id Software reacts to Quake Champions vs. Overwatch comparison

Chris Stead 16 August 2016

This year's QuakeCon event finally included a new Quake game, and we interviewed the main man, Tim Willits.

Talking to Tim Willits, creative-director at seminal first-person shooter developer id Software, during this year’s QuakeCon event was a treat. In an air-conditioned retreat away from the blazing Texas sun, he was open and talkative about his next big game, Quake Champions, which was shown in detail only moments earlier to a packed room of the series’ devotees. We will publish the full interview shortly, but we have a collection of snippets to share that offer greater insight into the game and the developer in general. You may have already caught our reveal that Quake Champions is not built on id tech 6, or our other QuakeCon exclusives like Bethesda's plans for Elder Scrolls VI, for Rage 2 and for movies.

Perhaps one of the more divisive new features in Quake Champions is the inclusion of the titular heroes; characters with unique in-game special abilities. Divisive because rival developer Blizzard just nailed that gameplay experience with the blockbuster release of Overwatch. Was it a case of copy-cat? We asked Willits directly…

Comparisons to Overwatch were inevitable after you revealed the character abilities. Was it a case of parallel development – kind of great minds think alike – or have you been inspired by what Blizzard achieved?

Well actually, originally we were looking at [characters and abilities] for a Quake Live update. The servers had been running since 2008 and we were thinking about this big update in 2013. In fact, I personally registered quakechampions.com in 2013 as we were experimenting with these ideas and prototyping the engine back then. These abilities needed a new render, new physics, new network code [and so forth]. When we saw how Doom was shaping up, and had the opportunity to work with Sabre Interactive, [the update] evolved into a whole game.

I personally registered quakechampions.com in 2013

Really, I think the idea of champions, heroes and characters is just a natural evolution of the FPS. In the last 20-years, there are elements in this genre that have evolved because they are just the next logical step. Now the games have gotten so advanced, and there are so many different features, that character development and allowing players to associate with something where it feels like, as that character, they can progress and they have a personality – players feel more attached to the game. So that is why you see these champions, or heroes or whatever you want to call them, evolving into these types of games. I don’t think it is a left turn from the genre; just a natural evolution.

Our Take?

I will admit my gut reaction when I first saw the presentation for Quake Champions was negative, as I thought, “they’re just copying Overwatch.” It was a naive and reactionary emotion, as obviously the game would have been in development long before Overwatch stormed the charts. Still, I would not have guessed the champions and their abilities were in development three years ago. Willits’ argument that it is a natural evolution of the genre may be convenient, but it’s not necessarily untrue.

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