Tim Willits is energized. id Software’s Studio Director is deep in the development of Quake Champions but – even at this early stage for the upcoming PC shooter – Willits is feeling great. That’s due in part to a recent exhibition match with some of the top Quake players in the world. At this year’s QuakeCon, Willits gathered up top talent from around the globe – big names like eSports legend Fatal1ty, along with Russia’s evil, Austria’s noctis and Finland’s DraQu – to test out Quake Champions, offer their feedback, then play a live exhibition match exclusively for the QuakeCon fans. “It was an assembly of arguably the best Quake players in the world,” Willits says. “It was a group of players that we may never again see on a stage playing a match together.”
But why this gathering of players… and why so early? Because Quake Champions is gearing up to deliver not just the core Quake experience, but also a top competitive game that resonates with today’s players. For more insight into what’s next for Quake Champions, we caught up with Willits to get his take on everything from eSports to the pros’ reactions to the new Champions.
Why was it so important to gather up these top players at this early stage in Quake Champions’ development?
The first goal in developing Quake Champions was to ensure that it’s a true Quake game that builds on the legacy of the franchise. We needed to win the hearts of the best Quake players in the world to demonstrate that this is a true Quake game, and that the competitive nature of the franchise is there. Having the very first public match of Champions in the world played by the best Quake players in the world is a bold and strong statement.
Photo courtesy of Larry Gibson
It’s also important for us that Quake Champions stays true to the legacy of Quake with rocket jumping and air control, and that was clearly on display with the competitive players. I think most of them took about ten steps when they first loaded up the game and then rocket jumped. They felt good about the speed and the air control and picking up your top speed with strafe jumping. Those things were intimately familiar to the pro players.
Were you surprised by any of their reactions to the game?
I was very encouraged by their reactions. Obviously, we are still in development, and we received a lot of great feedback from the pro players. But the feedback was positive. They liked the Champions. They understood that it was an additive feature and that it enhanced the strategy of the game, especially in team games. We actually had a few of the pro players ask for the abilities to do more. That surprised me. One of the guys said one of the Champions actually moved too fast. That was also surprising. But in general, they had a positive reaction to the game. They understood the direction and where we want to take the game.
Did the players have a favorite Champion?
One of the concerns I had going into this test – and this isn’t just the ten pro guys we had onstage, but all of the competitive players that tested the game – was that everyone would lean toward one Champion. I was worried we would have a match where everyone just picked Anarki because he’s the fastest. It really was encouraging for me to see the players pick different Champions. The diversity of the Champions and the fact that they had different strategies that quickly came to life for each Champion was encouraging.
Is there anything you’re going to change based on the pros’ feedback?
We gathered a ton of feedback from everyone who played – from acceleration around a turn to weapon-swap speeds, and even to game mode adjustments for Sacrifice and some other modes that I can’t mention at this time. It was really nice to talk to the hardcore Quake players who could be very specific in their feedback. Because of the points they brought up, we are making adjustments to movement speed, the Sacrifice game mode, some of the Champions’ abilities. It really was helpful for us at this stage of development to receive this feedback and have it be actionable feedback that we can actually put into the game early on.
eSports is clearly a big part of Quake Champions, but why is this also a great competitive game for any type of player?
Quake Champions is designed to be a competitive game that anyone can play. We believe that our matchmaking system and our ranking system, as well as the very nature of the Champions, will lend themselves to a great entry into this game for people who aren’t familiar with Quake or maybe just haven’t played it.
With Quake Champions, we will have free-for-all modes and duels, but our focus on team game modes allows everyone to participate in a team, and with the Champions it allows people who are newer to the game to find a Champion that will let them have more of an impact on their team, and therefore have a better chance of being successful. That’s the success loop that we want to create with our players to give them that positive feeling and to let them have fun no matter what skill level they are.
What’s next for Quake Champions?
We’re already incorporating the feedback we received at QuakeCon. We are, of course, making more Champions and creating more levels and working through different game modes and making sure they are as solid as they can be. We will have more groups come into our studio to play, and we will continue to make gameplay changes based on feedback. Then we look to our early access period next year, when we can get more of our Quake fans in and we can continue to test the game and polish it.