Titan (canceled game)
Titan was the codename for a canceled Halo massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by Ensemble Studios between 2004 and 2007. Following the project's cancellation in 2007, Ensemble Studios focused all of its resources into developing Halo Wars.
Titan's origins began in 1998 following the release of Ultima Online. At this time, designer Ian Fischer began pitching a sci-fi MMO to Ensemble Studios, due to his love for the genre. The game was designed to compete against Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, The prototype went through many design iterations, before eventually being married to the Halo IP and being given the codename Orion. At some point, the project name was changed to Titan.
By 2004, development on the project had begun fully, with a budget of around $90 million USD. To support the operations of such a large scale project, a new 60,000 square-foot campus was commissioned for construction. Around 40 staff in three teams worked on Titan while other Ensemble staff focused on developing Halo Wars, though one team remained on the project for six months. During the early stages of Titan's development, Ensemble took inspiration from World of Warcraft's general structure and gameplay.
The project was said to be radically different in the later stages, exploring then-novel concepts and gameplay additions such as "heroic stylized artform" and cover system (later used in Star Wars: The Old Republic), and public quests (later used in Warhammer: Online). Instead of mana points as used in World of Warcraft, a character's special ability energy was referred to as psion.
Titan was internally cancelled in mid-to-late 2007 with no formal announcement of its development by Microsoft. By this time, the majority of the studio's staff were expecting the MMO to be the company's focus in the future and Ensemble had a server infrastructure for the game, a World of Warcraft-scale gameplay zone and many of the vehicle and gunplay mechanics in a playable state.
Titan was cancelled due to a shift in leadership within Microsoft, as the company saw the success of the Nintendo Wii and ultimately decided to change their shift into a more casual-friendly direction - with this came the decline of interest in the Titan project and the $90 million funding. With the cancellation of Titan, the studio's staff and efforts were shifted into the ongoing Halo Wars project which released in 2009.
Art direction, story and setting
To view a full gallery of concept art produced for Titan, see here
Titan was to have been set in the era of the Forerunners, intending to go back in time within the Halo universe to tell a "more broad story" similar to that employed by The Old Republic within the Star Wars setting. Although Covenant species such as the Elites, Grunts, Jackals and Brutes were to feature, the game would not feature the Covenant as a faction with things being "more broken up", explained by Dave Pottinger as "The Covenant weren't quite the Covenant yet". Despite the Forerunner era setting, the Covenant and UNSC forces featured in the game retain the designs of the modern-era Halo setting.
During the game's earlier stages of development, Ensemble studios produced concept art to explore the "heroic stylised" artform employed by the game. Much of the artwork developed was done to explore what would and would not work in the final game, with no guarantee any concept design would make it to the final shipped title. In keeping with the outlined Forerunner era-setting, much of the concept art explores designs for Forerunners and their armour - with one piece of art labelled as
Overall, the concept art shown for the game went in a very extreme art direction, though screenshots shared of in-game assets and engine builds show that the art direction was reigned in considerably to be something more recognisable to what Halo was, with little of the more outlandish concepts such as extremely exaggerated female player models and new alien species known to make it into 3D production. Some concept art depicts the Flood as an element within the world and infecting characters.
In keeping with the Forerunner setting, a number of environment concept pieces depict Forerunner cities and architecture. Notably, a number of pieces uploaded by Dylan Cole depict the cities with a much more conventional realism aesthetic, though others do depict the cities in the more cartoon-like style adopted in the rest of the game. This city can be seen in released engine builds, along with other environments such as jungles and deserts. These screenshots also depict the game to be set on a Halo ring.
Notably, a number of concept art pieces released for Titan have also been released under the Halo Wars titling, indicating a number of concepts and ideas were shared between games.
In 2008, user "goneisgone" uploaded an album of images of the Titan prototype to a Flickr gallery. These images are archived below, and can also be found here. Ensemble Studios employee Shannon Dees additionally uploaded several images to her Tumblr blog here and her personal portfolio website here.