Quake Live

Quake Live

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Basic Timing Guide
By ^4ds^1teker
Basic Timing Guide by Memento Mori
Original: http://www.esreality.com/?a=post&id=2037530
Why such a guide?

I began playing Duel with Quake Live, after the ESL Quake Live Invitational sponsored by Razer. I was listening to the very insightful casting of United Kingdom Joe "Joe" Miller and United Kingdom James "2GD" Hardings, and for the first time in many years of playing other gamemodes, I told myself “So, this is how you do it! This is for me, I can do it”.

I improved my game since that night, but I still regard that feeling as the true key that opened to me the heavy doors of dueling. My most ambitious hope with this guide is to provide such key to others. There is a whole dimension that is there to be discovered, hidden and difficult to grasp. This guide collects what I could understand about timing, and I share it with a smile.


Timing items is one of the core mechanics of Quake Live duel. This guide is intended for beginners and mid-tier duel players, and aims to provide the basic knowledge on top of which dedicated players can improve their timing skill. Remember though, practice is the key to success, and while this guide may help you in doing it more efficiently by focusing on the important things, there is no substitute for working hard. You need to have the will to learn.
1. See/Hear the item pickup
1. See/Hear the item pickup

Seeing the item pickup usually takes place in one of the following scenarios:

1.1. Clean pickup. You take it.
    This is indeed the simplest case. The only thing to make sure is to watch the clock when picking the item up. Sometimes you have enough time to pick the item at a convenient rounded value, so that timing is easy, or delay the item to avoid multiple items to spawn at the same time.
1.2. Clean pickup. The opponent takes it.
  • Sometimes you are out of map control, but want to get in sync with the item timings. You will then sneak to a location that allows you to see/hear the item pickup. Usually the hard part here is to avoid the contact with the enemy, and in terms of timing this is almost as easy as 1.1.
1.3. Dirty pickup. You take it.
  • This is the case where the opponent doesn’t want to challenge for the item yet, but knows your intention and will show up to damage you, spamming from mid/long range. What is difficult here is that you will have to hide/dodge to avoid getting hit, but still you have to watch the clock to know the pickup. One tip can be to simply take the item, then hide, and then watch the clock and subtract 1 or 2 seconds (it does not take much more than that to hide).
1.4. Dirty pickup. The opponent takes it.
  • This is similar to 1.3. with the difference that you may sometimes not see the pickup because you are hiding/dodging return fire. If you are in ears range, the pickup is easy to notice. If you are far away, try to make sure you see that the item was picked up.
1.5. Close fight where both you and the opponent want to pick up.
  • This scenario is what I find the most difficult. The fight for the item may take most of your concentration, and after the battle you may have to quickly think what to do next. It is easy to forget the timing. The best you can do is to kill your opponent before the pickup, but if you have to pick it at mid-fight, spend a split second to watch the clock. If you die, you can wait 5 seconds before spawning to see/hear when the item is picked up.
2. Compute next spawn time
2. Compute next spawn time

A common opinion is to think that we do computations by applying some sort of formula or reasoning, and that to be fast you need a clever algorithm. This is indeed true when we have to operate with big numbers or do non trivial operations. However, remember the primary school and the time spent learning the multiplication tables from 1 to 10. What we were doing was to fix in our memory the results of some basic computations that are useful in real life. The point back then (as well as here now) was that the fastest way to compute something is to already know the result.

So if you want to learn timing the best way, learn all computations by heart. A few things to notice:

2.1. Clock Math
  • In a modulo 60 ring (a clock), +35 is equal to -25, and +25 is equal to -35. This means that there is no difference between a clock that counts up or down, since you can simply invert your timing practice for mega and armors and change the clock direction. However most people use an ascending clock (so if you play in teams it’s easier if everybody uses the same), and quake live is currently bugged (the descending clock becomes ascending in overtime), so if are not used to anything yet, just use the clock counting up.
2.2. Lean by heart
  • The number of computations to learn by heart is not as big as one may think. There are some computations that are trivial, and some are quite easy to remember. Then there are some that require a bit of learning effort. I made a table (see below) with all numbers, coloring them based on how easy they are to remember for me.

    Namad wrote a nice simple app that may help you training: http://visualhud.pk69.com/timer.html
2.3. Do basic math
  • If you want to reduce the memory usage (and increase the algorithm complexity) you can derive a math scheme that suits you. Here I present one which is easy to remember, and not that hard to compute, but you may have better solutions that you find more intuitive. Remember though, no matter how clever your algorithm is, it will not be better than just knowing the numbers.
2.4. Pairs trick
  • Sometimes it is useful to use the pairs trick. On the clock 35 + 35 = +10 and 25 + 25 = -10, so if you take mega at 12 and know the next is 47, you can predict that the later megas will be 22,57, then 32,07 and so on. Same for red but with -10.
3. Incorporate this knowledge into your plan
3. Incorporate this knowledge into your plan

3.1. Easy to forget

The main problem with timing is that it’s easy to forget about it. This has two consequences, both equally bad:
  • 1) You may not show up to take/challenge/spam an item
  • 2) You may show up at the wrong time.

Lower tier players tend to have problem with the former, while better players have to deal mainly with the latter, which may be induced by the opponent’s delays. If you still struggle to do timing, you probably are low/mid tier.

3.2. Planning helps

To attack the first problem, one suggestion is to invest more efforts into connecting your duelling plans with the timing. The reasoning is the following:

If you try and remember the timing of an item for the sake of it, you may find that ok for a minute or two, but then after a while your brain may go blank. Instead, you can try to strengthen your memory by associating your plans with the timing knowledge you just acquired. To exemplify: it is much easier to remember that red is at 2:47, if you think this gives you the ten seconds you need to go grab rocket, pickup the two health bubbles, and take the jump pad to go to the top floor to be in position to challenge the next red spawn, rather than just knowing that red is at 2:47 and period. Even if you then forget about the perfect time, you still did the right move, and are in a good position.

If you find it hard to do timing in a map, try to consider the available paths the map offers, how much time it takes to travel from item to item, so that the next time you play you already have a plan before even taking the items. The more you can plan in advance, the easier it is while playing.

3.3. Things to remember

Even when you have a plan, you can still do wrong. There are two problems:
  • 1) Remember the actual numbers. This requires concentration. In his bible, Chance suggests to repeat the numbers either in your head, or by saying them. Saying things loud has the advantage that more parts of your brain have to process the numbers, and your auditive memory may kick in as well.
  • 2) Remember to what items those number refer. This is where the plan should help a lot. For a bunch of armors, this may be as simple as remembering a sequence of pickups. For armors and mega, this is more complex, as the order in which you pick them up changes.
4. Which items do I time?
In this section I would like to propose a few rules to help you with timing. I d-tour a bit from the pure item timing in the classic sense in favor of a bit of contextualization.

4. Which items do I time?

In any real time game, concentration is a resource. If a particular task requires too much concentration, other tasks will be executed worse. It is therefore important to reduce the amount of concentration that timing requires. Practicing the timing table can avoid you the hassle of actually computing numbers, but that’s not the only thing you can do. An other important aspect of timing is to chose what items you want to time.

4.1 The roles
a '+' idicates the equivalent of ~25ap in shards

Let's consider the items available on duel maps. A simple - but hopefully not simplistic - way of thinking is to partition the items into the strong (200+) and weak (100+) stacks, mega and red on one side, yellows and ga on the other. According to this view, we define the player in control as the one that runs the strong stack, and the player out of control as the one running the weak stack.

Timing every item is very hard, sometimes impossible, and you also have to consider your own ability, which may limit the number of items you can time down to one or two. To start simple, you can consider what role you are playing at a given time. The role defines the actions you do, and these actions requires you to put more emphasis on certain items than others.

Being able to pick a few items that are important to you at a give time allows you to spend your concentration doing other things well, overall improving your game. Of course the more raw timing power you have, the more items you can time for the same amount of concentration, so - again - train the timing table.

4.2 The Actions

Actions while in control
  • - Collecting the major items
  • - Steal some of the minor items from the opponent, to keep his stack and options low
  • - Chase the weaker opponent to score points

Actions while out of control
  • - Stack up with minor items up to a decent amount (100 100+)
  • - Spam major items to reduce the opponents advantage
  • - Steal major items when the opponent does a mistake

Additional actions
  • - Set up traps
  • - Delay the opponent

Both roles require you to time about 2+ items, and have advantages and disadvantages. Speaking of pure timing, there are two aspects to consider: traveling options and timing complexity.

4.3. Traveling options
  • - the player in control has the advantage that he knows he can engage the enemy in most situations. Even if he eats a full rocket, he usually still has stack advantage to bring a frag to the score board and fall back to a major item to replenish. The effect is that he can chose all sorts of paths throughout the map and bully the opponent at his will.
  • - In contrast, the player out of control will have to chose his routes carefully, avoiding to engage even fights, and always having an escape plan. This forces him to be slower and only stay in safer areas of the map. In turn, this may result in the impossibility of taking all ya/ga or see/spam the major item pickups
4.4. Timing Complexity
  • - Timing mega and red is more complex due to the changing order of the pickups. Avoiding the sync requires a bit of practice (see below), and any mistake opens the chance for the opponent to steal your precious.
  • - The player out of control has to time mainly armors. These are easier to time as the order does not change. Sometimes one can even time only one armor and know that the rest of armors and shards follow a particular cycle.
5. Timing your actions
5. Timing your actions

Timing is not just about timing the items, but also about timing actions. To the bare minimum, you need to have enough time to go and pickup an item when it spawns. But actually there is much more. Remember the discussion about having a plan? That’s what timing your action is about: building a good plan within the time constraints of the situation.

The first skill to master is to time your own actions. What follows are a few suggestions.

5.1. The Five Seconds rule

This is a basic rule some people may find useful. 5 seconds is a good estimate of the time it takes to go from anywhere to anywhere else in a duel map. This means that most of the actions, like grabbing a weapon, replenish your health, collect an item, etc. will take at most 5 seconds. Of course, this shouldn’t stop you from practicing specific actions in specific maps to see how fast you can be.

In general, however, 5 seconds is good number:
  • 1) Because even if you may be faster, unexpected events may slow you down a bit.
  • 2) Because it’s easy to add/subtract to the clock
  • 3) Because it’s half the difference between armor/mega re-spawn (see later)

Let us recall the actions listed in section 4.2. At any point in the game, you must decide what to do next, i.e. you have to fill in your plan. To be successful you need be able to make a good plan for every possible situation. Studying the available options in advance is a key to speed up the process, although it is not a substitute for real practice.

A simple thing to do when you are playing is to apply the 5 seconds rule, subtracting 5 seconds to the time you have before the next item spawn. To exemplify:
  • - If you have 15+ seconds before the next major item, you can devote 10+ seconds to some meaningful action, like try and steal a ya, setup a trap, or chase a running enemy.
  • - If you only have 7- seconds before the next major items, you can take your time to carefully go to the proper position (potentially avoiding traps), or you can deviate a bit to grab ammo or so, but there is little more you can do if you want to secure the item to you.

5.2. The Delay rule

The problem with red and mega is quite a unique simple situation, but yet if you fail at recognizing it you will have some problems.

The situation is: if you take the red after 10 seconds the mega was taken, the next spawn will be in sync. Taking red after 5- seconds is ok, after 15+ is ok, but around 10 is really wrong.

5.3. The Double Red rule

Once in control, you usually pick both red and mega. They alternate well until a specific moment. There is a simple rule, similar to the one for the delay, that should allow you to solve this problem.

If you take red 5- seconds after mega, there will be a second red before the next mega.

Both rules are shown in the chart below.
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kook May 11, 2020 @ 10:14am 
wow thanks for the guide i just won quakecon
^0IDC ^4J^5oh^4n^4C^5off^4y Apr 18, 2017 @ 1:59pm 
Very well explained concept of timing, if I may suggest - You should add explanation of maps were MH spawns every 2 minutes, also quick note on T4 and RG re-spawn time would be nice.
I think that it would help people avoid confusion & frustration on maps with exclusive re-spawn time for specific items.
^7rOx^1X^4z Apr 15, 2017 @ 10:42am 
good job!
PapasTummyFuzz Aug 24, 2016 @ 4:59am 
Wow, amazing, well written, I learned a thing or two, I'm telling all new people to read this. Thanks! :)
lava Feb 17, 2016 @ 2:27am 
Just how bad do you think would Basketball/Football or any other sport be, if the players had to manually time.
Capt.EO Feb 10, 2016 @ 8:36pm 
ocd bastages ruin everything....
not a 闇ragon Dec 13, 2015 @ 11:57pm 
nice write up, hope you were reimbursed!
Weltgeist Nov 29, 2015 @ 2:35am 
Nice work, thanks a lot!