When the doors opened for day one of PAX East 2017, the queue for Quake Champions was long, and understandably so. The fast-paced multiplayer shooter attracted fans across its numerous installments, and id Software wanted those keep those fans and attract newcomers, too. After the initial reveal at E3 last year as well as the showing of early gameplay footage from Quakecon, PAX East attendees were the next batch of fans to try the game. We spent some time with Quake Champions, and Tim Willits, id Software’s studio director, provided us with some bonus information.
We were able to play a traditional team deathmatch game with two teams of five players. There were also nine characters, or champions, to choose from in the roster (Willits said that the game will feature 12 champions at launch). My choice of champion was a character that was revealed at PAX East: a woman named Slash. Just like the other champions in the group, she had her own special ability--she can leave a small trail of blue light in her wake, which explodes when you press a button.
Because Quake Champions is a free-to-play title, Willits said you’ll have to unlock each character with Favor, an in-game currency. However, you can choose to buy the game outright, and that gives you access to all of the characters from the start. Even then, you can still opt to use real-world money to buy items, such as armor sets, but they won’t give you an advantage in combat.
Prior to the match, we had a short warm-up session that provided me more than enough time to test out Slash’s ability and readjust to the fast-paced gameplay. It was my first time with the game, so I spent some time exploring the map, called the Ruins of Sarnath, which was a slowly decaying temple that had multiple levels, rooms, and even a massive eye in its lower depths. As I ran around the area, I also picked up a few guns that were placed around the map just to test them out. Then the countdown began to start the match.
When the game started, I split ranks from my team and ran down another corridor. It seems that one of our opponents had a similar idea, and we ran into each other in a small room. We traded gunfire, and I barely escaped with my life as the opposing character fell. I nabbed two more kills before I was offed myself, but in those first few minutes, I immediately felt as if I was playing the old Quake games again. Movement and combat are so fast that you have to constantly be alert whether you're sprinting down a corridor, jumping towards a high ledge, or moving around a corner.
For most of the match, both teams were even in terms of points, but then the two groups decided to fight for control of a small hallway that had access to health, armor, and weapons. As Slash, I tested my special ability in this area. I could dash past enemies to leave my trail and explode it once I was clear of the hallway, or I could lead foes away and then use the trail as a trap when they least expected it. Neither tactic helped much; I was continually blasted away by shotguns and grenade launches when I was too close to an opposing player. However, my team held the ground for a few more minutes before our opponents started to increase their lead by double digits.
In the end, we lost, but the experience itself was exhilarating. It’s been years since I played a Quake game, and the fact that I so quickly remembered all of its unique gameplay elements and fast-paced combat made me happy that there was a new installation in the works. The map was large enough that there was room to run around and even flank the opposing team, but it was also small enough that it takes seconds, not minutes, to find a kill.
If you couldn’t attend PAX East this weekend, you can still play Quake Champions soon. The studio recently announced that sign-ups for the closed beta session are open to the public, and it seems as if it’s the best option to play the game within the next few months; Willits said that there’s no specific end date for the beta because the studio wants to hear as much player feedback as possible.
“For us we want to listen to our fans," he said. "For instance, we ran a closed test for some of our pro players at Quakecon last year, and they said that we needed to change our Sacrifice game mode, so we did it. We want to get people playing, and then we want to make adjustments to champions, game modes, and maps."
He added, "We already know Quake is fun. We got that. But we want to listen to our closed beta fans and make adjustments. If everyone loves it and say it’s great, good; if not, we have to work on it.”
When it does come out as a finished title, however, Willits and the id Software team already have plans to release new content such as more champions, game modes, and additional features for esports spectators. Even with all that content, the overall work on the game will continue.
“When we finally go live, it will be the start--not the end--of development, because this is a live, living game that we want to release content for as long as it’s successful.”
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