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Interview with Balthazar Auger - Lead Game Designer, Quantum League

Published: 19:15, 31 March 2020
Nimble Giant Entertainment
Character art for Quantum League.
If at first you don't succeed... go through a temporal distortion!

We spoke to Balthazar Auger, Lead Game Designer at Nimble Giant Entertainment, to get the scoop on the complex development process for time bending first person shooter Quantum League, a multiplayer title making waves for all the right reasons.

In an era of remakes and remasters being released with reckless abandon, it's refreshing to be blindsided by a title totally out of left field that so completely captures our attention. Quantum League is a tricky one to sum up as an elevator pitch, as we found in our hands on preview , but that makes it no less intriguing. 

If anything, once you've wrapped your noggin around the core premise, you'll find a competitive shooter laced with potential.

Our conversation with Balthazar Auger ran the gamut from challenges faced during QA and balance passes, to plans for new additions that will continue to provide brain melting tactical opportunities. 

Nimble Giant Entertainment Mid game action in Quantum League. Who invited Spiderman to this party?!

Quantum League's core mechanic is a real brain twister (in a good way!). What is the most surprising tactical usage of the time looping that you've seen from players or members of the team?

While our player’s streams always teach us, the devs, something new about our game, definitely the most surprising thing we’ve seen our advanced players do in the 2v2 mode is set up “Shadow Plays”: they kill themselves in a specific sequence, to then be able to play the first two loops as “time-ghosts”, unseen by their opponents but still able to record actions and move about the arena, to then break the kill-sequence with the third clone to have their ghost actions happen in the real world! 

As a matter of fact, we even consider it borderline abusing the meta, so we’re taking steps to give the opposing team a better fighting chance.

Balance must be a tricky equation to solve in a title with such a dynamic flow. How does your gameplay iteration and QA compare to other competitive shooters?

In our case, our core problem is making sure we don’t end up going too far off the beaten path with our designs. The time loop transforms everything into a potential tactical opportunity (and development nightmare!) and sometimes the most standard mechanic of all FPS needs to be tweaked. Where this is most counter-intuitive is in the Desync / Resync mechanic outlined above: when you die, you actually need to keep playing!

Balancing weapons is also an exercise in fairness: we try to have weapons that are suited to a particular tactical situation, and since in default game modes characters need to pick one weapon for their loop, we need to be careful not to offer weapons which feel like one-trick ponies. Accuracy and headshot damage are also two critical areas: at the end of a loop, the entire match goes into bullet-time mode. Having a bullet in the chamber at that point can turn the tide of the entire match!

Are there plans to add more dynamic objects like explosive barrels into each arena?

Yes, definitely! We’re testing levels with triggers which open or close certain paths when a clone stands on them, for instance, but that’s for further down the road. The core rule for those kind of objects is that they should not move clones after they’ve played - the entire action sequence can be thrown into disarray by just shifting a clone one centimetre to the right!

Nimble Giant Entertainment Blue wins the match in Quantum League. Red vs. Blue. The classic stand off. Now with time travel!

Where did the concept for the game originate? Has it been something you've been cooking for a while, or did a member of the team have sudden inspiration?

It was a bit like an unexpected inspiration: I had been prompted to study the feasibility of an X-COM-like tactical RPG, but as a real-time FPS. It was when I faced the incompatibilities of merging these two genres that I thought about using some kind of Time Loop instead of turns, which while totally not what I had originally been asked to do, was still a pretty cool idea in itself, and not something we had seen before in the online multiplayer space.

Does the Quantum League itself have any narrative context for existing? Or are you focusing strictly on gameplay and mechanics at this point?

There is a narrative, but at this point we’re using it as an art direction guideline rather than something you’ll be told of in the game: Quantum League happens in an alternate XXIst century, in which scientists at CERN actually invented time travel rather than the Internet. At this point, portable time travel devices are a pretty commonplace tech, regulated by governments and with mass-market availability, so naturally people started coming up with new uses for it, like in our case, gun sports! 

However, if you want to stay in touch with your friends, the best option in that universe is still calling them over a landline phone. We’ve had a lot of fun with that origin story and with the other uses for (legal) time travel people may have come up with in the Quantum League universe, so expect to get more glimpses of it after the release of the game!

Will Captain Braxton from Star Trek: Voyager, in command of the Federation timeship Relativity, one day attempt to shut down the Quantum League? It does appear to break the rules of the Temporal Prime Directive… 

I’d like to see him try! Although he would have to argue that against the International Quantum-Enhanced Sports Committee’s crack team of time-travelling lawyers first ;-)

We'd like to send a massive thank you to Balthazar for taking part in this interview, and Aidan at Plan of Attack for helping to set this up.

Quantum League launches in 2020, for PC and Switch. 

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