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Described as "soccer, but with rocket-powered cars", Rocket League has one to four players assigned to each of the two teams, using rocket-powered vehicles to push a ball into their opponent's goal and score points over the course of a match. The game includes single-player and multiplayer modes which can be played both locally and online, including cross-platform play between the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows versions, as well as cross-play between Xbox One, Switch, and Windows versions. Later updates for the game enabled the ability to modify core rules and added new game modes, including ones based on ice hockey and basketball.
Rocket League is a sequel to Psyonix's Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, released in 2008 for the PlayStation 3. Battle-Cars received mixed reviews and was not a major success, but gained a loyal fan base. Psyonix continued to support themselves through contract development work for other studios while looking to develop a Battle-Cars sequel. Psyonix began formal development of Rocket League around 2013, refining the gameplay from Battle-Cars to address criticism and fan input. Psyonix also recognized their lack of marketing from Battle-Cars, and engaged in both social media and promotions, including offering the title as a free download for PlayStation Plus members on release, to market the game.
Rocket League has been critically praised, earning a number of industry awards, and saw more than six million sales and at least 18 million unique players a year after its release. Rocket League has also been adopted as an eSport, with professional players participating through ESL and Major League Gaming, along with Psyonix's own Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS).
2.1 Promotion and release
2.2 Cross-platform play
2.4 Downloadable content
3 Professional competition
Matches are typically five minutes long, with a sudden death overtime if the game is tied at that point. Matches can be played from between one-on-one up to four-on-four players, as well as casual and ranked. Rocket League also includesd on September 8, 2016, as well as including with the update the new "Crates" system. An update in December 2016, known as "Starbase ARC" (based on Psyonix' mobile game ARC Squadron) added support for custom arenas for Windows players supported through Steam Workshop, along with other new content.
A new game mode, Dropshot, was added in a March 2017 update. It takes place on an arena without any goals and a field made of hexagonal tiles, and uses a ball that becomes electrified after successful strikes or passes. Players use the ball to mark tiles on the opposing's side of the field while the ball is electrified; marked tiles are then removed from the field when the electrified ball hits them, or marked tiles in contact with it, creating a goal for the team. Once a team scores, the floor resets to normal.
Psyonix had previously developed Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars in 2008 for the PlayStation 3. That title itself bore out from previous modifications that Psyonix' founder, Dave Hagewood, had done for Unreal Tournament 2003 by expanding out vehicle-based gameplay that Epic Games had already set in place in the engine into a new game mode called Onslaught. For this, Hagewood was hired as a contractor by Epic for Unreal Tournament 2004 specifically for incorporating the Onslaught mode as an official part of the game. Hagewood used his experience at Epic to found Psyonix. Among other contract projects, Psyonix worked to try to find a way to make racing the Unreal vehicles in a physics-based engine enjoyable. They had toyed with several options such as race modes or mazes, but found that when they added a ball to the arena to be pushed by the vehicles, they had hit upon the right formula, which would become Battle-Cars. Further to the success was the addition of the rocket-powered cars; this originally was to be a simple speed boost, but with the physics engine, they were able to have the vehicles fly off and around the arena, furthering the possibilities for gameplay.
As Psyonix finished development of Battle-Cars, the studio had tried to gain access to a publisher by selling their game as "soccer, but with rocket-powered cars", but none of the publishers seemed interested. Ultimately, they opted to self-publish the title on the PlayStation Network with almost no marketing. Though the title was downloaded more than two million times, it was not considered very successful even after the studio cut the price. The studio continued on to other projects, though kept the idea of building on Battle-Cars as an option, recognizing the game had a small but dedicated fan-base that provided them with ideas for expansion. These other projects, which including contract work for AAA titles, including Mass Effect 3 and Gears of War, helped to fund the development of Rocket League.
Full development of Rocket League started around 2013 and took around two years and under $2 million to develop, though they had tested various prototypes of a Battle-Cars sequel in the years prior, including an unsuccessful attempt at pitching the game's idea to Electronic Arts in 2011. Psyonix used some of the feedback from Battle-Cars to fine-tune the gameplay in Rocket League. A key requirement for Psyonix was to increase the game's frame rate from 30 to 60 frames-per-second, a known criticism from Battle-Cars and essential for newer hardware, according to Corey Davis, the design director at Psyonix. Hagewood recognized that Battle-Cars was considered "too hardcore" with the game becoming too inaccessible to novice players against skilled ones. They eased up on some aspects to make it more approachable, such as by slowing the pace of the game and allowing players of all skill levels to reasonably compete against each other while promoting team-based gameplay. Though they tried to add elements like power-ups, they found these to be too distracting to gameplay. They also explored other changes such as making the game more gritty, akin to Monday Night Combat, developing several mini-games related to handling of the car, working on making the graphics give a sense of scale to the players to give the impression they were controlling full-sized vehicles rather than radio-controlled cars, and creating an open world structure where the player would drive between stadium and stadium to participate in matches. Instead, the team opted to strip the game to its core, focusing on more visual elements to enhance the title. From Battle-Cars, Psyonix recognized very few players actually went online, and developed Rocket League's single-player season mode to encourage players to try online matches once they completed it.
Corey Davis, Rocket League's design manager, giving a presentation at GDC 2016
Psyonix's team were aware of past difficulties that they had with Battle-Cars and other racing games with online play and client-side prediction, and the issues that would arise from that with Rocket League's fast-paced play style. To solve this, the physics in the game are based on using the Bullet physics engine within the Unreal Engine 3's PhysX engine, which tracks the movement of all the cars and actors, allowing them to periodically re-synchronize the game state across players based on the stored physics states, which enabled players to have quick reactions from their client. At the time of Battle-Cars, Psyonix could not afford a dedicated server network and were forced to rely on individual hosts, which could lead to poor performance with slow Internet connections. With Rocket League, Psyonix was able to put a dedicated server network in place, writing their own service protocols to interface with Sony's and Valve's online services so as to enable cross-platform play, as well as improving matchmaking capabilities. Psyonix's previous experience in contract work for AAA titles had exposed them to the larger developers' approach to release and quality control, and they were able to apply those principles and aim for the same level of quality requirements in the final release of Rocket League.
They had at one point considered having Rocket League as a free-to-play title with potential microtransactions, following along with how games like Valve Corporation's Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 had achieved success. Though they had put in efforts for this free-to-play model, they opted to switch to sell the game once and offer only cosmetic elements as downloadable content, assuring that no players would have any additional advantage beyond their own skill. The name Rocket League was selected in part to reduce the size of the game's title in order to appear fully in digital storefronts, and also served to be an easier to remember name as well as a more mature-sounding title than Battle-Cars, according to Hagewood; speaking on Rocket League's development in March 2016, Davis opined that Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars was "the worst game name of all time".
Promotion and release
Rocket League was officially announced as the sequel to Battle-Cars in February 2014. Building on the effects from the lack of marketing with Battle-Cars, Psyonix developed a different marketing approach to Rocket League. This included engaging with YouTube and Twitch.tv video game streamers with early release copies to help spread the word, recognizing that clips from the game would be very "GIF-able" and readily shared through viral social media, according to Davis. They also opened the game to early alpha and beta testing for several months following the game's announcement. Davis noted that they otherwise did not spend any money on traditional marketing approaches.
They had originally planned to release the game around November 2014, but had missed this deadline to implement better matchmaking and servers, high frame rates, and removing the free-to-play elements. The game was released publicly on July 7, 2015 for the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows. Davis considered this serendipitous, as this moved the game out from a busy period of many major releases during the holiday season to the relatively quiet mid-year period, reducing the amount of competition from other titles. Further, the game on release was made part of Instant Game Collection on the PlayStation 4 and free to PlayStation Plus subscribers; within the week, Psyonix had seen more than 183,000 unique players, exceeding their server capacity and requiring them to improve on their network code to handle the influx of players. Davis estimated there were 6 million downloads of the game from this promotion, and considered this the "best decision we ever made".
At The Game Awards 2015 on December 3, it was announced that the game would be released on Xbox One in February 2016, and it was released on February 17, including all previous DLC packs for free, with the exception of the Back to the Future DLC pack, which is available for purchase separately, and the PlayStation 4-exclusive items.
Ports for OS X and Linux were released as a beta on September 8, 2016. A retail version of Rocket League, in form of the game's Collector's Edition, for computer and console versions was announced in February 2016, and was released in Europe on June 24, 2016 and in North America on July 5, 2016. The Collector's Edition is published and distributed by 505 Games, and includes the first three downloadable content packs for free, as well as four additional cars to be available as digital download on July 18: Aftershock and Marauder (both from Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars), as well as Esper and Masamune (first teased in the Neo Tokyo trailer).
The PlayStation 4 version was patched in February 2017 to offer PlayStation 4 Pro support, allowing for 4K resolution and constant 60 frames-per-second rendering at 1080p for one and two-player split-screen players; three and four-player split screen will render up to 60 frames-per-second when possible. Similar rendering improvements were also made to the standard PlayStation 4 to approach constant 60 frames-per-second for most arenas and modes.
After reviewing the feasibility of doing so, Psyonix announced that Rocket League will also be released for the Nintendo Switch in late 2017, as revealed during Nintendo's press conference during Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017. The Switch version will include Nintendo property customization options, and is set to support cross-platform play with other platforms with personal computers and Xbox One users. Some compromises had to be made in the porting process, due to the Switch's lack of natural support for Unreal Engine 3, which the game was created in. Despite having to do "custom work" to make the game run smoothly on the Switch, such as by reducing the graphical quality to 720p, Psyonix's Jeremy Dunham was impressed with the work that had been done before release.
Austin, Texas based studio Panic Button Games assisted Psyonix with the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch ports, and graphical updates to support the PlayStation 4 Pro. In April 2017, Psyonix announced that they had partnered with Tencent to bring a free-to-play version of Rocket League to the Chinese gaming market, with users able to purchase cosmetic items through microtransactions.
Because of the continued growth of the game's player base, Psyonix's Dunham said they do not anticipate creating any sequel to the game, and instead are expecting to continue to add new features to the game over several years' time, calling this an "infinite support window". A small team within Psyonix was set up to explore new features and gameplay ideas to continue to expand Rocket League.
In May 2017, the game served as the sponsor of the World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-view event, Backlash. Psyonix partnered with Zag Toys to produce a series of pullback toy cars based on the Rocket League vehicles, which released in June 2017. Some of these included a redeemable code that can be used within the game for unique customization items. The developers also filmed television advertisements for Rocket League that started airing the same month. Alongside these ads, Psyonix offered free copies of Rocket League alongside purchase of selected Nvidia graphic cards.
Rocket League has been one of the leading titles in supporting cross-platform play between personal computers and multiple consoles. Dunham sees cross-platform play helps establish a stable player base and avoid the snowball effect that can cause isolated player bases on individual platforms to wane, particularly in the transition from one console generation to the next.
Though the Xbox One version initially lacked this feature at launch, Microsoft in March 2016 announced that Rocket League would be the first game in a new initiative they were taking to enable cross-play between Xbox One and Microsoft Windows players who have Xbox Live accounts; this cross-platform play feature was added in an update in May 2016. Microsoft has stated that they offer other networks, such as Sony's PlayStation Network, the ability to integrate with Xbox Live to allow full cross-platform compatibility for titles like Rocket League. Dunhan noted that this cross-platform idea had been something they asked Microsoft about when Rocket League was set for an Xbox One release, but he stated that Microsoft did not seem to be on board with it. Only after they had neared the release date would Microsoft take the initiative to offer the title as one for their new cross-play efforts and started working towards this possibility in the game. Psyonix determined the required technical steps needed to enable cross-platform play and have tested it in closed environments, and were only waiting for the legalities of cross-connecting players between different networks before proceeding. this work also includes how they would be able to distribute updated content patches in a unified and more frequent manner to enable them to continue to expand the game for at least another 9 months. In a July 2016 interview with IGN, Dunham stated they had done all the technical work and could enable cross-platform play between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions "within a few hours" of Sony's approval. As of March 2017, the company is ready to enable this feature, but was still waiting for the console manufacturers to come to the required agreements to allow it.
With the announcement of the Switch version, Psyonix affirmed that it would support cross-platform play with PC and Xbox users. Sony still opted not to participate in this; PlayStation global marketing head Jim Ryan said that while they are "open to conversations with any developer or publisher who wants to talk about it", their decision was "a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders". Dunham says that in contrast to Microsoft or Nintendo, who agreed to allow cross-platform play within a month and with the day of Pysonix' request, respectively, Sony has been asked on a nearly daily basis about this support and have yet to receive any definitive answer.
The original soundtrack for Rocket League was released both physically and digitally on July 1, 2015. It contains original compositions by Psyonix sound designer Mike Ault, as well as contributions by Ault's electronic music group, Hollywood Principle. New songs were added to the game with post-release updates, including "Chaos Run Theme" by Kevin Riepl, "Escape from LA (Instrumental)" by Abandoned Carnival and Ault, and a remix of Hollywood Principle's "Breathing Underwater" by Ether. These songs were later compiled in the second volume of the soundtrack, which was released on July 7, 2016. iam8bit published a three-disc vinyl version of the soundtrack, consisting of the above two volumes, in late 2016.
Psyonix plans to continue to support Rocket League with downloadable content, intending to keep all gameplay updates as free and only charging for cosmetic items. In November 2015, a free update added the ability to "Mutate" a match, allowing for a number of different custom presets and match settings, including a low gravity mode and a cubed ball, among other improvements and additions. Through this, Psyonix is able to offer custom game playlists to test out new modes or for holiday-themed events. For example, during the latter part of December 2015, Psyonix introduced an ice hockey-based mutation alongside a special event featuring holiday-themed decorative items, replacing the normal ball with a hockey puck, and changing the floor to ice. This mode proved very popular and was permanently added to the standard playlists on February 24, 2016. In February 2016, a new game playlist called "Rocket Labs" was added to offer new experimental maps to players as a means to gauge feedback and interest in a map before adding it to the game's standard map playlist. In April 2016, the developers added the basketball-based playlist to the standard playlists. A new "Rumble" mode, which adds unique power-ups on various maps, was released in September 2016.
The game's first DLC pack, titled Supersonic Fury, was released in August 2015, along with new arena Utopia Coliseum. It contains exclusive cosmetics, including two new cars, rocket boosts, wheels, five paint finishes, and twelve decals for both new cars. The same month, it was announced that Rocket League would be ported to OS X and Linux later that year, in order to run natively with SteamOS hardware; Rocket League and Portal 2 were part of incentives for those that pre-ordered a Steam Link, a Steam Controller, or a Steam Machine. The game's second DLC pack, titled Revenge of the Battle-Cars, was released in October 2015. The DLC adds two more cars from Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, along with exclusive cosmetics for both. In another event, players had a chance to collect six Halloween-themed items from October 18 to November 2. The game's third DLC pack, titled Chaos Run, was released in December 2015. The DLC added two more cars, along with more cosmetics. A new arena, called "Wasteland", was released for free alongside the DLC. The map is notable for being the first non-standard arena to be released, having a different size and shape than the others and inspired by the Mad Max films, the first of which Psyonix plans to release over time.
In June 2016, a new arena, Neo Tokyo, based on the Rocket Labs layout Underpass, was added to the game via an update. The update also introduced cosmetic items awarded at the end of matches with various rarity grades, and gave players the ability to trade multiple items of the same type and rarity grade to obtain an item of a better rarity grade. Also included in the patch are a number of painted and certified items, the latter of which are cosmetic items with statistics-recording tags, and eight new achievements. Psyonix added the ability for players to trade items with other players within the "Rumble" update, including item and crate drop systems comparable to Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, in which players have the chance to gain locked crates from playing in competitive matches. Players are able to purchase keys to open these crates through microtransactions, revealing special decorative items for their cars. Players can opt-out of this feature to disable crate drops. Though items received in crates are tradable within the game, these items cannot be sold on the platform's respective marketplaces so as to prevent issues in the same vein as the Counter-Strike skin gambling controversy. The funds from microtransactions would be used to support the eSports tourneys organized by Psyonix. In October 2016, a major update titled "Aquadome" launched, featuring a new arena placed under the sea, along with two new premium water-themed cars, and a new crate containing new items and seven new achievements.
Psyonix was able to make licensing agreements to include vehicles and decorative items from other franchises within the game. On launch, the PlayStation 4 version included Sweet Tooth's car from the Twisted Metal series. As a separate DLC, the DeLorean time machine from the Back to the Future film franchise, was released on October 21, 2015, corresponding with Back to the Future Day. The Xbox One release includes platform-exclusive Gears of War and Halo-themed vehicles. The Batmobile, as seen in the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was offered as a playable vehicle in March 2016, while Dominic Toretto's Dodge Charger from the film The Fate of the Furious was added to tie in with the film's release in April 2017. A July 2017 update will introduce customization items based on the animated show Rick & Morty. In 2016, Psyonix attempted to include KITT from the 1980s television series, Knight Rider.
In September 2015, Psyonix held a cross-promotion with Torn Banner Studios, adding two free new flags themed after Torn Banner's Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. At the same time the "Chaos Run" DLC was released, Psyonix added free cosmetics and accessories from the Portal series by Valve Corporation. Themed content based on Goat Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator were added to the game in April 2016 as part of cross-promotional deals with those games. Other themed promotional content includes decorative items based on The Witcher and Worms W.M.D. With the release of the basketball game mode in 2016, Psyonix partnered with the National Basketball Association (NBA), offering flags with all 30 NBA team logos as car customization items. In February 2017, two iconic Hot Wheels cars were added to the game, along with other cosmetic items based on the brand.
Psyonix had observed the popularity of Rocket League matches on Twitch.tv and other live streaming platforms, and in February 2016, were looking to use the game more in eSports. In March 2016, Psyonix announced the first Rocket League Championship Series; the finals took place in August 2016 with a $55,000 prize pool. The second season of the championship series took place in December 2016 with a $125,000 prize pool. A third series began in March 2017, with the $300,000 prize pool finals taking place three months later. Psyonix announced that going forward into 2017, it will use more than $1 million in revenues from the sale of in-game crates and cosmetic items to fund additional competitive events throughout the year, including smaller competitions at major gaming conventions and support for community-run competitive events.
Soon after release, Rocket League became an officially sponsored eSport, joining ESL. In September 2015, Major League Gaming (MLG) announced the first season of the Pro Rocket League, which was held in September through early October. A $75,000 Rocket League tournament will be held at the Summer X Games during July 2017, with finals to be streams on ESPN3. NBC Sports Group, in conjunction with Faceit, will run its own $100,000-prize pool Rocket League tournament to broadcast across its eight worldwide regions in July and August 2017 as NBC's first foray into eSports.
[icon] This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2016)
Metacritic (XONE) 87/100
PC Gamer (US) 87/100
PlayStation Universe Best Sports Game of E3
Gaming Trend Best Multiplayer Game of E3
The Game Awards 2015 Best Independent Game
Best Sports/Racing Game
19th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Sports Game of the Year
Outstanding Achievement for Online Gameplay
D.I.C.E. Sprite Award
Reception towards the beta versions of the game was very positive, with critics praising both the fact that it is "addictive and fun", as well as the visuals, which "are brilliantly detailed" and "crisp".
Rocket League received generally positive reviews, with a large majority of reviewers praising the multiplayer component, calling it "fun", "simple", and "highly addictive", as well as one of the top competitive games in recent years. Some have pointed out that the simple core concepts belie the game's true depth, which stems from a developed understanding of the "floaty" physics and control mechanics.
Psyonix teamed with Internal Drive to provide Rocket League as part of the latter's iD Tech summer educational camps for children, using the game for both recreation and for teaching elements of game design.
On July 11, 2015, Psyonix announced that there were around 120,000 concurrent players across both Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4. By the end of July, the game had been downloaded over 5 million times, and had 179,000 concurrent players. Psyonix stated that Rocket League's quick paced success far exceeded their expectations.
Psyonix announced that over one million copies of the game had been sold on Steam by August 2015. By the end of 2015, the game had been downloaded over eight million times, and grossed over $50 million. In February 2016, Psyonix stated Rocket League has earned $70 million in revenues with at least 4 million units sold, not including downloads on the PlayStation system; they have tracked at least 12 million unique players of the game, including both purchases and during free play offers such as its availability on the PlayStation Plus membership program. Within three weeks of its release for the Xbox One, Psyonix observed at least one million unique players for that system. By July 2016, a year after its release, Psyonix reported more than 6.2 million sales of the game across all platforms, including 5.5 million purchases of DLC, with more than $110 million in revenue; 40% of these sales have been for the PlayStation 4 version with the remaining split roughly equally between PC and Xbox One. Psyonix has tracked more than 25 million unique players by January 2017, averaging 1.1 million players a day, and reaching 220,000 concurrent players at one point. Sony stated that Rocket League was the most-downloaded title from the PlayStation Store in 2016.
By March 2017, Psyonix reported that Rocket League had sold more than 10.5 million copies across all platforms, and had 29 million registered players, with about a fourth of that having played during February 2017. Dunham estimated that 70% of the game's players have purchased some of the DLC offered for the game. Pysonix reported that by April 2017, they have sold more than 1 million units of 505 Games' physical retail edition, alongside the 9.5 million from digital sales.
Members from Psyonix, including the studio founder Dave Hagewood (right), receiving the 2016 Game Developers Choice Award for Rocket League at GDC 2016
After the E3 2015 event, Rocket League received multiple nominations and won several awards, including PlayStation Universe's "Best Sports Game of E3" and Gaming Trend's "Best Multiplayer Game of E3".
At The Game Awards 2015 in December, Rocket League won the award for Best Independent Game and Best Sports/Racing Game, and was nominated for Best Multiplayer. At the 2015 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) awards, the game won Control Precision & Game, Original Sports and was nominated for Art Direction, Fantasy. At the 19th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards in February 2016, Rocket League also won the award for Sports Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement for Online Gameplay and the D.I.C.E. Sprite Award. Rocket League was awarded the Best Design at the 2016 Game Developers Choice Awards. At the 2016 SXSW Gaming Awards, Rocket League was awarded the "Excellence in Multiplayer" prize. Rocket League won three BAFTA Games Awards for Multiplayer, Sports, and Family, and was nominated for two others, Best Game and Game Design. It also won the following year for the BAFTA's Evolving Game award.
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