Id Software doesn’t know yet if Quake Champions will be free-to-play

At QuakeCon yesterday, Bethesda revealed new gameplay footage for Prey and Dishonored 2 to a packed house in Dallas—both exciting, especially because we want to turn into a coffee mug—but for FPS fans Quake Champions was the highlight of the show. While it sounds like there’s lots more development to be done on the game—even the business model is still up in the air—id Software head Tim Willits is in a very good mood.

As head of the legendary Dallas-based developer, Willits is always a celebrity in the halls at QuakeCon. This year, though, he has a special energy. Everywhere he goes, fans shout their love of Doom (which just got some new DLC) and their congratulations. For his part, Willits seems to be keeping humble. Doom, formerly Doom 4, had a publicly troubled development and some false starts, so its critical and commercial success must have come as some relief.

And that's good news for Quake. Willits tells PC Gamer that Doom’s success has given id momentum and confidence in its ability to reimagine its ‘90s classics. “Things have never been better,” says Willits. “It is amazing—Doom was so awesome that it made making Quake way easier. I mean, there’s just like a lovefest at the studio right now.

"For instance, with Doom the studio really hit on the core fundamentals about what people enjoyed about the franchise. So with Quake we want to keep the scope tight; the focus tight—that’s why it’s PC only.”

Doom was so awesome that it made making Quake way easier.

According to Willits, the idea that would turn into Quake Champions began as an attempt to evolve id’s long-running arena shooter, Quake Live. “I actually registered the domain myself in 2013!” He laughs. After a lot of experimentation and prototyping, id realized that with new technology, the idea could stand on its own.

It’s not 2013 anymore, though, and Quake Champions is going to have to compete with Overwatch and Team Fortress 2. But that hasn't stopped id from focusing on the things that made Quake great in the ‘90s: high speed movement, reflex shooting, and making powerful weapons only available as pick-ups in the heat of combat.

Unlike other shooters with unique characters, the combatants in Quake Champions will all be fairly similar and armed with the same weapons. Some variations exist: Anarchy, a character on a hoverboard, is even faster than the already speedy Quake characters at the expense of armor and health. Sorlag, a large humanoid lizard, has a area-denial acid spit attack that can be used to protect power-ups and weapons from falling into enemy hands.

But Willits insists the characters just add a layer of complexity and strategy to a balanced core game. “You can still do everything [as different characters],” he says. “You can still run around and rocket jump and shoot—the champions don’t change how you fundamentally play … people play differently. Some people bunny hop, some people don’t. [When creating champions], we were kind of focused on what people do.”

When asked if Quake Champions would be free-to-play or an up-front retail purchase, Willits confesses that the studio is still wrestling with the issue. “I can definitely say that is a really hard problem, and so for us we’re trying to figure out exactly what people want more of, and how they perceive it,” says Willits. “And I’m not even trying to be cagey! It’s not like we know and just aren’t trying to tell anybody, we don’t know and we’re still trying to figure this out.”

Quake Champions is scheduled to enter closed beta testing sometime next year.