So this game has been out for a while, I was totally pumped for it, and it's abundantly clear that this game is a flop. It has absolutely no Twitch presence whatsoever, which is by far the most important metric for measuring how well a game is doing these days, and provides a snowball effect where you get lots of free advertisement. However, it's still in early access so I believe there's time to salvage it. Furthermore, Fortnite is exploding, and while it's not going work for e-sport, because of the player count, it's still an extremely high skill cap game, the best players literally queue into a 1v4 situation to challenge themselves, so it's completely clear that there's a market for hardcore competitive FPS, and if you make a good game, people WILL play it. This article has become extremely long, and the bottom line, it is long because I love Quake, it is one of my favorite games of all time, I want it to succeed, and I am genuinely upset that this game is failing. It's also long because it's less about what to do, and more about how to do it and why to do it.
Look, the market is clearly there, e-sports is exploding, you just need to tap into it. And I think, that Quake has huge one advantage, over the current e-sport titles out there, and if you could just get players into it, it would really take off. One of the biggest complaints about League of Legends is that eventually the game gets to a point where the one team is so far ahead that they have to seriously mess up in order to lose the game. It makes losses extremely frustrating when you're playing. And Quake, is the complete opposite. Until the clock gets real low, it's never over. And the biggest reason that Quake Champions isn't good is that this aspect of the game is totally missing right now.
I've spent a lot of time playing lots of different competitive games. I've played Starcraft and MLG Halo at a very high level, I tried to get into fighting games and I'm just not good at them, and I played League and Dota at an above average level. And I've talked to many people I met from these games who are big into competitive gaming and tournament scenes in general, some of these people being so hardcore they were the sort of people who showed up at events in the days there were open brackets for LAN events, about the time they tried Quake over the decades and the complaints are always the same, and the people always come up with the same complaints independently, none of these people know each other. In the Quake community, we treat these people as if they're casuals, because they aren't playing the better game, but I've realized that's actually not fair, and their complaints are legitimate.
1) I feel like I die too quickly
2) There's too many weapons and I can't figure them out
3) The weapon I spawn with is useless and I feel it's unfair
4) Everyone is so good and I just get destroyed and I'm not having any fun
And then I ask them what mode they played, they played FFA Deathmatch and I roll my eyes, only one guy actually tried to play Duel first, but I get more into that later. And the one thing that always comes up, even though they don't want to play the game personally, they always still have an overwhelming amount of respect for it. They love the movement, they love the reliability of the weapons, they love the maps, they love the IDEA of Quake and recognize that it is one of the highest skill cap games to ever exist. They just can't get into it.
I feel like I'm in a unique position in the Quake community because I'm honestly an outsider but I'm always hanging around on the edge. So I have a good grasp of the problems that people who don't play Quake have with the game, the incredible reservations that Quake players have with changing the game, and I thought it over for a long time, and I've come up a three step process that keeps everyone happy, and WILL revive Quake. So, here we go.
Step 1) Go all-in on the champion mechanic, significantly changing the global balance of the game, with characters designed to appeal to different ranges of skill, designed in such a way that it appeals to the MOBA crowd
Step 2) Split the game into Casual and Competitive modes, with a focus on large scale, Casual Clan Arena, to get the attention of the Battle Royale crowd and make Quake easier to learn
Step 3) Throw the engine in the trash and redesign Quake Champions as a low spec game, adding tons of easier to make cosmetics with a wider variety of characters in the process. As you do this, you bring the console back.
Now I will be totally honest. I think the champion mechanic actually is well designed for what it is, but it's just not possible to balance it for Duel. But it has a serious problem. It is trying to be balanced for competitive play, and as a result, it's trying to appease too many people at once, and in the end, absolutely no one is happy about it. If you're a new player, the differences between champions are too minor, and it's not interesting. If you're a veteran player, you don't want to deal with it at all, you just want to play Quake. If you're a pro player, you suck it up and play it even though you don't like it. I kind of like it, but I can see why it has no mass appeal. And the bottom line is, if you want to make money, you need to make something with mass appeal, that still captures the magic of competitive Quake. And there is a bigger problem, where it is actually just going to be outright impossible to balance the champions for competitive play, and Clutch is evidence of this. Here's the problem with Clutch, he's actually fun as hell, he's extremely well designed, but he just has no place in competitive, and the only way to balance him for competitive is going to be to gut his movement, but I don't want you to do that.
It is abundantly clear that id took a look at Overwatch and tried to put their own spin on it. But the reality of the situation is, that Overwatch is a bad game, it is only popular because Blizzard made it. It is not exactly dying, but it is not growing, and it is totally impossible to spectate. If any other company other than Blizzard made it, it would have been a flop. So it really should not be shocking, that a game that is copying Overwatch, is not doing well. If you want to copy a game, and poach its demographic, then the game you want to copy isn't Overwatch, it's League of Legends. Love it or hate it, you must admit that it is an extremely popular game.
And the reason why you need to go after the League of Legends demographic is really quite simple. If you ask a random person on the street what the ultimate tryhard game is, they're probably going to tell you that it's League of Legends. And Quake used to be the game, where if you're finally bored of CS and looking for something harder, it was the ultimate tryhard game. That was just the reputation that Quake 3 got after it had been out for a few years. Quake needs to appeal to the current generation of tryhards in order for it to succeed, and currently it does not. It also has a problem that we all know about, where it's just so overwhelmingly difficult to get into, and it's why Quake ultimately died off. So I am going to suggest a series of things which when all put together, accomplish several things.
1) They lower the complexity and skill floor of Quake in a way that casuals can get into it
2) They raise in the complexity of the game in a way that will appeal to both casuals and tryhard MOBA players
3) They let you introduce things that are fun as hell to play to mess around on but utterly broken in the hands of an experienced player, like Clutch currently is right now, without messing the competitive side of the game up
4) They alleviate almost all the complaints I've gotten about Quake from various friends
Now that one of the reason that League is so popular, is that it not only has a wildly diverse array of champions, it has a wildly different array of skill floors. There is something in League called an "intro champ" - champions which are balanced in a way where they are simply not good at the highest level but are good at low levels of play, for players who are brand new. Then there are some champions that are completely useless in the hands of an inexperienced player, have very low winrates, but are still very strong in diamond level play. So you need to some champions who design champions who are very simple to play, and some champions who are very complex to play.
But Quake is a very different game, it was designed a symmetrical game, so what you do is you split the game into casual and competitive. And if you want to play competitive, there is only one champion you can play. I decided he should be Xaero, because by the lore, he is the strongest champion of all time. And this is the magical solution to the problem that id can't solve. How do you implement the champions in Duel? It's easy. You don't! You only implement it in such a way that it appears to be part of the champion system, when in reality, it is actually removing it from the game. And it actually makes some sense that a martial arts themed champion is the only one capable of dueling.
The first thing you notice about Xaero, is that he cannot be unlocked with in-game currency, will never show up in a loot box, and he is much more expensive to buy than any other champion. You get rid of the "buy the game to unlock everyone" mechanic, set Xaero's price to whatever you want the MSRP of the game to be, and severely lower the price of other champions, and make them unlockable with just in game currency. He serves as a paywall to keep aimbotters out of serious modes. For the casual, free to play side of it, aimbotting will just have to be a problem, it's an inevitable side effect of a free to play game. I run into botters in Fortnite very frequently, probably once every 5 games. Because Quake Champions is currently not popular, it is not a major problem, but if it became popular, it will be.
Now, in the hands of an inexperienced player, Xaero is COMPLETELY useless. Xaero's baseline stats are exactly the same as the Quake 3 guy, and aside from the fact he has a really small hitbox, everyone else is stronger than him, when measured by raw stats alone. He is the only champion in the game who has decaying health off spawn. And whatever his ability is, it is really useless, it is something that is totally utility based, and is really only useful in competitive play, the best example I could think of is "Zen Monk - Drop your equipped weapon". So how exactly do you make Xaero strong? You give him a series of passives that do not help him in a direct fight, but if you are really good at the game, will provide you significant advantages, and are things, that the competitive side of Quake wants back.
1) Grandmaster of Movement - Xaero is a champion with uncapped movement speed. Visor no longer has it, he has something else.
2) Grandmaster of Control - Unlike other champions, Xaero is able to exceed the maximum health and armor cap by 100/100, instead of 50/50.
3) Grandmaster of Aim - Xaero is the only champion in the game who still has infinite inventory.
Everyone else spawns with a unique weapon with infinite ammo, two secondary weapons, and the ability to pick up the three power weapons - Rocket, Rail, LG. Outside of the holy trinity, if you don't spawn with a weapon, it transforms into a universal ammo box on the map for you, which gives your two secondary weapons half the ammo that picking the weapon up would. We reduce the casual side of the game to champion kits so that players don't feel overwhelmed by learning a million weapons at once, and every champion plays substantially different. Xaero's unique weapon is just the gauntlet, and his other two weapons are just the starting weapons, most likely generic, all purpose weapons, that do not shine in a particular situation, and in competitive modes, these weapons do seriously reduced damage. With other champions, you take a very different approach. You mirror the holy trinity of weapons, and then you balance some of them so it's theoretically more powerful than a power weapon in the right situation, but in practice, it's too hard, and only the best players can treat it as if it's an actual weapon.
So here is exactly, and I stress exactly, how you approach giving every champion a unique combination of weapons. Now, this seems like a lot of work, but a lot of it has actually already been done. Dire Orb, Acid Spit, and the Mining Drill are all perfectly good unique weapons that would just need number tweaks. You just need to rejigger their ability in such a way that it interacts with their weapon, and in Clutch's case, specifically, he doesn't need two abilities. Again, this is something that League of Legends does, where abilities interact with other abilities, and people enjoy it a lot.
1) You spawn with one weapon that provides projectile based splash damage somehow that mirrors a rocket and can be used for zone control like a rocket but it's not nearly as good for that utility purpose. Acid Spit is a good example, of an ability that now becomes a weapon.
2) You spawn with a high DPS short-midrange weapon, like a shotgun or plasma gun. Weapons that severely lose effectiveness once you cross LG range, and sometimes mirror the LG and do not work period, although the exact range the weapon falls off can be highly flexible.
3) You spawn with a low DPS long range weapon, a class of weapons that currently does not exist beyond the rail in Quake and will need to be invented. If a champion has much higher damage than usual in this weapon slot, then you need to take a lot of power out of their base stats. You can make a champion with preference for fighting at range, but you cannot make a "sniper" class in Quake. It will break the game.
4) Out of these 3 weapons, one of them is their "unique weapon", which has infinite ammo and is completely unique to the champion. It is generally something that really functions like nothing else in the game and gives the champion a unique playstyle and is probably their best weapon of the 3. Xaero cannot use these unique weapons, as many of them are not balanced for competitive. So they do not ever exist as a weapon pickup.
5) Of the remaining two weapons, they are "secondary weapons" that are not unique to the champion. The combination of weapons they get cover up the ranges that their unique weapon cannot fight at. The tri-bolt is a perfectly good example of what I have in mind. Xaero, with his passive, is the only champion who can still get a hold of all these weapons at once, but he does not spawn with them, he must get them. The total number of secondary weapons is most likely 15, to fill the keyboard to 6YHB for Xaero.
6) Thematically, you approach each champion by trying to give them weapons that make sense based on the game they came from, especially if they were the main character of the game.
So for Ranger, he's the free to play champ, so we keep his weapons simple. You give him the Dire Orb as his unique, then you give him a Nailgun, and you give him a new weapon, based off the QW Shotgun, called the Boomstick, where is it a shotgun with an extremely tight spread. Boom. He has what he needs to fight at all ranges, but he still has incentive to get the three power weapons of Quake. And every time you acquire one of the weapons in the holy trinity, one of your starting ones has become obsolete. But it is not because they are truly weaker, it is because they are designed, for whatever reason, to be much harder to use. And you do something that was common in configs. You split the 6 weapon hotkeys like this - CQC Weapon, Midrange Weapon, Long Range Weapon, Starting CQC Weapon, Starting Midrange Weapon, Starting Long Range Weapon. And so once you pick up a power weapon, it has priority on the hotkey. The entire system is designed to drill it into the head of newer players that the game really only revolves around 3 weapons. Too many new players feel overwhelmed by how many guns there are, and they don't understand that most of the weapons are really only good in very narrow situations and the best weapons have a much more flexible range of use. For Xaero, because he is only for advanced players, you give him a completely different section of the hotkey config in the settings, and you do it like UT4 does where it has a lot of customization on weapon groups, which is absolutely necessary, because there's so many new weapons in the game.
Now as I previously mentioned League does a good job providing a diverse array of champions, but they also do it in such a way where they all fall into a couple of archetypes. Because Quake is a game, where even in team modes, you ultimately play for yourself, you need to design champions in such a way that every champion is self sufficient. You do not want to approach it like Overwatch, where if you're playing Widowmaker and someone with good CQC gets in your face, you're boned. You do not want to approach it like a MOBA where you design a series of classes that all have synergy with each other, and are totally reliant on each other to work together to win fights. For casual play, you get rid of the idea of a general purpose, really weak weapon, and let players immediately jump into wrapping their head around weapon selection. Every champion is totally self reliant, and while they may have a range where they excel at, they are never completely gimped at other ranges. And the differences in weapons are drastic enough, that it keeps them playing.
This system gets the complexity of a champion to be equal to the complexity of a League of Legends champion, which will make the game appear to have more depth to casuals, and keep them busy. Three weapons and an ability. Now, the one problem with this is that you need to come up with a lot of new weapons, especially tier 2 weapons that are long ranged ones. And not all abilities that are also weapons can be redesigned so that they are unique weapons. Doom's Berserk is one where it doesn't fit into the archetype. So what we do, if an ability also does damage, we significantly increase its potential to get them on par with a League of Legends ultimate. You do NOT want them on par with an Overwatch ability, where it's totally faceroll. They should all be highly skill based where you can easily blow your one shot to drastically turn a fight if you're not playing well, just like League. Reliable ultimates in League are actually extremely rare and if a champion has one they make serious sacrifices on their kit somewhere else.
And what you do, in exchange, is real simple. When you die, you lose all progress on your cooldown. It will make the hourglasses more valuable, and increase the skill cap of the game by rewarding surviving, but it will do it in a way, that won't piss casuals off. Surviving long enough to get your ultimate off will be real rewarding. A lot of new players just don't stop and think, hmm, I should really be as careful as possible and go out of my way to not die. They just want to fight and keep charging. It will reinforce a very hard thing to understand about Quake, that until the clock is running out, you do not go rambo, your first goal is to just stay alive, then get strong with items, and then start racking up kills. Remember, we are not trying to balance abilities for competitive anymore. We are trying to make the game more flashy.
Now I know what you're probably thinking. We tried something similar to this with the loadout system in Quake Live, and it didn't work. And well, you gave everyone a rocket launcher off spawn without increasing the spawning health of the game, so yeah, it didn't work! So in order to pull this off, you need to significantly rework the stats of the characters.
The starting health of the game needs to go up significantly. A squishy character like Nyx should probably spawn at a minimum of 100/50, perhaps higher, but I think that's a good starting point. The bottom line is, that most people find the spawn-die-spawn-die nature of Quake way too frustrating. And something happened in League a few years back where they globally nerfed an entire class of champions, Assassins, the champions whose entire design is to one shot other champions. Casual players do not enjoy this element of the game, and they were really dominating low level play. It is only something you enjoy once you reach a certain level of skill, but you need to get there in the first place. And because of this, Assassins are rarely seen in competitive anymore, but it was a compromise they had to make in order to balance the casual side of the game. They tried to do it in a way that increased skill caps and it didn't really work. On the other hand, the maximum health and armor of champions does not need to change much. The bottom line is, if you want the game to appeal to casuals, you need to give them useful weapons off spawn, and increase durability off spawn quite a bit to compensate for it.
The thing I have noticed, and it is the main reason why I think the champion mechanic cannot be balanced for competitive play, is that it seems that whatever is the fastest, is also the strongest. Previously, it was Nyx. Now, it's Clutch. And if you nerf Clutch too much, it's going to end up being Slash next.
So, you need to reevaluate move speed, and create a new balancing lever, where you work it out so that the really fast champions are the ones who have the hardest to use weapons off spawn. You seriously increase the variance on move speed caps. You have some very simple champions who spawn with pretty straightforward weapons that can barely use the movement mechanics. And you make it so the absolute highest tier of movement speed, right now Clutch, and Anarki, also have uncapped movement, and these are the champions that appeal to experienced players when they just want to dick around in a casual mode and let off some steam. You design their weapons so that they are really high skill cap somehow and they are fun characters for a veteran to mess around in casual with but you keep them the hell out of competitive. And just like League, the simpler a champion, the cheaper its cost is.
Let's go into a concrete example, and use Clutch. First off, he has uncapped movement now, so what makes him fun to play, is even more fun. This champion can go insanely fast. Then his unique weapon is the Mining Drill. The way it works now, is that when you pull the trigger, it fires for a while, and then it overheats and goes on reload. Because it's a tracking weapon that requires you to focus on your opponent, it's a long range weapon that's way harder to use than a rail, so it can do more total damage per shot than a rail. But you balance in such a way that only players with really good aim can make use of it. And because the rail can be used for peekshots, and this weapon can't, it doesn't crowd out his rail completely. For an average skill player, the rail is just easier and more reliable. And because it overheats, it's DPS is not as good as LG, so it doesn't crowd out LG. Then for his CQC slot, you give him a Tribolt, a weapon that is really hard to use in a direct fight, but theoretically strong. Finally, for his midrange, you give him a Shotgun, because that weapon seems to have better synergy with his ability than most, and he already has a rapid fire weapon. So for an average player, the Shotgun is the only weapon they are really capable of fighting with off spawn, and the Mining Drill does way less damage than they can put out with a rail. But in the hands of a very good player, who can actually fight with his weapons well, this champion is a nightmare, and clearly broken, but only in the hands of an experienced player. And your approach to Anarki is basically the same. They are deliberately broken in the hands of someone who has mastered Quake, but only someone who has mastered Quake.
But it doesn't matter that he's broken, because in competitive, you just play Xaero. You keep competitive Quake pure, and you introduce casual Quake as a means to suck new players in. They start playing the game, all the new champions keep them busy, and eventually, they get absolutely destroyed by someone playing Xaero, they become curious about him, and check him out. And I believe I have designed Xaero in particular in such a way, that despite having a disadvantage off spawn, because of his low health, the advantages he gets at max power make him the ultimate pubstomp champ. His uncapped movement speed is only something a veteran can take advantage of. And Xaero can get to 200/200 despite having a really small hitbox, so his effective max durability is way out of proportion to his hitbox, but in order to get there, you must have good control. And being the sole champion with infinite inventory provides a unique advantage that's hard to measure, but I believe provides overwhelming advantage if you are a good enough player to understand how to properly use all secondary weapons.
He could end up like Draven in League, where he is either played by a really good player who can handle a high mechanical champion and is probably smurfing, or a really bad player who is playing something they perceive as OP, when it's actually too difficult for them, and there's absolutely no middle ground with the sort of people who play Draven. But the difference between Draven and Xaero, is that Draven loses effectiveness at the highest level of play, whereas I want Xaero to be designed in such a way where he actually is genuinely OP if you are good at Quake, but only if you are good at Quake. If the game ever gets to a point where very high level players only get matched with each other, then everyone who is playing casual mode but seriously trying to win should all be playing Xaero in a casual game where everyone happens to be diamond. And it is really only once a player is capable of playing Xaero without falling flat on their face, where they are finally ready to play Duel and other serious competitive modes. Now for the baseline balance, you start him off, so that while his starting weapons are still stronger in casual than competitive, they are still not that good compared to the weapons other champions get, mostly because they do not shine in any specific situation, but also because their damage is low. And if he's dominating the game at lower levels than I think, you keep toning them down until they are equal to their weakness in competitive if necessary. But I really doubt that will happen. It is more likely that I am overcompensating for how useful his passives are, compared to just spawning with more health and some real weapons, and you will need some serious balls to pick Xaero in casual play.
The bottom line is, the game will have more casual appeal if there's a much more drastic difference in playstyle between champions. Most importantly, once all these changes are implemented, you can finally take Duel, a mode which had absolutely no problems whatsoever, and change it back to how it used to be. The problem with Quake being too hard to get into had nothing to do with the mode, it had to do with problematic big picture balance problems in Quake, where it's the competitive ideal, but it's not the ideal environment to learn the game. And I wish id would understand that, because the fraglimit is legitimately messing the game up. It was taking a game which was already getting pretty passive at times and made the problem even worse. Part of the magic of Quake, is that no matter how extreme the scoreline might seem, the stars can align and you get that string of spawn frags that puts you back in the game, and you can flip what looked like a totally done game very quickly. Until the clock is getting real low, there's always a way back in the game, if you simply play better than your opponent. It's something that Quake has more in common with traditional sports than e-sports, where the gamestate can look horrible, but it's just really not over. Competitive League is interesting and I watch it a lot, but it has a problem where it's a snowball game, and once the game gets to a certain point I just tab out. At the absolute minimum, if you're bent on keeping champions in Duel, then the number of champions you select needs to significantly go up, as the fraglimit is ruining this aspect of the game. A kill followed by two spawn kills is just not a statistically significant number of kills. Furthermore, it is making it impossible to add aggressive maps like Aerowalk, which I always found more fun to play as it has higher frag counts than other maps.
Now, the way the changes to the game effect competitive play, is that the weaponset changes from map to map now. The core 3 weapons of the game are almost always there. The total number of weapons on a map is higher, so the item layouts on maps need to change some. And it's easier to get to a weapon off spawn than it used to be, but only if your skill level is high enough to handle the harder weapons. But Blood Run was originally a QW map, so it's not the first time that the item layout on a respected map had to change. I think it's just time to move forward, and come up with weapons that are even better than Quake Live.
Now I do think, there is one possible mode, that can involve the new champion mechanic and still be competitive, and it's CTF. But I think what you need to do is get the game working first, then play around with CTF internally and see whether or not it has any potential. And if it does, then you primarily balance champions for CTF. Perhaps certain champions, most likely the fast ones, will need a different starting health and armor in this mode to give you a lever to balance the game. If it does work, then it will be ideal for the health of the e-sport scene, because there will be at least one mode where the champion mechanic is in the game. Then what you do, is you have casual CTF, where the player count is a lot higher, and then competitive CTF, where the player count is normal, and you still must own Xaero in order to queue, but you don't have to play him.
Now, I really have little opinion on what modes belong in casual play, and what modes belong in competitive play. I think there's basically no reason to add Competitive FFA Deathmatch, and no reason to add Casual Duel, and I think Sacrifice is garbage, a lazy way out to add CTF to the game without designing maps and needs to be scrapped for CTF itself, but I do not feel strongly about any of these things. However, there is one thing I feel really strongly about, and that's Clan Arena. And the fact that it's missing really goes to show that while id is probably doing a good job of listening to professional players, they really have their head in the sand otherwise, and have no clue about what the proper approach to learn this game is. And it is really important that this mode switch positions with FFA Deathmatch, and be at the top of the game mode list, and be the centerpiece of the casual game, so that it's the mode where someone who knows absolutely nothing about Quake will go first.
I believe that no matter what you do, Clan Arena needs to be added to the game immediately if you want any chance of it being successful for several reasons. The first is pretty obvious, if you pay any attention to games other than Quake. Extremely high player count FPS is currently the new meme, PUBG and Fortnite are blowing up, and Quake has a mode which you don't need to do much twiddling with in order to play the game with extremely high player counts and it's also a single life mode. You don't need to clone Battle Royale, we have something that's honestly better. And the style of map that Battle Royale works on won't work in Quake. So don't even try to copy that. It won't work. A lot of players enjoy those games, but do get frustrated when they die because they simply got unlucky with their landing and couldn't get a weapon, and that obviously never happens in Clan Arena.
When id closed the Quake Live servers, and opened the game up to the community, the game shifted away from 5v5 towards large scale matches. And at first I was skeptical, but it's actually awesome, it's way more fun than 5v5 ever was. Now exactly how many players you choose to add to the game is a tough decision to make, but I think we need to go even bigger to catch the attention of the Battle Royale crowd, and scale the maps so that it's even more crowded than it is as if it's your landing in Tilted Towers every single game.
The other reason that large scale Clan Arena is so good, is once people got an ELO system going again, it was proven that large scale Clan Arena is the one mode where you can play with an extremely diverse skill range of players, and the game does not break down. Other modes also become a mess with too many players involved. There aren't enough items on the map for everybody.
Team mode Quake and League have one problem in common. If there is a player in the game who is clearly either way better, or way worse, than the average skill of the rest of the players, the game completely breaks down and becomes solely about how good or how bad they are doing, and it doesn't matter how well anyone else is doing anymore. The problem is not as drastic in Quake, but it's still there. In terms of competitive play, it is a problem that you actually want your game to have, but if you're trying to design something with mass appeal, you need to mitigate it. And large scale Clan Arena completely mitigates this problem.
Extremely new players make the game more difficult, but they do not render it completely unwinnable. Eventually their ELO becomes so overwhelming low that the system properly compensates for how bad they are. On the other end of the spectrum, I've only seen Clan Arena break down, when a legit professional player shows up. And if they played it more often, they would probably get to 9000 ELO, and the problem would solve itself, albeit in an unpleasant way where the teams would become really lopsided and the game becomes about whether or not the pro can hard carry a bunch of mediocre players. Anyway, it solves the final complaint that all of my friends have had about Quake, where they are just getting stomped and don't feel like they can't do anything. Because Clan Arena is round based, it constantly resets the game, and it takes the pressure off, compared to some guy with Quad spawnkilling you four times in a row. A veteran player does not get mad when that happens, because they understand that getting the Quad requires you to do something right, but to a new player, it seems unfair at first.
The final reason, is that I honestly believe, that if you want to introduce a new player to Quake, and help them transition into serious modes like Duel, Clan Arena is the mode you need to get started on. I can honestly tell you from personal experience, that if it wasn't for Rocket Arena 3, I never would have gotten a fraction as good at this game as I did, and I would not be here writing this article today. I talked earlier about how I feel Quake has more in common with traditional sports than other games, and I'm going to use a sport analogy. Before you can learn to play baseball, you need to learn to play tee-ball first.
It takes an element out of the game - pitching - that is too complex for a new player to understand. Before they can wrap their head around it, you need to get good at hitting the ball without this element first. If you just try to skip to baseball, especially trying to learn baseball against people who already know how to play, it will be too hard for you, and you will fail. And I don't care how much you hate the mode, you need to view it in this light. Pretty much every sport has a lesser version of the game that makes the game easier for people with no experience. American football has two hand touch. Basketball has half-court. Golf has miniature golf. Tennis has badminton. And so on.
You need to get to a certain level of skill before you enjoy spawning with no weapons against an opponent who does. If it wasn't for RA3, I never would have got to the point where I understood that. And equally importantly, before you can learn how to fight against a player who has advantage over you, you need to learn how to fight a player from an even position, and that's exactly what you get in Clan Arena. id clearly wants FFA Deathmatch to be the intro mode, but it teaches the game to you totally backwards, and that's why a lot of players who play it continue to play mediocre forever and never improve.
Even the most diehard Clan Arena fans admit it's the inferior mode from a competitive perspective, but that's not the point. The point is to specifically to make the game easier for new players. That's what Quake needs to become mainstream again. The only possible explanation I can come up with as to why this mode is missing, is that id seems to think that if you simply don't make it available, people will just play other modes. I think whether or not that is true is completely irrelevant, because you are severely crippling a new player's ability to get into Quake by doing that.
Now Clan Arena is not perfect, and if you play it with money on the line, it gets really campy. And people in games are willing to play the meta now, whereas it wasn't like that previously when meta only mattered at the highest levels of play. And it will require some twiddling to work alongside everything else I suggested so far. So I have a couple suggestions, Quake Champions is still a new game, so it is probably about to time to start experimenting.
Now the first suggestion is really simple, rename the large scale casual Clan Arena to Training Arena. Make it abundantly clear that if you know literally nothing about Quake, this is probably where you should get started. If you choose to add competitive 5v5 Clan Arena to Quake, then leave that mode's name alone. And as previously stated, this is the mode that gets the distinction of being the top of the list, because a player who knows nothing about the game will just select the first mode on the list. For the competitive side, Duel is the mode that is at the top of the list.
The second suggestion is how you approach the maps. I know that designing some maps for large scale players is going to be extremely difficult, but I have a suggestion that will make it a lot smoother. Do what people did in Clan Arena on Quake Live, where you take an existing map, and you expand on it. Make a Training Arena map that is based upon expanding on every single Duel map. So every time you are playing Training Arena, you are also playing on a Duel map, it just has way more parts to it. If you get real clever about it, then you can possibly work it out, so that multiple Duel maps can be contained in a single Training Arena map. That way, while you are playing Training Arena, you are simultaneously learning the smaller version of the map for other modes, which will ease the transition into them quite a bit. You will know the map, you just need to learn the item layout. It's already been proven this design strategy works for Campgrounds, and it needs to be applied to all maps.
Third suggestion is exactly how to go about working into the champion mechanics into Clan Arena. First off, the amount of bonus health that every champion gets does not have to be exactly the same. Use the fact that Training Arena has a different starting health as another balancing lever in case a champion is problematic in Training Arena but is not in other modes. I can easily foresee Clutch with his shield being very strong in a large scale player situation, and his extreme mobility is even more useful on a large map. Second, we continue to simplify the game as we were doing previously. You don't spawn with all weapons anymore. You spawn with the three starting weapons for your champion, and then the three power weapons. This will help new players not feel overwhelmed by learning a billion weapons at once.
Now of course, Xaero's weapon passive comes into effect in this mode, and if you select him, then you do spawn with all secondary weapons. But just like in other modes, you trade a lot of health and armor to do this. I know this is an absolutely ridiculous amount of weapons and many of them will overlap and be useless. But I believe that only good players will be able to handle so many weapons and it will add some extreme depth to Clan Arena, and ideally his weapon selection will mostly come down to preference, not balance.
Next suggestion is how you solve problems with excessive stalling and hiding. Now you could do it the way Battle Royale games are doing it, where you implement the circle, or do it in a different direction and fill the map with lava, but I think we should do it the Quake way, and if the match drags on too long, then spawn in a Quad Damage. Teach players the very basic idea that they need to do things based on timings and fight over items, but only start them out with a single item. And if the Quad is somehow still not enough to resolve the match, then a few minutes later, spawn in an even stronger powerup which gives you Quad Damage AND Wallhack permanently, so they can't hide anymore. You could make it the eye of illuminati or something to fit in with the gothic Quake theme. A powerup like that is pretty much guaranteed to either force conflict or you have an advantage and get it uncontested and make the match extremely easy to end once you get it. Or you don't do that, and you just shave some time off how long a round takes before it's decided by tiebreak rules.
Now my final suggestion, and I am not totally sure about this one, is that perhaps Training Arena should be reduced to a single round. Competitive Clan Arena should not. Battle Royale games have one really good thing going for them. If you get killed super early, you don't have to wait for the match to end. You just get right back in queue. This also decreases the chances of running into a high skill player, because they last in games longer. So if you die early, you can spec if you want, or you can get back in queue right away. If the player pop isn't high enough, then you just end up waiting to requeue with the same players. But if the game takes off, then it seriously cuts down on the downtime of the game. If you leave you can get a notification popup that tells you whether or not your team won or lost. But CS is really popular now too, so waiting around dead might not be as big a deal as I think. The problem with this one, is the load times in the engine are currently very bad, so this won't work, which leads me into the final step that you need to take in order to salvage this game, and it's the most painful one.
Let's look at what Epic has done in the past, and what they just did recently. Back in the old days, UT and Quake 3 came out at roughly the same time. And what Epic did was they took our game, they cloned it, while adding enough twists with the dodging and alt fire that it still feels original, and they made it way lower spec than its competitor. And I have no idea about long term sales, but my recollection at the time is that UT had way, way, way more people playing it than Quake 3 did. Then Counterstrike came out, which was running off the Quake 1 engine and therefore even lower spec than UT, and really blew up.
And Epic literally just did the exact same thing, again, and they struck gold, again. They took another game, PUBG, they cloned it, they added their own twist by making it more arcadey and adding building to the game. And I firmly believe that the reason Fortnite is blowing up so much, is while it's not a low spec game, it's a reasonable spec game. A lot of people who are unable to play PUBG can play Fortnite no problem.
And for all this talk id had about how important 120fps was to them, they then proceeded to take Quake Champions, and make it a way too high spec game. They are trying to make an e-sport with good graphics, they are approaching it like it's an AAA title, but here's the thing. There is actually very little overlap these days between the people who play AAA titles and the people who play e-sport games. If you're into competitive gaming these days, you don't care about graphics, you care about framerate.
And once again, if you want to build an e-sport, you go after the League of Legends demographic. And part of the reason the game is popular, is that low settings are truly low settings and it literally can run on a walmart laptop. While it's not good, it's at least playable. If you want as many people playing an e-sport title as possible, then you need to make it so that it's accessible to people who don't have gaming machines. You need to suck them in by making it playable on at least modest machines, so that they find out they like the game and want to invest the money and get a competitive advantage.
And while you're working on the new engine, you outright steal the one really good idea that Reflex had, warmup servers for while you sit in matchmaking. It was a great idea, but because the player pop never got anywhere, so no one got to see what a great idea it was. These will be important to keep people busy while you search for a large scale Clan Arena match, which may take a while, compared to a smaller mode, until the game hits critical mass. If the game takes off, and warmup becomes a crazy crowded place, then give players spawn protection, and start using bigger maps. I would say you do one other thing for warmup, and you make all champions free to play. Then you also make it so you can just queue directly into warmup, and don't search for a game. Give players a place where they can test things out and see if they like them. Warmup is something really cool in Quake that seems to be getting pushed out of the game. In Quake Live most people want to decompress and hop around for a bit after a tense match and don't ready up right away. It keeps you from going on tilt. It's more important than you think.
And there's one more practical reason that the game's specs needs to go down. If you're going to make a game with a loot box, cosmetic shop model, then you need to have lots and lots and lots of cosmetics. And this game has a pathetic amount of them for how long it's been in development. They are clearly taking way too long to produce. So by reducing the quality of the graphics in the game, you should severely be able to reduce the time it's taking to crank this stuff out, maps as well. And now that you are not trying to balance the champions for competitive play, you don't need to limit the number of champions anymore, and you can take the League of Legends kitchen sink route, and throw everything into the game that you can conceivably think of. The very first step, should be to reintroduce the entire Quake 3 Roster. Then start adding famous enemies from id titles like the Cyberdemon and Shambler. And you might as well branch into Elder Scrolls, why the hell not, all the casuals want the Dragonborn, and his ability where it does no damage but a ton of knockback is something that actually could be legitimately useful in Quake. And then you also implement way more gun skins.
Pretty much everyone agrees that this engine has serious problems, and honestly, it's so bad, that you should consider going back to the Quake Live engine, and just write a whole new renderer for it. As an engine, Quake Live's only weakness is that its graphics are dated. The gameplay aspect of it is solid, doing this would return customization, which is an important aspect of Quake, and has always separated it from other games. For example, this is the first time I haven't been able to play Quake without a shaft bind since I got serious about the game, they're common in CPMA and QW but I used one in Quake Live too, and not being able to have something that used to be so simple to wizard up really bothers me. We need the console back, it's important and unique to Quake. And hopefully, because your graphics are simpler, the load times finally come down. The bottom line is they are completely unacceptable for an e-sport. As I was saying, if 120 fps is as important to you as your marketing says, then you need to actually design a game that gets 120 fps on average machines, and gets 20-30 fps on toasters. The game currently does not.
Now, do I expect all of these ideas to be implemented verbatim? Of course not, but I'm hoping that the general idea that you need to make Quake more accessible but do it in a way without compromising competitive play gets through to somebody. I simply came up with a way to do it that works within the champion framework. As you can tell from how long it is, I spent a lot more time than was probably healthy thinking about this game and it's problems, and how to fix it. This will unfortunately take a lot of time and put development of the game on ice for a while, but as I opened with, the game is clearly a flop, and it needs to go in a seriously different direction if it wants to succeed. And the question id software has to ask themselves is, do you want to make money off this game or not? The answer is obviously yes, and that means you need to seriously reevaluate it and put more effort into it. It is still early access, and there is plenty of time to salvage it. This game has serious potential, but it just has so many problems that it doesn't currently appeal to anyone. You need to take a harder look at what people in e-sport demographics actually want out of a game.
Edited by Zanno at 16:57 CDT, 3 April 2018 - 41053 Hits
I'm 32, so I'm pretty old for a gamer, and most people in Quake are even older, and I had a conversation with my little brother, who's now 13, and just starting to get into gaming, very recently, about League and what his friends from school think of it. And the reasons that people like League so much is that it has tons of characters, which I did talk about, but also because the game is heavily reliant on skillshots. Apparently it a big reason that kids think League is so difficult, because dodging things like a Blitzcrank hook is perceived as really hard, and they are impressed by high level players who can handle dodging hooks easily. And the kids who complain about Blitzcrank get told point blank by other kids to get good and learn to deal with him, and/or simply accept the only reason he's strong is because they're not good at the game. If he actually was broken, he would show up in pro play all the time, and it seems most people who watch League understand that, whereas in older e-sport days no one would understand things like that.
Meanwhile, no other shooter than Quake has such a heavy reliance on projectiles, all other games are either hitscan or very fast bullets that aren't quite hitscan. Now when I was first learning League I looked over the numbers and it was pretty clear that they used the numbers for Quake as a baseline for movespeed and realized they needed to make things a little faster. The original champions have pretty slow projectiles and they got progressively faster and faster as new champions were added. So League is a game that took an element from Quake, rockets, and turned them into a 2d variant, skillshots, and based an entire game around this mechanic. As a result, our new iteration of Quake should become much more projectile-centric than it currently is. Take its greatest strength and make it stronger, and the casuals will flock to this game. I guarantee it.
Now this kid will occasionally watch really high profile League events but doesn't play it at all. And the reason why is quite simple, the game is perceived as really hard to play. Now I went into League assuming that it was casual trash and after seeing the difference between a Bronze and Diamond player I left with an incredible respect for the game. But at the end of the day, League is 2D, and Quake is 3D, and has strafe jumping, so while both games require a high level of reflexes, Quake is just the higher mechanical game. So I honestly do think, if you just took the learning curve of Quake, and made it easier, then you could get people in the door and while they may never graduate to serious modes, they will however watch serious modes and be impressed with the skill of the players. Now the other reason why I think Quake can overtake League, is that the object of the game is so much simpler. You just need to go for kills. Whereas in League, while the object is simple, kill their base, the exact steps you need to take in order to win a game are not straightforward and take hundreds of games to really understand. In Quake you just rack up points, and yes the way you go about it is not totally straightforward, but it is much less complex than League, and this has more in common with traditional sports. If all you do in League is try to rack up kills, with no focus on taking objectives, you will never be able to close a game out properly. So I think Quake has a huge advantage in this department where the game actually can have larger mass appeal where it's actually easier to learn, if you just get it to the point where it reaches critical mass.
As far as the weapons go, rather than provide the complete list of ideas I had, I will just provide examples and explain why and how to design champions. You start by designing an extremely large number of weapons, and then you narrow it down so that the most competitive weapons are the secondary ones. If a weapon is good for casual play but isn't working for high level play, you don't scrap it, you shelf it, and you come back to it when you release a new champion. Then when you design a champion, you start with their unique weapon and then select two secondary weapons that fill the holes the new weapon can't cover. And you try to pick weapons that were originally from that character's game, if possible.
Let's start with Ranger, the intro champ. I blew by the exact reasons why I picked the weapons I did, so let's get into more detail. He is the intro, free to play champ, so you do not want to give him anything too complex. And his unique weapon should be one where it's actually easier to use than its analog in the trinity of power weapons. So we take the Dire Orb, and we make into baby's first Shock Rifle. You pull the trigger again, it blows up midair. This weapon is easier to use than a rocket, and can deal exact same damage as a rocket, but because the farther away the target is, the less often you can fire, it's DPS is way lower than a rocket unless they're right in your face. Then you rejigger his ability so hitting the key simply makes you teleport to where his Dire Orb is. Now he needs something to fight at midrange and long range. So we take the Nailgun, we make it way faster than it currently is, maybe 2000-3000 UPS. An LG is more reliable and easier to use, so very few people will try to use the Nailgun as a real weapon. Finally, he needs something to ping people at long range. So we bring back something that resembles the QW Boomstick. Its ease of use is comparable to LG but its damage is simply low because it has unlimited range and spread. So in practice, an average player cannot do as much damage with it at range than they can with a rail, because they are not accurate enough to land it straight down the hitbox. Overall, his weapons are quite straightforward and he is a balanced champion in terms of extremes in playstyle.
So for another example, with Doom, you can give him a properly designed BFG that works like a cross between a railgun and rocket. It has no chargeup time, but it does extreme burst damage but it fires and travels more slowly than a rocket, and its overall DPS is lower than a rocket. Remember the max health of the game is higher, so the upfront burst of this weapon is in proportion to how the game used to be spawning at 125 health. In the end, it's good in straight up combat, but it is not nearly as effective for controlling space than rockets which are spammable and harder to dodge. Then you give him a chaingun, which works similar to the HMG but probably shoots faster while doing similar DPS. This covers his long range combat and in close range combat an LG is better. Finally, you ask yourself, what is his most infamous weapon? It's the Super Shotgun. So that is his unique weapon. Let's make this one work like the Flak Cannon in UT where it's not hitscan. If you do that, and its rate of fire is low enough, then it can do extreme amounts of damage, up to 200, and still be a balanced weapon. However, it's probably not a weapon that will work in competitive duels, so we keep it out of the game by making it his unique. Now Doom's playstyle is much more high risk high reward. If he doesn't land his shots, he's vulnerable, which should increase his skill cap. He only has one weapon, his chaingun, that doesn't punish you for missing too hard, and the weapon is just not particularly amazing, it has no situation it shines in. For his ability, you make more skill based, and also give him uncapped movement during the duration, whereas Doom is normally a slow character. Regarding his skill curve, his BFG probably dominates low level of play, but as you get better with him he becomes more reliant on his Super Shotgun to deal damage. He's an example of a middling skill character.
Let's do one more example of something that I feel would be a high skill cap champion, and do Anarki. He comes from Quake 3, but he's Strogg, so we can use Quake 2 weapons. His unique weapon is modeled after the Q2 Blaster. It fires rockets that explode 1-2 seconds after connecting with something, they do 100 damage, and the weapon fires slightly faster. But due to the delay, they are easier to dodge, so you must be good with landing direct hits to use this weapon properly. Now he needs something to fight from close range. So we give him a Plasma Gun, which is a variant of the Nailgun that is slower but does more damage. There can also be a Hyperblaster variant which does less damage but travels even faster than nails on a different champion, to fill people's long range weapon slot. The Plasma Gun is more comparable to its Quake Live counterpart and we all know how hard and niche that weapon is to use outside of blindly firing down hallways. Finally, we give him some sort of energy rifle that works like the Electrobolt in Warsow. In this case, it does more damage than a rail, probably 125 exactly, but it fires a similar rate to rail, and it's not hitscan. The best players will prefer this weapon to rail and it will get a lot of use in competitive play, and that's good, because it's harder to use. But the rail will still have uses for peekshots and reliable damage that this new weapon does not. Overall, I have designed him in such a way where despite his extreme mobility all his weapons demand he use it to close the gap, and if he wants to run around and take pot shots he needs to find a rail first. Now for his ability, Injection is okay, but I will give you an example of what I mean by an ability on par with a League of Legends ultimate. When you use Anarki's ability, the velocity and rate of fire of his Blaster increases substantially, perhaps even all the way to hitscan. He can dive in, very quickly clear out a room, and get out. But it's not like what Pharah has, where it's just a giant explosion. If you miss your shots, you wasted everything. It's skill based. An ability like this will not work in Duel, but it will work just fine in other modes. But until you keep abilities out of Duel, you cannot introduce flashy things into the game like this.
There are tons of weapons you can come up with follow this design philosophy. You can make a cross between a BFG and a Railgun where it's a hitscan sniper, it has a chargeup time with a very short reload, so it's only slightly better than a Rail on paper, but it's clearly more difficult to use, and you want to stop using it once you get a Rail unless you really need that extra bit of damage. You can come up with a 3 round burst weapon that's very common in FPS. In practice it's always harder to aim with than a Rail because flickshots only do 1/3 damage. And finally, you need to attempt something that has been tried with great success in Halo and PUBG, where bullets truly work like bullets and are not hitscan. It brings an element of the game back, leading, that was originally based on poor netcode and can be brought back into the game based on distance. These are all examples of long range weapons, but Quake already has a few good midrange weapons with the Nailgun and Shotgun that fit into the design philosophy already, and the Tribolt being a good idea for a projectile weapon that's just not quite balanced yet.
As far as abilities go, most of them should provide an extreme buff to your unique weapon. The way you do with Ranger is real straightforward and we covered it. For Sorlag, you make it so when she uses her ability, it works like it currently does now, whereas normal Acid Spit fires one at a time more slowly. For Nyx, you make it so firing her primary weapon breaks stealth early and provides some bonus damage. Some champions like Doom, and Slash, have something too out of the box to be transformed into a weapon you have at all times, so their abilities don't work that way. I could be wrong about Slash, and a weaker but permanent version of her trail as long as you have the weapon out is actually viable. Galena will probably be the hardest to redesign out of everyone in the game, as totems would provide good zone control but be a completely useless in-combat weapon. The bottom line is, there's tons of different directions you can go, I am not saying "you must do exactly all these things or the game will be awful", I'm just trying to provide ideas to get things started. Quake provides a framework where you can implement incredible depth without resorting to things like stuns and status effects to complicate the game.
I really just think it's finally time to sit down and analyze why the Quake weaponset is so good, and come up with a way to make it even better, instead of do what id is trying to right now, and give Quake Live another pass where they get all weapons to true equality. The number of weapons in Quake is pretty low compared to more shooters, which makes casuals feel like there's a lot less to learn, and it's something you can change about the game to give it more casual appeal that actually increases the skill cap of the game. You just keep the overwhelming majority of the new weapons out of Xaero's hands and create a much narrower subset of weapons, again, probably around 15 due to hotkey limitations, that all work in competitive duel, and use these weapons to fill the holes that the unique weapons of characters can't cover. That way you can increase variance and make the game more flashy without compromising its competitive integrity, and you do it in a way where it provides a clear progression of learning. You start playing Training Arena with tons of players, good starting health, and start learning the 3 core weapons immediately. Then you progress to modes with lower player counts, your health is lower, and you get the hang of control and respawning and using tier 2 weapons. Then you finally graduate to playing Xaero, your starting health is as low as it gets and you have more hotkeys to juggle, but if your movement and control are solid, you are just outright stronger. Some new players will beeline him if it's well understood he's the best but also hardest to play, but most players would rather have other advantages off spawn. Then finally, once you are able to play him well, and he is the only champion you want to play if you're seriously trying to win, then, and only then, are you finally ready to jump into Duel and other serious modes where you spawn with an extremely weak weapon, without getting frustrated. Many players will never get to that point, but that's okay, as long as they're spreading the word about this game.