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Rocket League's Fall Update is going to be absolutely packed

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There's stuff for both the casual and hardcore players

When I met with with Rocket League creative director Corey Davis at PAX earlier this month to talk about the upcoming update, I knew it was going to be a big one. Developers rarely schedule appointments to talk about patches. It's too granular. Davis had a whole PowerPoint presentation ready to go.

The biggest news to come out of this meeting was the reveal that Rocket League was beginning to work on cross-platform parties (which I exhaustively detailed in this piece). However, there was a ton of stuff that the Rocket League community will also take interest in. Since there's so much, let's tackle them one at a time along with Davis' commentary about each:

Transparent Goalposts:

The Fall Update will introduce transparent goalposts. "The big deal is that it's toggleable," Davis says. "There's a ton of games that do transparent walls but in our case, not only do you have to be able to see any curvature but also any boundaries, so you don't just like drive off the side trying to Spider-Man clear the ball."

There are a couple reasons they can be turned on or off. First, Davis predicts that a lot of seasoned players will probably leave things as they are because they've gotten so good at knowing how to handle the opaque goalposts. But, he also adds that "technically, there's a very small performance hit. So people on a 10-year old PC (which we definitely have), they can turn it off if they feel like it's hurting the performance. In our profiling, it has almost no impact unless you're really on a potato PC."

LAN Support:

Although RLCS has had LAN support from the very beginning, Psyonix is releasing it for everyone. Davis comments "So you can host a LAN server in the game client. It's on all the consoles, and we actually developed a lot of it for Switch to do local Wi-Fi play like Mario Kart. But it extends to LAN pretty naturally. It's a bigger deal for tournaments like the Universal Open or whatever where they want to play on 0 ping." (Somewhat embarrassingly, a late-stage Universal Open match was hit with a network error while it was being broadcast on NBC Sports.)

"We've had it for RLCS for a long time. There's security concerns with releasing a server build essentially. Since this is packaged into the normal client, there's no additional risks for people finding stuff that we don't want them to find."


Standardized Maps:

As we noted last month, Rocket League is doing away with alternate maps in competitive and casual online play. Good riddance.

Director Mode and Smurfs:

Psyonix has been working on a new spectator camera called Director Mode, and this update will put the feature in beta. Davis explains it as "An AI that can predict based on what it knows of the players in the match. It'll predict shots and saves and if you hit the ball in the way that thinks is going to create an epic goal or save, it will cut to the perfect person so that it frames the action correctly.

The nice thing about it is that it can follow certain rules so that these guys don't always have time to think about. Like in broadcasts, you try not to 180 the camera. There's a bunch of rules in sports broadcasting that we're trying to subtly include. If you're constantly inverting, people sort of lose context."

However, Director Mode has a more interesting application: Detecting smurfs. Davis' laments are the same as those of most developers of competitive online multiplayer games. "It's a really tough problem," he says. "What we're looking at is similar to what I hear other people that I talk to are looking at is metrics. It's easier on a shooter because you can look at mouse movement and say 'this person is super accurate compared to everyone else in the game.' So I know games like Overwatch are starting to look at this where they can do processing on your input and say 'this guy's playing like a Diamond player, so let's nudge him upwards into the correct ranking.' This is our first step from 'Can we from an AI or programming standpoint detect what a diamond player looks like?'"

Davis continues "Our middle range of Gold which is like the peak of our bell curve, is marked not by people not knowing how to do crazy stuff, it's that they're incredibly inconsistent. So one game you play like a Platinum player and the next you play like a Silver. That's going to be a challenge for us: Not misidentifying people because they over-performed for a couple games."


Season 5 Rewards:

For the first time ever, Rocket League's competitive season reward won't be an item for your car. Instead, it'll be an animated banner. Davis elaborates "It's kind of like a kill card in Call of Duty or something. It'll show up on the main menu under your name, then whenever you score, people will see not just your name and title but an animated banner. They get crazier and more animated and more ornate the higher rank you are. We're also going to include a bunch of freebies for people who a) don't play competitive and b) don't like the look of these.

Part of it is that we had feedback in the past that people didn't like that they would grind for a season reward and they'd get like wheels and then they'd get new wheels out of a crate and they'd be like 'Aww, now I can't show off that I was a Champion because I have to pick between my season reward and my cosmetic preference.' This is sort of our first stab at a prestige award that shows off how high ranked you were but doesn't necessarily preclude you from customizing your car."


Seasonal Arenas:

Rocket League's going to start experimenting with seasonal arenas. The first one is a rural farmstead map. I can't get over how cute the cow is. Then, when fall passes, Psyonix will move onto some snowy winter-themed maps.

New Items:

Davis comments: "The last thing for this update in particular is that there are over 90 new free items. They're all going to be totally free and they try to fill in some gaps in our item catalog. There are cute things like bunnies that animate or like a taco boost. There's animated dragon wings for the top of your car, there's an avocado with a face on it. It's a ton of stuff that's a little bit different than what we've done before, and all are completely free.

There's a silent majority of players who want stuff like this and aren't necessarily posting on reddit about it. I would say that the online competitive community definitely skews toward crates, but some of this is just us trying to pad out stuff for maybe younger players who don't like the type of items that are in the game now, but they would like a cute animal for the top of their car.

We think there's value [in the added free items]. We just put out the expansion to trade-up, so we're trying to bring more content to that system."

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Apart from the cross-platform parties, Psyonix is looking at two other notable features that will go in beta soon after the Fall Update. They are:

Events:

Psyonix is going to lean harder into events, and one way to do that is to give away earnable keys. "Now we're going full-on event stuff. One of the things we're talking about it is a new type of item you'll be able to get from events is a Decryptor. That's basically a free key that you can open any crate with. So you can get like three of them per event by [playing enough]," Davis says.

Why is this the first time Psyonix has skewed toward giving away its microtransactions? "For a long time, we wanted to be very clear that keys are paid for and you don't grind for them. Because then it creates this weird psychology of 'This is unfairly difficult' and people think that they should be able to farm this stuff. It was very clear from us that this is paid content. This is really just a way in very limited quantities to sample or get that crate item you wanted but without paying for a key.

The caveat is that because these are earnable, the items that you get are untradeable. That's something we kind of have to do to protect the economy because otherwise people could farm with bots."


Tournaments:

Lastly, Psyonix is going to introduce bracketed tournaments to Rocket League. Davis' full comments on this: "This is something that we've been working toward for a long time. The big thing for us is that we see how cool it is to go to a LAN and compete in a bracketed tournament. We'd like to bring that to everybody because we think that even if you're a Bronze player, it's cool to play in a tournament. It's just a different experience from matchmaking.

Creating one is really just like making a private match in some sense. You can pick a date for up to two weeks out right now. You can pick any game mode, selection of what arenas you want in the map rotation, everything from standard stuff to Labs. 1v1 to 4v4. Bracket size in the beta is going to be anywhere from 8 to 128 people or teams. You can pick format for standard and finals, so it can be anything from best of 1 to best of 7, and if you want finals to be a longer series, that's supported as well.

We had to build in series support for this, so basically you load into a server and it'll say 'Game 2 of 3' and show an indicator or who has won how many games. And it'll do this seamlessly.

You can also turn cross-play on or off, and you can set rank requirements. We're expecting a lot of people to say like 'This tournament is Diamond only.' If I set the minimum rank to Silver 1, the whole team has to have at least one player at that rank or higher, or else they won't be allowed to check in.

We have long-term goals with this. One is attaching items to a tournament from both our perspective and the community's. A feature that we're working on but aren't going to turn on initially until we're sure that everything is super solid is community item rewards. If you're a tournament organizer and you want to pull in the best of the best, you attach a really valuable item to first place. We'll hold it in escrow, and it'll automatically transfer to whoever wins.

Our original focus and we ended up flipping it to focus on community stuff because it's something that we could get out and tested sooner is Psyonix-run automated ranked tournaments. The idea would be that there are a couple time slots per day to funnel people into bigger brackets. If you're like a Diamond player, there's a Diamond tournament at 4pm and there are rewards attached to it. If you really love tournaments, there's a whole type of progression, ranking, and item rewards attached.

Since we're heading toward this automated ranked play, part of the reason we're going to focus tournaments around certain time slots is so that there's not ongoing drain from matchmaking. There's like two tournaments per day in your time zone, you play those and then you go back to ranked.

We're really excited about the idea of seasons of tournament play with exclusive rewards. If you win enough tournaments, you can earn this really cool cosmetic item that you can only get from doing that."

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Rocket League's Fall Update is currently scheduled to release on September 28. LAN support will go live for PC players then, and on other platforms at a later date. Cross-platform parties will go into beta on PC sometime later this fall and on consoles early next year.


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Brett Makedonski
Brett MakedonskiManaging Editor   gamer profile

While you laughing, we're passing, passing away. So y'all go rest y'all souls, 'Cause I know I'ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y'all know y'all forever got love from them Bone Thugs baby... ... more + disclosures


 



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