"A spiritual successor to a project that helped define Rocket League" - Chatting with Psyonix on Knockout Bash

by Pierre Bell

The latest twist on the Rocket League formula, we sit down for a quick interview on Knockout Bash.

The Knockout Bash header spliced with a headshot of senior game designer Josh Watson

In case you’ve not been keeping up with Rocket League, the football driving hybrid that’s been trucking along with its own distinct community over the past few years, you may have missed the launch of Knockout Bash mode. While only available for a limited time, this event shifts the focus away from goals and footballs and towards a more combat-centric experience.

The development team talked more about this mode in their ‘Under the Hood’ video (embedded below), but we reached out to senior game designer Josh Watson to dig a little deeper into what inspired the first update to drive away from the ball, how the new combat system was designed, and the future on future modes in a similar style.

VG247: You talked in the Under The Hood video about inspirations for this mode. What caused the team to go "now's the time for a non-soccer option".

Josh: The studio was originally created by a group of modders, so we’ve always had this culture of experimentation and exploration. I’d like to say there was some meeting where we made this deliberate choice to make a non-soccar option, but truthfully we’re just fans of the game. When we sat down and started working on the mode, our conversations were always about how we can find something new and fun to bring to the game; something that we’d be excited to play. As we began bouncing ideas off of each other, we kept coming back to this idea that it would be great to figure out how to revisit Crash Course and execute on a spiritual successor to a project that helped define Rocket League.

VG247: How long has this been in the works?

Josh: This mode was in early prototyping with a very limited team about a year ago, but actual development started around 6 months ago. The team would gradually grow in size with the majority of the development taking place over the last three months.

VG247: Can we expect more ventures into non-soccer modes in the future?

Josh: That really depends on the appetite from our players and community. Like I mentioned in the “Under the Hood'' video, we’ve seen a healthy interest from creators in the community to deliver non-Soccar experiences within Rocket League. This was our first opportunity to introduce this type of experience to the player base at large. When we do experimental things with the game, we always let the player’s tell us if we’re headed in the right direction. If they want to see more, that’s the biggest factor for us.

VG247: Tell me about some of the new attack options added to the mode: The new attack, block, and grab. How did you come to the final selection of new attack options?

Josh: Each one of these skills plays a key role in the core combat for Knockout. We call them the Trinity; and they work a lot like Rock-Paper-Scissors. At any given point in engagement a player can decide to use one of these moves to get the upper hand in the fight. Once players master these skills, the real game is trying to anticipate your opponent's moves and choose the right skill to counter whatever they throw at you.

VG247: It looks as though a lot of work has gone into this limited time mode, enough to warrant curiosity as to why it is limited in the first place. Is a permanent addition of this, or another mode similar to knockout, on the cards?

Josh: Within the team that developed Knockout we look at this LTM as a brand new experience that has a lot of potential for iteration and further exploration, but all of that really depends on player reception. For us the first step is get it out there, see how the community likes it and see what kind of adjustments we need to make so that Knockout is the best it can be. So that’s the part we’re focused on right now. We’ll see what the future holds for Knockout once we’ve had that conversation with our players.

VG247: One part of the video that perked my ears up was when "edge guarding" came up near the end of the video. In fact, many stage-based / brawling fighting games came up throughout the video. How much DNA from that genre of game has bled into this mode?

Josh: Haha, good catch! Yeah, edge guarding is one of my personal favourite skills that higher level players begin to pick up as they master Knockout. When it comes to how much Brawler DNA made it into the mode, I would say there is a healthy amount of inspiration taken from that genre. One of the vastly different things that Knockout does is allow players to have complete control of movement in 3D space, which was one of the bigger challenges when creating the mode. In a lot of ways we are in completely new territory with this type of game, so we’re excited to be solving some of these challenges for the first time.

If you’re keen on trying out Knockout Bash yourself, you’ve got until May 10 to try it out! If you want to nab some free cosmetics for the game, check out our Rocket League codes page for some free stuff this May.