The Sound Of Rocket League (An Interview With Psyonix’s Mike Ault)

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GS: Are there any interesting stories behind some of the songs that are included in the game?

MA: There are SO MANY STORIES. The music that ended up in the game happened because after I put the theme in, people around the office said they were getting sick of it since they were spending so much time in the menus and, at the time, it was the only song looping. So, I just threw all of my personal music in there to (again) get that EA playlist of popular music type of vibe.

Each song was written at a different time in my life and means something very special to me. “Flying Forever” is the oldest, I wrote that one in the summer of 2011 with the vocalist, Morgan Perry. That was before I even worked at Psyonix. If you listen to the lyrical content in most of these tunes, you can kind of get an idea what the songs actually are about.

GS: Three of the songs on the soundtrack are credited to Hollywood Principle. Who are the other members in the group and what are the key differences between your solo work and your collaboration with Hollywood Principle?

MA: For the past year and a half, I have pretty much dropped my “Mike Ault Solo Venture.” I met one of my bandmates, Elliott Sencan, in the summer of 2013, and we hit it off instantly. At the time, I was working with everyone and anyone I could find, as I always felt my music became better through collaboration. Elliott and I started working on Whiplash — spending eight straight hours working on a five-second part of the song. Of course, “Whiplash” was an early venture and our songs have gotten better since then, but I knew that writing music with Elliott was unique because we would butt heads a ton, but what came out of it was always something really good. 

I knew that writing music with Elliott was unique because we would butt heads a ton, but what came out of it was always something really good.

A year later after we started writing together, we met Kayla Hope. The girl has pipes, no doubt. We wrestled with becoming a three-piece, but eventually it became very important to our sound. Kayla brings so much to the table lyrically and sonically.

I think the key difference between my solo stuff and the Hollywood Principle stuff is that Hollywood Principle is a sincere attempt to actually do something with music. My solo stuff was a lot of “I want to write music,” whereas Hollywood Principle is trying to push the envelope. We keep asking ourselves, “What can we do next?”

GS: The community reaction to the soundtrack has been very positive, and the title track has already inspired a variety of fan renditions. It must be a great feeling to know that your music is inspiring a new audience of people across the globe?

MA: For me, that’s probably the weirdest part about all of this. I never put music in the game expecting anyone to be as into it as they are. It’s a fantastic feeling, but… mostly weird.

GS: One question which continues to float around the game’s community is whether we’ll get an option to add the soundtrack as background music within the game, in addition to the menu screens. Could you clarify on this at all?

Mike Ault : That has been a huge debate internally since it came out. We were stoked to find out that people loved the soundtrack but the last thing we wanted was for people to get sick of it too because it loops everywhere.

One of the things we learned from Rocket League’s prequel, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (SARPBC) was that people would eventually shut the music off — either because they wanted to play their own music or got sick of hearing what we put in there. So, while there has been a largely positive reaction to the music, not everyone likes electronic stuff — and if it was playing throughout the whole game, some might be annoyed right off the bat!

We decided to keep the music out of the core game loop and focus on the sound effects as most sports games do. Usually, if people want to hear music, they’ll stream it or play their own library. To account for the people who really enjoyed the soundtrack, we made it available on Spotify. This also allows you to mix it up with other songs you like or and take out the tracks you’re not into. If we had kept music playing in-game, we would have been relying on its presence for excitement rather than building the crowd and ambient sounds the way we did.

The overwhelming response to the soundtrack has had us revisit the idea of including in-game, but we haven’t made any decisions yet.

GS: The new and free August update for Rocket League features a brand new addition to the tracklist in the form of “Firework” by Hollywood Principle. Can you tell us a bit about the song and what to expect?

MA: Well, the song is the one you can hear in the latest Supersonic Fury DLC trailer, and it embodies the “amped fun” vibe. The 1.04 patch highlights “Firework” as the main theme for awhile and it’s the first song people hear now instead of the Rocket League Theme.

We started writing this song about a year ago, but it was VERY, VERY different. About a month ago we cut it down and completely reworked it from scratch. We are very excited to have it as a part of Rocket League.

GS: Are there more plans to feature your music in Rocket League in the future?

MA: Yes. One of the cool things we found after we launched Rocket League was that, while we didn’t have the budget to get huge tracks, we managed to have music that people liked and wanted to hear outside of the game. 

The decision to change the first song you hear in the DLC is something new and we plan to do that periodically.

The decision to change the first song you hear in the DLC is something new and we plan to do that periodically. We are also thinking about featuring remixes from the community, originals from other artists, and future soundtrack releases with all-new tunes.

With this release we kept to the electronic genre that is already present in the game. In the future we are going to experiment with new genres and gauge community reaction. This should help the music evolve in a direction the community wants. It would also be cool to be a nice, alternative platform for other musicians to be a part of — which gives them a new chance to be heard and players new audio to experience and enjoy.

GS: Do you play Rocket League and if so, what’s your skill level on a scale of 1 – Kronovi?

MA: Yes, I do play but I’m not very good. The majority of the development time in which I had to test something resulted in me just flying around the arena. I should have been spending time crafting my skills because, now, I’m feeling pretty subpar. I’d probably say my skill is at a 4 or 5. I’m by no means terrible, but some of the things the community can do are just plain insane.

GS: Finally, where can we purchase the Rocket League soundtrack, and how can we obtain more of your music?

MA: You can purchase the Rocket League Soundtrack in a ton of places! We have it listed on our website and keep it updated with all the distribution platforms we’re appearing on.

As for other new music, Soundcloud is usually where I post things first. I have one for my electronic music, one for my scoring and other game music, and then we have one for Hollywood Principle as well!

Hollywood Principle:

Mike Ault Electronic Music:

Mike Ault Scoring:

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