There is been a lot of rumors going on for last two years, concerning Blizzard North’s non-announced project, after Blizzard North executives resigned back on June 31, 2003. Blizzplanet has in the past started rumors that have turned out true, as in the case of Starcraft Going Multiplayer, two months before it was publically announced—as you may confirm at VoodooExtreme(IGN).
We are going now to analyze the evidence offered through past interviews and comments from Blizzard Employees to reach a veredict. This time the hammer drops on Blizzard North’s Unannounced project. You, the Juror, will have the final deliberation.
Going back in time—on February 7, 2004, an article by HollywoodReporter mentioned the following:
“According to industry observers, the departure of 25-30 Blizzard staffers in the past 10 months has prompted the San Mateo, Calif.-based Blizzard North development studio to merge its two teams into one and to cancel one of its two unannounced projects.”
I have had that HollywoodReporter article in mind constantly for months, as well as the words said by a Blizzard employee on the World of Warcraft Beta Forums on February 10th, 2004. Although the Beta Forums are forever gone, there was a Forum Watcher script at Wow.Ethrex.com that would capture Blizzard Employee’s posts. Here is the bold words from GFraizer concerning the game that was cancelled:
” It was Blizzard North so it was a Blizzard North type game. Blizzard North has made Diablo I, Diablo II, and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction..”
From the HollywoodReporter article we know that Blizzard North was working on two projects by 2003 and one of the games was cancelled, moving the remaining staff to the second team.
And a Blizzard Employee, three days after that article, hints that Diablo 3 might have been the canned game.
So we are back at square one. What is Blizzard North’s unanounced project? Whatever the game is, it is been cooking for over two years now.
Just few months ago, as reported by Gamespy, Dustin Browder, game design director for EA’s Battle for Middle-earth announced his leave from EA, and his new position as a Blizzard Employee to be effective on March 14th, 2005. Browder is under direction of Rob Pardo on an unveiled game. Browder didn’t know at that point what game he would be working on.
Taking a look at MobyGames, Dustin Browder has high expertise in developing RTS and Action type of Games like:
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle-Earth (2004)
Command & Conquer: Generals (2003)
Command & Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour (2003)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Dominion Wars (2001)
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2000)
Vigilante 8 (1998)
Heavy Gear (1997)
MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries (1996)
MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear’s Legacy (1995)
Curiosly Dustin Browder was assigned to work at Irvine, not at San Francisco-studio. Recently, Blizzard North was shut down, relocating employees to the headquarters in Irvine—where Dustin Browder is Senior Designer at.
Finally, Gameinformer recently interviewed Blizzard on July 18th, 2005, asking the following:
“Q: Will there be a StarCraft II? When?
A: Although we have not made any announcements and do not have a development or release timeline, we do fully intend to revisit the world of StarCraft on PC at some point in the future.”
Having in mind EXHIBIT A through EXHIBIT F, we have somewhat a big picture of the scene. Blizzard North’s unannounced game is an RTS game and it is not Starcraft 2. Another rumor has been that Diablo would be launched as a RTS game, but EXHIBIT B basically squashes that rumor. So we have now Starcraft 2 and Diablo III removed from the case. That would leave only two possibilities: Warcraft 4 is one, but having a huge success with over 3 million paid subscribers on the popular MMORPG World of Warcraft would make a Warcraft 4 very unlikely, since Blizzard doesn’t usually create games that may affect the sales of another game. Take in consideration that World of Warcraft Expansion was confirmed recently by Shane Dabiri on his Wow Battleplan Press Release.
The Irvine Team designated for Warcraft RTS games, is who works on Starcraft, but that team was moved to work on World of Warcraft after the release of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Most likely that team is now working on the World of Warcraft Expansion as we speak, while the second Irvine Team is developing new content for the current World of Warcraft: Zul’Gurub is scheduled for patch 1.7.0 and Ah’Quiraj instance in Silithus is scheduled for patch 1.9.0
That leaves both Irvine teams busy. In the past, Blizzard has always answered they plan to revisit the world of Starcraft for PC sometime in the future. But at the Gameinformer interview Blizzard was very precise and specific saying there is no current development of Starcraft 2 at this moment.
Now the question is why was Dustin Browder, an RTS developer, moved to Irvine as Senior Designer when the Warcraft 3/Starcraft Team is possibly working on the World of Warcraft Expansion. Blizzard North staff was relocated to Irvine to get all of their teams to have regular, direct input on each other’s projects. If Dustin Browder is working on a Blizzard North project from Irvine as Senior Designer, having the team relocated to Irvine makes things easier.
Many fans may doubt that Blizzard North may create games other than Diablo, but in reality, Blizzard North has contributed to all other Blizzard games. In an interview we had with Mike Huang—ex-Blizzard North employee—back on January 2004, he told us that as a Blizzard North employee they had to offer feedback to all games. Mike Huang was who gave the idea to a Starcraft programmer to make Protoss Buildings be powered by Pylons. He revealed to have worked on Warcraft 3 and even on World of Warcraft, which means Blizzard North isn’t simply a Diablo only studio. If Blizzard requests them to work on “X” project, they have the capability to do it.
That leaves only one possible answer for Blizzard North’s unannounced game: An RTS game based on a New creative universe not related to Starcraft, Warcraft and Diablo series. A new Franchise. A possible announcement of this mysterious game could be made at BlizzCon 2005 through October 28-29.