a similar timeline to PlanetSide Next as well.

Ironically, this could turn out to be a blessing for you and I, the humble gamer.  We can basically sit on the sidelines, try both, and reward the better game with our time and (most importantly) money.  Of course there is always the possibility that both are great games and are successful in their own right, but history teaches us that this is usually the exception, not the rule.  But hey, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are still going so they must both be doing something right, yes?

So there it is.  With no official information about either PlanetSide Next or Titan it's hard to go into it much further.  There has essentially been nothing new regarding PlanetSide Next for a couple of years now, to the point where I recently sent the President of Sony Online Entertainment, John Smedley, an impassioned email asking about the status of the game.  Expecting no response (as I'm sure he is a busy guy) I actually got a three-word reply no more than an hour later, simply "It's coming soon."  When I asked for clarification about whether that meant the game or just information about the game, this time I got two words back: "the game."  So whilst I didn't exactly get a scoop resembling the Pentagon Papers, it would seem to confirm that the game is still under active development.  Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.  I hope to hear something about it at E3 2011, but who knows.

As for Titan, maybe an announcement at next year's BlizzCon?  Blizzard tend not to attend E3, at least not the main show, so BlizzCon would likely be their vehicle of choice to stage a game reveal at.  For now, we just have to wait.

As Zilean would say, "all in good time."

1 comment:

  1. It's impressive if SOE can keep PS Next under raps for so long with out any leaks. I imagine that there are tons of people that would be all over even the smallest bit of info about it. Certainly exciting news if it's true!