Quake 4 Q&A - Design, Squads, Multiplayer, Weapons

We sit down with Raven's Eric Biessman and Jim Hughes, and with id Software's Tim Willits, for an update on Quake 4.

First-person shooters let you charge through environments, blasting everything that isn't you. Doom, released in 1993, was the best first-person shooter of the time, letting you charge through hordes of monsters at blazing speeds. Quake (1996) let you not only fight a whole new set of enemies in full 3D, but also let you play against other players over the Internet (with a little jury-rigging, anyway). It's now 2005, and publisher Activision and developers id Software and Raven Software (a longtime collaborator with id) are now hard at work on Quake 4--the next game in the long-running shooter series. The new game will actually be a continuation of 1997's Quake II (alien invasion and all), but it will have an enhanced version of id Software's powerful Doom 3 technology behind it. We sat down with Raven project lead Eric Biessman, Raven lead designer Jim Hughes, and id Software lead designer Tim Willits for more details on the game.

Raven and id Software are working on the next game in the Quake series.

GameSpot: Can you go into how much of a split there will be between large outdoor areas and indoor corridor and hallway environments? Is Quake 4 intended to focus on one or the other (being an outdoor shooter or a corridor crawl)?

Eric Biessman: We've been trying to get a lot of diversity. We have a pretty solid mix of indoor and outdoor levels, [as well as] vehicle levels that keep you outside for a while.

Jim Hughes: We've got a pretty healthy variety. There is fighting outdoors, both on foot and in vehicles.

GS: Can you tell us about the way squads will work in the game--how in depth will players be able to get when playing in a squad? How in depth are squad tactics being modeled in the game (will there be actual fireteams with assault, support, medic, and sniper units)?

Tim Willits: You're not a squad commander in Quake 4. You're a guy who is taking orders, not barking orders. But we wanted to make communication with your squadmates straightforward and intuitive. Basically, you'll have missions where you may have to escort or protect a VIP, meet up with your squadmates [after losing them], and so on. Different squadmates, like the tech marine and the medic, will give you armor and healing. What we really wanted to do in Quake 4 was to make your squad, which is Rhino Squad, consist of unique personalities. So, you're not just in a squad with a bunch of redshirts, you're actually part of a squad. You have these familiar guys that you'll see and interact with throughout the whole game. It really adds depth to the story and context for what you're doing and why you're doing it.

EB: We wanted to give players a lot of story beyond "going around and blowing things up." That was one of the main reasons we decided to add the squads. Like Tim said, the squad in Quake 4 is totally about meeting and getting used to different people, so it ends up being your story along with their story as you go through the game.

TW: One of the cool things about working with Raven is that these guys have a lot of experience with squad-based games, from games like Elite Force and Soldier of Fortune, so it's not like they're doing it for the first time. They're doing it again, and doing it better.

GS: Tell us about the importance of your teammates in the game. We understand that your teammates will actually have names and individual personalities--how crucial to the story will they be? Will there be escort or protection missions in which players will have to ensure certain teammates live? About how much of the game will you play in a squad, and about how much will you be alone?

EB: For much of the game you should feel like you're running with a squad, even if it isn't your squad. We're trying to make players feel like they're a part of an actual war, and they're on the front with the marines. There is a point in the game where things change and you are on your own for a bit, but for the majority of the game, you'll be surrounded by other marines.

GS: What can you tell us about the vehicles in the game? How many will there be and what purposes will they serve?

EB: We have the hovertank, which has whole missions built around it--really pushing the outdoors stuff and battling against larger enemies and other enemy vehicles. We also have the walker, which is intended to make players really feel powerful. It can absorb a lot of damage and will really let players mow down a whole bunch of enemies, and [this vehicle] will be featured in outdoor areas and some indoor areas as well.

Alien Invasion

GS: What can you tell us about the game's weapons? Can we expect to see the classic Quake II railgun make a comeback? What others can you confirm at this point?

You can expect to see a good mix of old and new in Quake 4.

TW: [Quake 4's weapon selection] is built on a foundation of Quake-style weapons. You have your railgun, your minigun, your rocket launcher, your hyperblaster, and things like that, and we also have a new special weapon. But I think the coolest aspect of the weapons is that throughout the game, you'll actually pick up weapon mods for almost all of them. The mods add some cool variety in terms of how the weapons work. So, players familiar with the Quake series will definitely feel at home with Quake 4's weapon selection, and the weapon mods will help spice things up. Here's an example: the rocket launcher mod will actually let you control the rocket after you've fired it. However, we can't go into too much detail at this time about weapon mods in general and how they work.

EB: Quake is Quake, so we didn't want to throw out all the stuff that people are used to. But at the same time, we wanted to take what was cool about them and see if we could give a little shift to them. But you'll definitely start out with the sort of weapons you're used to, and you'll find modifications throughout the levels.

TW: A lot of the weapons have mods that add a new kind of variation to what they do. You get them in different ways; you may find a fellow Marine who will give you one, or you may find another deep in the heart of the strogg war machine.

GS: We understand that a great deal of Quake 4's development is being focused on creating a single-player experience. Why was this decision made, especially in light of Doom 3's single-player focus?

TW: At id, when we looked at developing a new Quake game, we looked at the previous games, and we wanted to make one that had a compelling single-player game that also had excellent multiplayer as well. For single-player, we used the Quake II universe, because we feel that it had the most to offer in terms of having a great setting and a good, solid story of aliens invading the earth followed by the humans striking back. Quake II was also one of our most popular Quake games, so we started there with the foundations for the single-player game. But we also knew that [since this game would be part of] the Quake franchise, we had to make some great multiplayer as well. So, we looked at Quake III, which we thought had the best multiplayer feel to it. What you'll really have in Quake 4 is the best of all the Quake series all in one game--a great single-player game, along with great multiplayer. Raven has gone in and really tried to examine the way multiplayer feels, making tweaks to make sure that multiplayer isn't going to be Doom 3 multiplayer all over again, but really a Quake III-style multiplayer.

EB: We essentially have two teams working on the game. While the majority of the team is working on the single-player, we have dedicated programmers and designers that have been cranking on multiplayer. "Quake" is multiplayer, and we don't want to drop the ball on that. QuakeCon goes on every year, and there are some diehard, dedicated fans who come only to play Quake--it's one of the things that really makes the whole license great.

JH: A lot of what we've been talking about publicly has been about the single-player. We haven't really talked too much about the multiplayer, but like Eric said, there are a lot of hardcore people here [at Raven] who literally play Quake III every day over lunch. We're really looking at making the best multiplayer we can for Quake 4.

GS: What can you tell us about Quake 4's multiplayer at this point? Any specific modes we can discuss now?

TW: There are some multiplayer modes that are still in discussion with Raven, but you'll have capture the flag and variants, you'll have team deathmatch, you'll have tourney, and you'll have brand-new levels, some of which will be based on classic levels [from previous Quake games] that players really enjoyed. The number of clients is up [from Doom 3], currently around 12 to 16, but until we really finalize everything, we can't talk too much about multiplayer otherwise. But we will have a lot more information at this year's QuakeCon.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Quake 4?

EB: From a design standpoint, it has been a thrill to work with the new technology and everything that comes with it in terms of what it will let us do--stuff we were never really able to do before. Quake 4 has been really cool to work on.

TW: Throughout the years, Raven has always been a licensee of ours and [the Raven team] has made some awesome games with our technology. But this is the first time that we've worked so closely together. It's important to note that all the original ideas in Quake 4 are a collaboration, so it wasn't just [id Software] calling up Raven one day and saying, "Hey, go make Quake 4." There's so much that the Raven guys, with their previous experience, bring to the table, and we [at id Software] can leverage our experience with the engine to help Raven out. I believe this is going to be our best Quake yet.

GS: Thanks, gentlemen.

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