One of the most revolutionary games of the last decade came from Psyonix, with that Rocket League who masterfully mixed the world of soccer with racing cars. It was the biggest surprise of a 2015 full of great games, What The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Ori and the Blind Forest Y Bloodborne, between many more.
It was the culmination of an idea ahead of its time, with the less popular Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (SARPBC, short) from PS3, seen exclusively for PlayStation Network in 2008. The funny thing is to know where that idea came from: from a game mode from Unreal Tournament 2004.
A mod for Unreal Tournament 2003, the germ
The story begins with Dave Hagewood, founder of Psyonix in 2000. This Californian study took eight years to publish the aforementioned SARPBC, but this does not mean that Hagewood was not working in its early years. In fact, it all started with a mod for Unreal Tournament 2003
The striking thing about the matter is that mod that Dave created was precisely called Onslaught, reaching the ears of Epic Games, who were impressed by his work and decided to recruit him to be in charge of implementing this mode officially in the subsequent Unreal Tournament 2004
Getting to that point was not easy and Dave’s team did not achieve success with that game that mixed racing cars with soccer, but it would with the irruption of Rocket League on PS4 and as one of the juiciest claims of PlayStation Plus in July 2015. The explanation is very simple, seen in perspective: with PS4 the online capacity was fully established and was much more satisfactory, in addition to being technically much more polished than the original SARPBC. But let’s go back to Unreal Tournament 2004 to understand..
On paper, the Onslaught mode developed by Psyonix has nothing to do with Rocket League, except for the fact of sharing the use of vehicles. However, the idea of creating a soccer video game with racing cars did come after discovering that you could do pirouettes in this mode of the aforementioned shooter by Epic. Both Hagewood and Ben Beckwith, the level designer on this project, enjoyed these stunts in the air after jumping from certain points.
It started to make sense when introducing a ball …
As its creator commented a few years ago through an interview in Gamasutra, everything changed when someone came up with the brilliant idea of throwing a ball. Because it is not the same to offer races with vehicles for the umpteenth time or opt for the typical destruction of combat cars, with its golden age in the nineties, which insert a foreign element completely to all four wheels.
None of those ideas had caught on in this Unreal Tournament 2004 until the happy ball arrived. This, logically, also helped the propulsion of the vehicles, since those responsible discovered that thanks to this turbo they could not only make longer jumps, but to get to “fly” across the stage.
The Psyonix team were having a great time with this unexpected, fully trial addition, with which they were able to “hit the ball as hard as a ball” to score an imaginary goal. Because of course this Onslaught wasn’t exactly a football game, being based on energy nodes to control, as a more complex variant of Capture the Flag.
But it certainly helped Hagewood and his family to see the potential of these cars, which would end up being translated into a real game for PS3 four years later through the aforementioned SARPBC (Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars, in case you’ve forgotten what the acronyms meant). In any case, it did not enjoy the expected success despite the brilliant idea, and it was also a “too difficult” game, which is why they polished the playable section for its spiritual successor, that Rocket League that was a boom in 2015. The combination of the factors was ideal, leaving behind the terrible lag of the original on PS3 and have a mass of users thanks to being part of PS Plus at launch. The rest, as they say, is history. A story that does not deserve to be forgotten in its origins.