John ‘Zero4’ Hill on Quake Champions, working with id and the competitive scene of Quake

“At the beginning of this year, I was in Texas and I asked if it was possible to see the id Software studio. So, I came in, saw the place, and started talking to everyone asking if any of the guys at id needed help on any of this stuff.”

As John Hill tells it, this is the start of the story that led to him being hired by id Software as their esports manager. The 32 year old Hill, better known by his handle Zero4, is a legend of the Quake community, making $164,646 in prize money through various tournaments, $104,300 of that before his 18th birthday.

It’s fair to say he’s a fan of the company, and he was at Quakecon last year when Quake Champions was announced, the first time Hill knew that Champions was even a game.Now, he’s working with id directly to try and build out their esports efforts.

Hill was in Leicester this weekend for a Quake World Championship qualifying event in Leicester, and although we were talking via Skype on the worst internet connection known to man, his enthusiasm throughout the call was obvious.

“Leicester has been going great,” Hill says. “A lot of the guys competing here are old friends of mine, or community members that I’ve known for a while. We’re also seeing a lot of new blood, and it’s great to be able to help run something like this, and then see it live.”

Hill’s hit the ground running. Since signing on the dotted line for id Software in February, interest in Quake Champions has only intensified. The game doesn’t even have an official launch date yet, but the World Championship has drawn quite a crowd, drawing on Quake’s long established community and fanbase, plus newer players drawn in by the lightning fast gameplay.

“For there, there are three things that make a great esports game,” Hill says. “One, it’s gotta be fun to play. Two, it has to be competitive. And then, three, it’s got to be enjoyable to watch from a spectator’s perspective. And, I really think Quake Champions brings all three of those to the table.

“There’s not one size fits all to the meta yet,” he says. “We’re not seeing mirror matches, we’re not seeing a dominant meta. Right now, players are making different strategies work for them, and it means more interesting matches.”

“Quake comes from a long history of competitive gaming with the whole series, and I think, in general, this is a game that can be played at multiple, different modes. For the QuakeCon championships, we’re using both our duel and sacrifice modes. Duel, for one, has a history in the esports scene, as being very competitive, almost, sort of like chess, or a boxing match. It’s engaging, and something that’s simple to follow for spectators.”

Hill mentions that Quake is “a faster game” than most FPS titles on the market, and that with that higher pace, teams need “great coordination and a lot of individual skill.” This, Hill says, is a real boon for esports.

Hill’s overwhelmingly positive, but it’s understandable. Quake Champions isn’t just important to him professionally, but personally. “It’s a brand new Quake game!” he enthuses. “I’ve been a fan of Quake since Quake III came out in ’99. There was Quake Live in 2008, but it’s been nine years, so having a brand new game is phenomenal.”

We talk about the Duel mode, beefed up in Quake Champions not just because of the addition of the game’s titular Champions, but because now you’re required to pick a team of three by drafting them, and then try to outpick your opponent.

“I come more from the competitive side so I am always intrigued by how the top-end competitive players are trying to strategise, and get better. So, that’s very interesting to me. And, as a player, I can’t compete anymore, but when I go online, I can, at least, try to.

“All the champions, and the champions moving forward, bring something unique to the game. They bring a different style of play. They bring different abilities, different opportunities. When you start mixing that into the meta, it becomes very exciting.”

These champions all have different levels of armour, movement speed and unique abilities. Hill says that you can pick a champion that suits what you’re used to based on which Quake game, historically, you’re most into.  

“There’s not one size fits all to the meta yet,” he says. “We’re not seeing mirror matches, we’re not seeing a dominant meta. Right now, players are making different strategies work for them, and it means more interesting matches.”

Hill says a big concern moving forwards is to make sure things still feel balanced, and that the addition of new champions, which is planned, won’t destabilise the meta the game currently has, which favours player choice often.

While id is currently drawing up its esports plan for Quake Champions, Hill says he’s not able to tell us what’s next, as they’re still working it out. However, Hill personally wants to see id hosting more tournaments, but also for the community to host their own events, letting them spotlight newer players. Right now, Hill describes id as at the building stage, where it’s looking to build the community, the game and the competitive scene around it, so that things are more stable in the future.

“We’re constantly learning, constantly implementing, and constantly improving” says Hill. “We’re going to be looking to keep adding to the game, and keep engaging our fans, and we think that’s the best course of action.”

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