Could Quake Champions be the revival of age old eSport?

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Disclaimer: This is mostly speculation and unfounded opinion. 

Quake is considered, by many, as one of the first games which turned eSports into the competitive spectacle it is today. Many will argue that is was Warcraft, or Starcraft, that brought the attention to competitive gaming, but in the 90s Quake was all the hype. Unfortunately for Quake,though simple and easy to watch, the 1v1 genre slowly died as it was replaced by team-based games such as Counter-Strike and Call of Duty. The same applied to the MOBA/RTS world as Starcraft was replaced by Dota, Dota 2 and League of Legends. Needless to say there was still a huge fan base who held onto the 1v1 titles, but that is slowly fading as well.

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Quake eventually went free-to-play with Quake Live being available on an online platform, and Steam. The height of Quake was undoubtedly Quake III Arena, 1999, with succeeding additions not receiving much attention, even the 2005 release of Quake 4. The competitive title went dormant, until now.

This morning Bethesda revealed their new trailer for Quake Champions, and it’s… interesting. Noted hype aside, I watched the trailer and noticed a few fads with recent FPS titles, some that I’m not sure will sit well with die-hard Quake fans. The trailer looks awesome – updated graphics, new engine, and most notably an array of new characters.

The first thing I noticed made the title seem a bit more obvious – Champions. In the original Quake, character selection was either strategic due to terrain, or you simply chose the character you thought looked the best, or had the best voice lines. In the trailer it becomes obvious that character, or Champions, have specific abilities. This takes everything away from the simplicity we grew to love in Quake III Arena, and makes it similar to new age shooters, which can be put simply as sticking with the times. Let’s discuss a few pros and cons on this decision of having unique characters with their own abilities and attributes, and the need for an arena-based shooter in this day and age.

Pros

Unfortunately for critics, and die hard fans, this is a must for sticking with the times. Team based eSports titles are the biggest earners in the competitive world making for exciting gameplay, and drawing in major audiences. If we wish to bring back Quake, unique Champions will add something different.

This adds immense strategy and thought into character selection, it will make games a lot more interesting, but how will the selection process work? Will we be looking at some form of integration into competitive 1v1, similar to what we see in fighting games? Will players be able to select a number of characters which they can switch between during matches? Will Champions have variations to their characters, like in Mortal Kombat X? This could add an interesting dynamic to gameplay, making champion decision crucial when facing up against your opponent.

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There’s also the thought that Quake Champions will not stay true to it’s initial competitive nature, being a 1v1 shooter, and instead step into the team-based arena offering dynamic play and combinations between certain champions. This would honestly be the best case scenario, in my opinion, as it would create an exciting spectacle for viewers and promote better understanding of the game leaning more towards strategy and coordination, as opposed to just raw aim duels between two players. I’m not saying Quake III Arena did not promote skill and strategy, it sure did, but this is an interesting aspect to consider when looking at the direction of competitive eSports in 2016.

Quake III Arena players were among some of the highest-skilled gamers in the world. Their movement, aim, and thought processes were way ahead of their time, and this is something which could carry over into Quake Champions.

Cons

No real information has been released yet on who the characters are, how many abilities they have, if there’s a leveling system within each match, or whether it’s team-based or 1v1 shooter. We can only speculate for now, but one thing is for certain and that is the issue balancing. In a 1v1 scenario naturally some heroes will be more powerful than others. The trailer does give a team-based feel, which I personally feel is great. But is it 2v2? 3v3? Or even 5v5? We’re unsure yet.

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If the game is entering the team-based shooter world, it has some tough contenders. Overwatch is currently dominant in that field, and I have a feeling it will continue to do so for quite some time. Quake Champions will have to offer something truly special if it wishes to compete, and that may become impossible as Overwatch continues to grow. Naturally, there is space for more than one team-based arena, Bethesda just need to make sure they’ve considered all variations of their team-based directions.

If Quake decided to include a 1v1 scenario, there will have to be some limits in place. People do not like limits, and offering a new, different game mode could be the best option here. However, simplicity is the issue and if you’re breaking up a game into essentially two different game modes, it might saturate the title as an eSport as fans become split between the one game mode, team-based, and the other, 1v1.

Finally, will all heroes be available? This is important when considering the grass-roots development as an eSport. Will you have to unlock champions, or their abilities? If this is the decision, as with other titles, Bethesda could be in for a shock, as the competitive community will be up in arms.

Closing

It’s been 11 years since a new Quake, and Tim Willits, co-designer of the original Quake, said that the game is being designed as an eSport, which is a breath of fresh air and something most developers should be considering with the current rapid growth of eSports.

This could be a great eSport, but that depends a lot on which model Bethesda choose at the end of the day. Team-based or 1v1, Quake Champions will be a refreshing addition to the eSports world, and one I’m extremely excited about. For now, we will have to wait for more information regarding any direction they’re looking at and make a formal decision on what direction this hype train is going.

 

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Last Updated: June 13, 2016

Kyle Wolmarans

Critical Hit's esports guy. I talk about esports and drink whiskey. I also write and cast for elsewhere - but my work here is independent of that.

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