On the final day of E3, I decided to start my morning by dropping by the Psyonix booth to have a chat with Jeremy Dunham, Vice President of the studio. Jeremy decided to start his day by eating a hot dog.
"Mustard," he said between bites. "They didn't have onions."
Once finished, he quickly jumped into all things Rocket League. As they approach their second anniversary, the developers at Psyonix are getting ready to debut their "Second Anniversary Patch." Tons of new content, including custom spark trails and goal explosions as well as a new, epic stadium called "Champion Field." Of course, additional details are due to be announced next, once the E3 hype dies down.
What brought Psyonix to E3 this week, however, was the announcement of Rocket League on the Xbox One X, and more excitedly, its official debut on the Nintendo Switch. Sitting in front of me was a docked Nintendo Switch hooked up to a TV.
"Would you like to play?"
Yes. Yes, I do.
As I was quickly reminded of just how bad I am at Rocket League, we talked more about what brought Rocket League to Nintendo in the first place. Turns out, it was Nintendo who approached them.
"The first question that I asked was, cross-network play is very important to us, will you support cross-network play?"
Nintendo's response? "We'll support cross-network play, no problem." (I should emphasize that those were Jeremy's words, not Nintendo's).
Not that he had to tell me. The Nintendo Switch made an appearance in Microsoft's press conference this last weekend with the announcement of cross-network play through Minecraft. It was during Nintendo's stream that it was revealed that Rocket League would join the fray. Jeremy's assurance that Nintendo approached them before the Switch was even announced highlights a change in Nintendo's attitude toward fellow publishers Microsoft and Sony. While Microsoft seems to be happy being all in on working with Nintendo, Sony remains reluctant. I asked Jeremy if he had anything to say about that, to which he jokingly replied, "Go ask Sony."
Other takeaways from our chat about Rocket League on the Switch. In addition to supporting cross-network play on day one, the team at Psyonix are aiming for 720p resolution, 60 FPS docked and undocked. This is because nailing the "feel" of Rocket League takes precedence over visual fidelity. Not that it looked bad; even though I was looking at an alpha build of the game, a quick glance showed little difference between the Switch and its console counterparts.
One thing the Switch version will have over the other versions is the addition of ad hoc multiplayer. Up to 8 Switches can play locally with each other, for those "...Planes, Trains and Automobile" moments (his words). Of course, it wouldn't be a Nintendo game without having Nintendo-exclusive content. In addition to the Mario and Luigi caps shown during Nintendo's Treehouse stream, Jeremy said there would be additional surprises for Switch owners. Special battle cars, perhaps?
We ended our chat by talking about what role Rocket League fans play in the ongoing development of the game.
"Community first. That's our company motto." He said with a smile on his face. Fans were clamoring for a Switch version of the game on their subreddit ever since the system was announced, unaware that these discussions had already been happening a year prior.
Fans were clamoring for a Switch version of the game on their subreddit ever since the system was announced, unaware that these discussions had already been happening for over a year. He spoke at length about the joys of taking player feedback and rewarding their fan base with real, tangible changes. Curious, I asked him if there were any fan suggestions that bordered on the ridiculous.
A couple. Gore, for one thing.
"Gore?" I asked.
"Yeah," said Jeremy. "Some people thought it would be cool to see the cars explode in a gush of blood and organs."
Weapons are another common suggestion, and definitely not something coming to Rocket League any time soon. They do, however, like to give in-game shout-outs to some of their more meme-worthy fans.
"We had one fan who...used to play Rocket League with a pigeon mask on,' he said. "His girlfriend walked in as he was playing and caught him playing Rocket League and freaking out as he's wearing this pigeon mask." The resulting image was so funny to the team that they decided to
The resulting image was so funny to the team that they decided to put the pigeon head in the game as a topper. It is also featured in the TV ads they run.
This devotion to fans (within reason) is a rarity in the industry, and it is easy to see why Nintendo would approach the developers at Psyonix to bring Rocket League to the Switch. Both companies thrive on a community that loves and support their games, jokes and all.