Titan Quest was designed so that our grandmothers would want to play it

We already know that the gaming industry is basically just a business these days and nothing more. We also know that publishers often interfere with their games’ development and most of the times, this is not a good sign. So after Arthur Bruno’s interview with RockPaperShotgun, a fan went ahead and complained at Crate’s forum. This is natural, everyone does it. What surprised us though was a post from Crate’s designer, Medierra, in which he claimed that Titan Quest was designed so that the grandmother of the higher-ups – and basically all of our grandmothers – would want to play it.
Now as you may have guessed, this had a huge impact to the game’s development. Iron Lore Entertainment were building a game with relatively complicated and hardcore gameplay systems but were also trying to make it thematically and visually appealing to as wide a casual audience as possible. The end result is that the game was a little more bland and generic in some respects than it should have been and the game world didn’t do much to convey a sense of danger. In other words, it was F’ed up.
Medierra continued that:
“One area where this handicapped us was in the creation of environmental assets that visually demonstrated the enemy’s war against humanity. We originally wanted to create enemy siege-works outside Athens but were told that would make the enemies seem too intelligent. It was a struggle just to monster camp assets. All of the ruins were also removed from Greece at one point because someone was afraid that players might not understand why, if the game took place in ancient times, that there would still be ruins… I had to fight for both of these things. Without them, Greece would have just been a featureless expanse of wilderness with occasional human towns that never really appeared to be in any serious danger.
At the same time, we were told that enemies should seem like noble adversaries, not evil or demonic creatures. It was highly controversial when the designs for the Limos and Arachnids were first presented. I had to personally fight to get those approved because they were considered too grotesque and scary looking even though they were based on actually mythology. Undead and the Spirit Mastery were also a struggle to get in the game. I was told that Spirit Mastery was too “Necromancery and evil”. We managed to push a few more things like that through over the course of development but it was always frowned upon.
Basically, my belief is that Titan Quest never had as much style and character as it could have because we were afraid to do anything even remotely controversial. When I first designed the skill masteries, they were all based on Olympian gods, with skills modeled after the powers or attributes associated with different gods in mythology. This was rejected because it was potentially too religious and people might not want to feel like they were worshiping mythological gods to receive their powers. “
The designer admited that they ended up with a game set in Greek mythology that barely contained any actual mythology other than the inspiration for some of the monsters and dialog on peripheral story-teller NPCs stuck off to the side in the towns. The first quest of the game was also originally way too different than the one we’ve experienced.
As Medierra added:
“The first quest I put in the game, when we were prototyping it for THQ was modeled after one of the 12 labors of Heracles. The Erymanthian Board was terrorizing a town and the hunters they sent after it hadn’t returned. You had to ascend mount Erymanthos, discover the wreckage of the hunter’s camp, and then continue on to the snow-capped summit to battle the monstrous board. Of course, I was told we couldn’t have snow on the summit because people might not realize it snowed in Greece and then later the whole quest vanished and was replaced by generic crap like retrieving a dowry ring so some chick can get married while monsters are overrunning the world.”
And this is why our dear publishers should not interfere with a game’s development. We don’t want generic crap guys, we want something new. So please, give them a chance and let them develop the game they wanted to. Let gaming prevail over business for once. Give gaming a chance to return in its golden days!