Need to know: Quake Live’s gameplay overhaul

The Quake Live team are making their game as noob-friendly as possible. Here’s how they’re doing it.

A screen-grab image of the new changes to game play of Quake Live
© iD / Red Bull

First person shooter Quake Live will be heading to Steam in the not-too-distant future, and with that potenially massive new audience comes the need to take this hardcore, purist's shooter mainstream. When that news was announced back in July, developer iD Software noted that a big gameplay update was also on the horizon, intended to make it easier for FPS fans coming to the game for the first time to be able to leap into the action with a game based on 1999 multiplayer FPS Quake III.

But it's not just about new players being able to have a laugh – the reason we're keeping an eye on the changes is that new blood means more potential professional players for the QL scene. That update has now hit, so we grabbed a railgun to find out what newcomers can expect.

Getting stuck in

One of the big problems new players were reporting was not feeling effective when they spawned into the game. Loadouts (the weapon sets you start with) are being introduced on that front that let you pick a primary and secondary weapon. The idea is to increase your effectiveness on spawn, and give players a way to experiment with different weaponry before being fragged immediately. That doesn't mean the gripping race to pick up weapons is a thing of the past though. The team at iD has minimised the amount of ammo you'll spawn with, so the idea is that you'll still need to roam and pick up items if you hope to be effective after you spawn.

Timer pies

Another area new players were struggling with was item control, so when you get near a spot where an item like the hotly contested megahealth powerup will spawn, you'll see a timer pie fade into view. It's split into five-second slices with time that's passed becoming a solid chunk, and active time remaining as a blinking slice. The purpose of this pie system is so new players discover item timings naturally, rather than have to learn them by rote from experts and forums. Items will also have taller pick up boxes so you shouldn't accidentally miss them while leaping. Speaking of leaping…

© ID

Move move move!

The last of the main new player concessions is to movement. Strafe jumping is being preserved – don't panic – but the team is also adding a bunny-jumping/ bunny-hopping mechanic. Hold forward and jump to use it and you'll also gradually gain up to double your base movement speed. It's intended as a kind of bridge between aimless newcomer jumping about and masterful strafe jumping, which requires a lot of practice and control to perfect. How many players will actually make the leap from bunnying to strafe jumping remains to be seen, though.

© iD

Classic Quake Live isn't being abandoned

While these changes are part of the new default Quake Live ruleset, the majority of them can be avoided by opting for Classic ruleset games. All the public Duel servers will run in Classic mode, and Create Match will let subscribers pick from Quake Live, Classic and Turbo rulesets. That's another thing – PQL (Promode Quake Live) is now called Turbo. As the Quake Live team explain it: "We hope that running our FFA [Free For All] and Teamplay servers with these new, fun, and accessible mechanics that we can begin to build a larger base of players who could then try their luck at the Classic Duel experience."

Reactions to the changes have varied (and there have been the usual round of bugs to iron out) from positive to horrified. Mostly we're waiting to see whether the new Quake Live strategy pays off once the game comes to Steam – and whether these new players do end up using the item timers, the loadouts, and the bunnyjumping as intended, or whether only a handful end up in Classic territory duking it out with pros like Cooller, Rapha and Cypher.

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