John Hill on building Quake Champions esports for QuakeCon and beyond

Jayden Perry Editor

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    It's all close quarters action in the hectic Quake Champions (Image: Bethesda)

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    Quake Champions is looking to put the arena shooter back in the esport spotlight.

    With Quakecon only a day away and hype building, the esteemed shooter has launched its early access program. Through early access and the Quake World Championship, developers id Software have a huge chance to truly show off how Champions fits into the eSports ecosystem.

    The World Championship pits the top 24 players from qualifiers and the top 8 from the on-location BYOC comp against each other for a million dollar prize pool. Australian player Dan ‘Astroboy’ De Sousa has already qualified for the main event, and four more Aussies – Andrew ‘Python’ Cha Cham, and Frazer ‘Fraze’ Hockley, David ‘ZenAku’ Addati and Tyler ‘Steej’ Joseph – will be competing for those coveted 8 spots on August 24th.

    In the lead up to the big show I spoke to John ‘ZeRo4’ Hill, eSports manager on the game and previous well known pro at many Quake games before this one. While he didn’t let on about all the secrets in store for fans this week, he did explain a lot about his hopes for the eSport side of Quake.

    The Roar: You only recently joined the Quake Champions team, but you’ve been pretty involved in Quake for a while. What’s your history with the game?

    John: I started out playing PC games competitively all the way back in 1999. I competed in Quake 3 across multiple competitions between 1999 and 2004. I went to college, kept playing, went to Quakecon every year. Just being in the scene as a big eSports enthusiast I got to know a lot of people. I was lucky enough to play Champions at Quakecon 2016 – that was the first time I was able to play it – and then I asked if id Software needed any help on the eSports side?

    I was lucky enough to get the job, and I’ve been in Quake Champions eSports since February this year.

    Coming in, what were your initial goals for getting the game off the ground?

    We knew that we wanted to push it as an esport – Quake has a long history of being a really good spectator esport in multiple modes. This is sort of Quake’s comeback since there hasn’t been a new title in quite a few years. My main mandate was to get the game eSports ready and working with id Software and Bethesda to really get this off the ground.

    Quake as a brand is obviously steeped in eSports history – does that add any pressure when building the eSports side of Quake?

    The company’s been hosting Quakecon for the past 21 years, so they’ve been in the scene, but a little behind the scene – nowhere near the forefront like a lot of other games. I don’t believe there’s really any pressure though – it’s a new game, and with new eyes on Quake essentially we’re considering this a building year. We want to build up the scene, build up the community, and build up the game. We’ve been really focused on that and doing the best we can.

    Being able to talk to your community so regularly through events like QuakeCon and having played the series competitively previously has got to be a plus for developing the eSports scene.

    Absolutely. We definitely lean on our players to look at the game objectively, and we gather their feedback. As a previous player myself, I can sort of filter that feedback into what’s a want and what’s an actual issue. Having that sort of issue, especially with a game I used to play, it helps me and the development team a lot to guide the game to where it should be.

    Australia has quite a skilled bunch of Quake fans, with a few recently qualified for Quakecon. I assume you’ve played against some in your time, how do you see Australian competition and the eSport scene?

    The Australian scene is awesome – remember one of my very first tournaments internationally, World Cyber Games, in Korea was sort of everyone united from all different regions. That’s where I first met Andrew ‘Python’ Cha Cham and where I first came across the passion of the Australian eSports and Quake community.

    He’s actually coming to Quakecon again this year to try and compete for the championship, and that’s really exciting. There’s about five people flying from Australia this year – Astroboy, Python, Fraze, ZenAku and Steej – and I’m really excited to see what they bring to the table. They’re super passionate and that’s definitely a community we want to build.

    Looking past QuakeCon, where do you see the game going over the next year or two?

    We’re running a tournament that’s yet to be announced in the fourth quarter of the year. We also want to continue to build with the community with weekly and monthly cups. We know how important grassroots is to the initial build up of an eSport so we really want to focus on that to help push it forward.

    I really enjoy watching Quake. I believe that these players are some of the best in the world and what we’re doing with the Quake World Championship is kind of a mix between veteran players and new blood who are really passionate and have wanted to compete for a while. So I see this as the growth year, so in 2018 we can ramp it up with more consistent tournaments to build up the scene and storylines. I’d love to see these eSports organisations take part in it, and to see them battle against each other and deliver some great content.

    Quake has a very different vibe to other eSports – from the speed to the violence level – how do you think this situates it in the market?

    So quake is definitely unique and different. For one, there’s a number of different modes that are quite spectator friendly. One, for instance, is duel mode and right now there’s kind of a missing 1v1 shooter in the eSports ecosystem. In our team modes we’re much faster with a lot of action, speed and a lot of really cool, impressive shots. We’re more fast paced and energy based which is very unique in Quake, and very fun to watch as well.

    With so much speed, how do you factor in keeping the game understandable and engaging?

    That’s definitely one area we focused on developing when building the game, and we understand the challenges. We’re continually trying to improve upon the modes and the spectator features until we have it nailed down. As a player and a spectator myself, I watch all spectrums of eSports, and we’re trying to find the right piece for ease of viewability.

    Lastly, how about the game itself – what’s the next move for Quake – or will we have to wait for Quakecon for that?

    I think you’re going to have to wait for QuakeCon for that one!

    You can catch all the action from QuakeCon August 24th-26th live on Twitch.