Rocket League looks at its past to build its future with the new mode 'Dropshot'
It's not volleyball. It's way better than that.
Ever since its release on the PlayStation Network and Steam almost two years ago, Rocket League has been a critical and commercial darling among video games. Combining RC cars and soccer seemed like a no-brainer, but even developer Psyonix has marveled at its success, especially since the game already kind of existed in a primitive form with Supersonic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars. Whilst that may be a more descriptive title, it's by no stretch of the imagination as catchy.
Over the past year and a half, Rocket League has evolved past its initial premise by adding new modes such as Hoops, Snow Day and Rumble whilst providing awesome cosmetic additions; their recent Hot Wheels DLC being their most successful add-on ever. With more and more players jumping onto the game, Psyonix isn't nearly ready to move onto a new title. They understand that in order to keep this growth going, they needed to find what makes Rocket League so special. And recently, they cracked it.
In a behind-closed-doors demo at this past weekend's PAX East, I sat down with a small group of Rocket League's developers to discuss the future of the game. Two things drove the team: what made the game fun and volleyball. Hoops is a really great addition to the roster of modes available in Rocket League, but it's no secret that you need to be a considerably more skilled player in order to compete. With its next mode, the team wanted to return to the roots of the game and make something accessible to every gamer.
They brainstormed and understood that three key components keep players coming back to Rocket League: focus on the ball, easy to understand, consistent physics, and accessibility to newcomers. In addition, the devs wanted to please old fans by creating a volelyball mode.
Fans have been clamoring for volleyball since the introduction of new modes, and the developers at Psyonix made it expressly clear to me that it's something they've tried to nail for months. They mentioned that when demoing prototype builds, they know they've made something fun when there's a lot of yelling in the office, and there just never was for volleyball. The biggest problem they identified was the restriction of the field: the game wasn't fun when you couldn't traverse the entire court. They tried to rectify this problem by allowing you to ride along the net, but whilst that improved the game it wasn't nearly where they wanted it.
Enter "Dropshot", Rocket League's newest, and what I anticipate will be its most popular, game mode. It shares its basic premise with volleyball, meaning you want to do everything to keep the ball from touching your side of the court, but in a much more dynamic way. Firstly, you have access to the whole field. When you or someone on your team hits the ball, it is charged with evnergy respective to your team's color. If it lands on your half of the court, nothing happens. But if it manages to land in the oppositions' half, things get a lot more interesting.
Depending on how hard you hit the ball depends on how much energy it is charged with, and if it hits the ground on your opponents side, a portion of the field will light up. If the ground is hit again, that portion of the field is destroyed and leaves a gaping hole in its place. If they ball falls through that hole, the other team gains a point.
It's addictivie, it's chaotic, and it's easily Rocket League's best, most original mode. In order to keep things interesting, the half of the court which is controlled by the scoring team will be unchanged after the point. Much like in a fighting game where the winner of the round begins the next round with whatever health they won with. It means that a game can flip on a dime, and prevents one side from dominating the other. Because of this, my team and I were able to fend off a strong opposition when we played a team of all Psyonix developers. Ultimately, though, they did kick our butts - but not by an embarassing amount.
Dropshot will release along with season 4 of competitive play and a "live now" button in the menu which will allow Rocket League players to immediately watch live matches. All this content will be available on March 22nd. Whether you played the game on day one, or have yet to give it a shot, I gurantee you its worth your time.