After successfully rebooting both Wolfenstein and Doom, the first-person shooter pioneers at id Software have turned their gaze to the last pillar of the holy id trinity – Quake. Spearheaded by studio director Tim Willits, who worked on level design for the first three Quake games, Quake Champions is a renewed foray into the competitive shooter market. We sat down with Willits at E3 to discuss what's the same, what's different, and how Quake Champions fits into the super-competitive modern FPS scene.
Here are the key takeaways from our conversation.
Quake Champions Is Not A MOBA
The thought that Quake was transitioning to the MOBA genre never even crossed my mind while watching the Champions trailer, but the topic came up so frequently for Willits in the aftermath of the Bethesda Showcase that he made a point to bring it up right when our conversation began. Anyone worried that their favorite shooter was going the way of League of Legends or Smite can relax. This is a classic first-person shooter.
The Quake Pillars Are Fully Intact
Quake multiplayer is associated with arena combat and high-speed movement featuring rocket jumping, strafe jumping, and air control. All of these elements return to Quake Champions, as well as weapon spawns (no loadouts!) and timed item pick-ups. And yes, the rocket launcher, railgun, and lightning gun are all in the mix. "We want to get back to that Quake I look with a Quake III feel," Willits says.
The first Quake was inspired heavily by the works of H.P. Lovecraft (the final boss was even named Shub-Niggurath), so expect lots of visual and lore nods to the classic horror author in Champions as well.
But Yes, There Are Heroes
With titles like Overwatch, Battleborn, Rainbow Six Siege, and Lawbreakers either out already or coming soon, we've clearly entered the era of hero shooters. Count Quake Champions among the contestants in this heavily populated arena.
“A lot of people say hero shooters are everywhere," Willits says. "Yes, that's true, but I truly believe it's a natural evolution of the genre. You have your core gameplay – the things that make the game great – and then adding personality, abilities, and differences to these individual characters allow you to play differently and adds a layer of gameplay.“
Without weapons to define a hero, id is relying on unique visual styles along with both passive and active special abilities. Willits says id is building its champion abilities around a rock, paper, scissors conceit, making sure natural counters exist for every special ability. Players should experiment to discover the combinatorial advantages that exist by pairing certain characters together.
The Bethesda showcase trailer revealed four champions. Ranger (the protagonist from the first game) is the classic Quake contestant designed for fans of the originals, bringing the dire orb into battle that allows him to teleport. The blue-haired Nyx is a fast competitor armed with a Phase Shift ability. Quake III fans should remember Visor, who now is armed with a Piercing Sight ability that enables him to track enemy movement through walls. The final Champion that appeared in the trailer is ScaleBearer, who has a crushing bull-rush ability similar to Overwatch's Reinhardt.
Id already has a bunch of Champions built, but the team is still unsure of how many will ship with the game when it launches.
Champions Is PC Only...For Now
Both Wolfenstein and Doom released on multiple platforms, but for id's renewed push into eSports, the developer feels like PC is the best place to start with Quake Champions.
"I love my console fans. We're not completely shutting the door on console, but that's not what we're making," Willits says. "We want to make [Quake Champions] with no excuses and no limitations. We feel that keyboard/mouse running at 120Hz with high-input sampling rate gives us the best chance to hit that pro-gamer market."
Sticking with one platform for the time being allows id to concentrate on making the best matchmaking, shoutcasting, tournament infrastructure possible. Following the modern traditions seen across many competitive video games, id plans to focus around season play, with each season taking a few months to complete and end-capped by an open tournament. Once a season ends, that's when id plans to make balancing adjustments if necessary and introduce new champions.
Id Hasn't Figured Out Monetization Yet
Thus far, id's focus has been on gameplay and champion building. When I ask Willits what the monetization plan is, he says they aren't worrying about it yet. Willits says some users like to pay for everything upfront, while others argue you can't get the type of player install base needed to support competitive play if it's not free-to-play. Some games are starting to adopt a hybrid approach, which id is watching carefully to see how they shake out.
Quake Champions has no confirmed release date. In classic id fashion, Willits says the game will be done when it's done. "The closed beta period will be as long as it needs to be," he says. "We will make some adjustments during closed beta, because we got to get it right otherwise we're dead in the water."
Look for more information on Quake Champions to come out during Quakecon in early August. Id hopes to introduce its new eSports focused mode at the event – if it's ready.