A Twisted Rocket League

Guys, first off - whose wild idea was it to create Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars back in 2008 for PS3? Tell us the legend and mythology of bringing together Mad-Max-like muscle cars and a futuristic soccer arena?

Thomas Silloway: Honestly, it was an accident! We were originally developing a space-themed car combat game that was very different from what players eventually saw. One day, just for the fun of it, one of our level designers dropped a ball into the game world just to mess around. We had so much fun pushing that ball around that we added goals to take it to the next level and it was like magic happened! We kept coming back to this game-within-a-game every day and quickly realized that this happy experiment was actually more entertaining than what we had originally planned. We shifted gears pretty quickly and SARPBC was born.

In your opinion, what about SARPBC created a hardcore fan following over the past 7 years, one that has inspired and enabled the development of your sequel - Rocket League? 

Thomas: I think it was a combination of the simplicity of the game and our community's efforts to keep it going!

Football (soccer) is the world's most popular sport for a reason -- it's incredibly fun to play and watch and its concept is brilliant in its straightforwardness: get the ball into the other team's goal. That's it. Battle-Cars and Rocket League keep that spirit alive -- and its absurd substitution of cars for people give it enough of the "weird" factor to, at least, make people curious.

There is also a very deep skill curve in both games. It's pretty easy to get started -- you just need to drive, hit the ball around, and maybe even score a goal in your first game. But that's just the beginning. There are tons of moves you can learn like dribbling, flying, backwards-flying, turtle-backing, and some of our best players even show their creative side by flipping, spinning, and doing sick-tricks while scoring goals. You can learn some of these skills in your first few hours of play, but to truly master them and show off your unique style and creativity, it can take years.

The biggest factor, though, was and is our community. They're fantastic fans. They feed off of each other's excitement, do what they can to get other people excited, organize tournaments, stream and post videos of the game, and offer continuous constructive feedback. That's why Rocket League happened -- they brought out the best in each other which motivated our team to bring out the best in ourselves and give them the game they deserved.

How did you motion capture bunny hops and bicycle kicks with muscle cars to Lionel Messi perfection?

Jeremy Dunham: We can't answer that question without publicly admitting to violating about 6,000 international traffic laws.

The Rocket League PS4 Beta generated a ton of momentum for the game. What are the Top 3 takeaways your team is now focusing on as a result of Beta feedback?

Thomas: The number-one and number-two takeaways were matchmaking and server performance. Those were our main beta goals, so it was essential that we made sure our system worked and that players could seamlessly connect to each other without problems and do it very quickly. The feedback and data we garnered from that beta allowed us to fine-tune our tech and streamline the game the best we possibly could. It was invaluable!

Jeremy: The other major takeaway was the people liked our game on a large scale. We knew that our community was into it and that it we loved it internally, but the validation we received from the testers told us that we were on the right track -- and sometimes knowing when NOT to change something is just as important as trying to add new features or content.

The biggest factor, though, was and is our community. They're fantastic fans. They feed off of each other's excitement, do what they can to get other people excited, organize tournaments, stream and post videos of the game, and offer continuous constructive feedback. That's why Rocket League happened.

Sweet Tooth is as iconic as any of the most famous PlayStation characters of all-time. When did the lightbulb go off to bring the Ice Cream Truck devil into Rocket League?

Jeremy: Honestly, it was because of our fandom. We had an arena-based vehicle game and Twisted Metal has always been the pinnacle of that genre. We thought it would be a really cool tip of the cap to the long line of developers, including you guys, who made that game happen; AND to PlayStation fans, Rocket League fans, and video game fans in general. Crossovers are awesome. Crossovers that actually make sense are nirvana.

How did the collaboration of creating the Sweet Tooth design work with Psyonix Studios and Santa Monica Studio? Also, what is for sale on the "Yummy Good" Menu?

Jeremy: It couldn't have gone better. We first approached Sony with the idea right after we decided to make Rocket League for PlayStation 4. We thought we'd have to do a lot of begging, but the powers at be really liked the idea too and once we hooked up Sony Santa Monica Creative Director, Nathan Gary, it was a breeze to get it done.

Working with you guys was fantastic. Your team was kind enough to share assets from your game so that we could get them into ours and we worked very closely with Nathan and the rest of the team to make sure that Sweet Tooth was as faithful as possible. We really have nothing but good things to say about the collaboration.

Also, I know this a long-winded answer, but we've also got to tell everyone that playing as Sweet Tooth isn't the only Twisted Metal goodie in the game. You will also be able to equip Sweet Tooth's wheels onto any of our other Battle-Cars when customizing them, and even use a smaller version of the clown head as an antenna topper on any vehicle you want once you unlock them. We're pretty psyched about it!

And finally, the "Yummy Good" menu has, in this order, a Hotdog, an Ultra Hotdog, a Hamburger, a Soda (small, medium, and large), Fries, and Water. =)

Did anyone figure out your PSX Easter Egg? That was super clever.

Jeremy: Amazingly, no one did! We thought someone would figure it out for sure because Sweet Tooth's ISKREEM vanity license plate name was right there in plain sight. We're glad that no one put it together, though, because now that we've revealed it after the fact, we hope that folks will realize we have other cool secrets and Easter Eggs in the game that they should put on their detective hats for. Psyonix is full of video game fans, seriously -- we play them all the time constantly. And what's more fun than a bunch of secrets? (Hint: even more secrets)

 

What are the odds we'll see a "Rocket League World Cup?"

Thomas: Oh man, we're biased but we hope those odds are pretty good. Rocket League has a Season Mode with a Championship that you can win, of course, but having a giant World Cup-like event with gamers from all over the planet would be our dream come true. Let's be optimists and say 99%!

If you could pick one soccer player and team to trick out a Rocket League Car, who would it be and why? You must have an allegiance!

Thomas: I'm a huge fan of soccer and have played in amateur leagues for most of my life, so I have a lot of soccer idols. That being said, the one that comes to mind immediately is Lionel Messi. I had never watched him too much in the past, but in the previous World Cup he WOWed me with his moves and I've been following him ever since. He has had so many mind-blowing goals and he's a big inspiration to his teams and to the world. Sorry Ronaldo...

For your upcoming PS4 version, you’ve discovered the holy grail of bringing together cross-online-play between PC and PS4? While we bow down in awe, can you delve into any of the tech magic that helped make this happen and why it’s AWESOME?

Thomas: This is something that I could probably write an entire book about. It's massively complicated with all of the different systems we had to design, rework, and then design again. The funny thing is, Rocket League was mostly finished about a year ago in terms of gameplay, but we've spent the last year iterating and fine-tuning our technology.

The biggest component of cross-play between PS4 and PC is the matchmaking system and our backend services that we're calling PsyNet. We've done a lot of research on how other game and software developers handle similar systems and we've iterated on those ideas, added a few of our own, and taken what I believe to be the best of all possible options to bring a super-flexible, highly-scalable matchmaking solution to the table. It can handle our needs to get people into games as fast as possible, while also taking skill into account and allowing players to find games across multiple platforms. My proudest moment from the beta tests was that there were very few comments at all about matchmaking. When something's working well, most people don't notice it, and that to me is the ultimate compliment.

The basic design of our system is that players connect over the internet to a web service. Our web service notifies our matchmaking server about what platform they're on, what types of games they want to play, what regions they prefer sorted by ping, and their skill rating. Then we have a huge monster of a process called the matchmaking server that takes everyone's preferences and runs algorithms on them to find the best possible way to match everyone that is currently searching. The neat part of all of this is that we have complete control over it. So when the game goes live and we notice any issues, we can update it immediately without patching the game, while making tweaks to make sure that players are getting into the highest-quality matches possible.

My proudest moment from the beta tests was that there were very few comments at all about matchmaking. When something's working well, most people don't notice it, and that to me is the ultimate compliment.

Our dedicated servers automatically allow players from both platforms to connect to it and only a few minor changes had to be made to Unreal Engine 3 in order to make this happen. The biggest amount of tech that we created in the game client and game server revolves around interfacing with PsyNet.

As a game developer of a small team, to those aspiring to follow the trail you’re blazing, what are some sage, specific pieces of advice you'd give to those reading this right now? Passion and drive are a must, but what else is critical?

Jeremy: Constitution. You need to know that to make a great game you'll have to deal with a lot of ups and downs, problems that you didn't anticipate, and the features you wished you'd thought of six months ago. And you also need to remember who you're making the game for. What does your audience want? How do you give it to them? What would make YOU want to play it even if you've been working on it for months and years and weekends and holidays?

If you go into development knowing that you'll have to face all that and understand that ultimately IT IS STILL WORTH IT (because it is), then you'll win -- on more levels than one.

Thomas: My biggest piece of advice is to get started right now. Don't know how to code or make art? No problem, there are tons of engines, tutorials, guides, and modding communities that you can become a part of. To be more specific, I would highly recommend getting involved with the Unreal Engine 4. Epic Games has made this engine super accessible, not to mention free!

You need to know that to make a great game you'll have to deal with a lot of ups and downs, problems that you didn't anticipate, and the features you wished you'd thought of six months ago. And you also need to remember who you're making the game for.

If you want to break in to the game industry, just make games every day. It's not always fun and games (well it's always games, but sometimes it's really hard work), however, if you stick with it and work through those tough times the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a game is amazing. Play games for inspiration, make games as a hobby. Eventually you'll have a body of work that you can present in a resume to a company like Psyonix. We're always looking for talented individuals and the most impressive thing to see on a resume is completed games. It's easy to start a game, but it's hard to finish. Overall, just stick with it, be creative and have fun.

Visit the official Rocket League website to learn more about the game for PlayStation 4, and be sure to follow Psyonix Studios on Twitter and of course @Fuzzhead93 and @DunHamsmash

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