At its core, Rocket League has always been a humble game about rocket cars playing football. But now the rules have changed with the introduction of a new temporary mode “Knockout”. For the first time, players will have to rethink their tactics as they go head-to-head in an eight-player free-for-all.
In this devastating derby, rookies and veterans alike will have to master new attack, block, and grapple mechanics to win. Knockout will be part of the new Knockout Bash in-game event running from April 27th to May 10th.
Psyonix programmer Sky Breen was part of the team that developed Knockout. We sat down together to talk about what players can expect, the process of introducing new mechanics, and how removing the ball is a big change for Rocket League.
Knockout is the first game mode without gates or walls. What was it like designing a “rule-breaking” mode compared to other Rocket League modes?
Sky: To be honest, we had as much fun making the mode as we did playing it. When we started developing Knockout, we saw it as an opportunity to further develop Rocket League gameplay. A way to adapt Knockout with new vehicle physics and learnable skills to make the mode as fun as possible. At the same time, we want to give players a new experience that hasn’t changed since our initial release seven years ago. Of course, this is a violation of the rules, but we hope that players will really enjoy all the changes and new additions that we have made.
So, how did the team decide to use attack, block, and grapple as a new mechanic? Were there other directions you took before deciding on this new form of car vs car battle?
Sky: Initially, the prototype was built around attacking other players. It was fun, but we wanted to add more depth and variety to the player’s moveset. So we tried to add a new set of blocking moves to protect the player from attacks, which the team really liked, but didn’t have a weakness for other moves like attack. Some players took advantage of this and spammed the Block move over and over again. We came to the conclusion that in many fighting games there are three main sets of moves: attack, grab and block, which I like to call “triple” because it sounds cool, haha. We thought it would be fun if each set of moves combined with the other, like rock, paper, scissors. So it will allow players to outsmart others if they can predict which move someone else is planning to use.
How do different cards affect gameplay? Were they created for different purposes?
Sky: The goal that we set initially was that no matter what map we play on, the gameplay itself should be interesting. When we prototyped, we played on the simplest map we could create, which was just a platform with a kill zone underneath. We decided that if we could have fun with the simplest maps, more complex maps would be even more fun! Once we reached this point in development and had super solid game mechanics in place, we started to expand with new creative maps that were specifically tailored to the gameplay. We then added new obstacles like spikes to spice up the mode and make it even more fun in the long run.
Did the team have any early inspiration for Knockout?
Sky: The original idea behind the Knockout mode was to create a new experience for players. A place where they can go to have fun with their friends. The team received a lot of inspiration during the development of the mode. Pulling ideas from various fighting games, royal battles, down to the very essence, playing stone, paper, scissors.
Part of our audience thinks demolition (when one player bumps into another at supersonic speed) is “cheap”. What does this mode mean for players who think demos are fun, fair, and completely true to game mechanics?
Sky: Haha, so now they have a place of solace! Don’t worry anymore. Come to Knockout and put these skills to good use.
And this is the story of how Rocket League removed the ball! If you’re interested in learning more about the development of Knockout, stay tuned for our upcoming video series called Under the Hood, where the Psyonix developers talk about the process behind the scenes. In the meantime, enjoy Knockout Bash from April 27 to May 10!