Rocket League, by Psyonix is a game every racer probably desired, but didn’t even know that they do. If you are also a football player too, this game could be your love you were destined to meet. What’s surprising though, is that even if you are not a fan of sports game, this game will blow your mind.
Conceptually simple and hard to master, there is just one objective of the game. Use your rocket powered cars to kick the ball inside the net of opposite team. The way you do it is what separates the rookies from the pros and the pros from the masters. You can either play as solo, or in teams of 2, 3 or 4. There are quite few training to get your feet wet and to learn some skills and you can even play with bots before you attempt to face online players.
So how did I fare going through various levels in Rocket League?
I still remember the first day I fired up Rocket League In January 2016, I was blown away by the amount of detail in the city around the arena where I spawned. Being a BTTF fan, I had started the game with my DeLorean. I didn’t have a controller. I steered the DeLorean with my keyboard. Boosting the car, kicking the ball in goal. “BOOM”, the ball exploded into a zillion pieces once it crossed the goal line. Little did I knew that it was start of a long journey stretching 4 months and counting. In these 4 months I have had a range of emotions I didn’t express in a long time. Rocket League was about to change my life.
It took me quite a few days before I started to use boost effectively. I just used to keep one of my fingers on boost button all the time and used to ran out of it before I could say “I have boost”. I played with few online friends, who were newbies like me. Together we played possibly the noobiest matches, which in hindsight now looks as if the buttons on the keyboard were being pushed by a cat. Jumping ever so often and getting my car out of position seemed to the best way to approach incoming ball. You can watch that gameplay for your amusement. Spoiler though, it will be painful to watch if you have any idea of how pros play.
As I started to play more and more of Rocket League I understood the depth of the game. The layers of skills it offered were stunning. Boost management, defending, and even passes contributed much to the success rate of winning. Slowly and steadily I climbed up the levels and became a Semi Pro from Rookie. I could now play significantly better. No longer did I miss ball by arms length. I thought I am getting good. Boy, I was wrong.
Then I saw players who could just hit the ball in mid air. While my eyes was fixated on the ball and used to stop my car under it like it was a parking spot, someone would just steal the ball away from above and sometimes even made a goal. What I experienced was called, “Aerials”. It was an ecstatic moment. I could Fly! I didn’t just have to believe that I could fly, I could actually do it! It was then that I started the Aerial training. With the DeLorean, flying was eventual. When I first flew, the voices of Dr Emmet Brown echoed my ears. Where I was going, I didn’t need, Roads!
What came later was nothing short of compilation of epic fail montages. Flying was difficult. Making contact with a moving ball on ground was difficult enough. Add to it the axis of height and things just grew out of control. I used to try and try and miss every shot. So I tried and tried more. Watched online tutorials. Read articles on Reddit. Put on everything I learned into practice. It was around this time that I decided to finally buy a controller. Keyboard was not a viable option anymore. And then I faced the worst period as a player.
The 100 hours I spent in Rocket League all seemed to go down the drain, once I started using controller. I just couldn’t manage to remember the buttons. I dropped controller multiple times and started to play with keyboard. But online friends encouraged me. Watching Kronovi flying effortlessly encouraged me. And I thought to myself if I want to become any good in Aerials I just can’t do that from Keyboard. Finally after countless hours and many losses I became used to the controller.
I was now 200 hours in the game. It was then that I reached the level of “Veteran”. It seemed a big title and I didn’t feel I was doing justice to it. So I hid my level. I couldn’t boast of being a Vet and keep making own goals. Something was missing. I could defend good, make some shots on goal too, but I couldn’t manage to make actual goals. My passes weren’t that effective and mostly my passes used to be more advantageous to opponent team players.
I started to watch gameplays more rigorously. Followed the Playing with Potatoes series by Gibbs. Whatever free time I had after I returned from my job, before I start the game, I used to spend on watching clips on the Rocket League sub-reddit. Watching amazing gif on the sub always used to amaze me. It introduced me the moves I never thought were possible. Though actually trying those moves mostly proved fatal to my games.
I then completed 300 hours. I started to play mostly with an online friend who had helped me initially to migrate to controller. But he was not happy. I used to miss shots a lot. Even when ball was rolling on ground, I used to miss shots by hair length resulting in goals for other team. I used to get disappointed and heart broken when that used to happen. Again I felt something was wrong.
He invited me to 1×1 one day. And then the reality hit me. I was a terrible solo player. I used to take many risky shots. In the solo game mode, that was not acceptable. I used to take every chance to hit the ball, try to take impossible aerials. I became very sad. I realized that in team play my misses didn’t really effect that much but in solo it resulted in epic failures.
I decided to stop playing Rocket League. And I left the game entirely. I started playing some indie and racing games. But my habit of checking out incredible shots on Reddit was not gone. Eventually after a whole 3 days I fired up the game again. But this time I started playing with bots. Unfair match with bots seemed to be a fair way to become good in the game. But more often than not the bots used to give me a field trip, literally.
Playing with bots proved tougher than playing with actual people online. Since unlike online players bots made less mistakes. The penalty for being impatient or a miss, or a bad play used to be instant. This made me learn to play more patiently than before. And once I started to stop and think, I didn’t try to hit the ball at every occasion. This made me slightly better. But even now my biggest weakness is dribbling. These days I am trying to improve on that in free play. I seem to be going backward, since dribbling is such an elementary skill for this game. With dribbling comes mind games. So, once I become good in dribbling and ball control I am sure I could play more patiently.
After around 400 hours, I think I have just begun to understand the basics about the game. Such are the layers of skill required in this game. After 400 hours, where do I stand? I can’t dribble properly, miss easy shots sometimes, can’t make good aerial shots, can’t give good passes to team mates, and its still hard for me to predict where the ball is going to deflect. The only thing I think I am good at seems to be defending and now I could score by hitting the ball by jumping and double jumping.
By the time I reach to Master, Legend and then eventually Rocketeer (the last level), I would be at-least a bit better, but I hope I could make it there despite the overwhelming emotions Rocket League makes me go through.
The community of Rocket League players is a mixed race just like with every other online multiplayer game. But so far the players I have played with are mostly at the brighter side. People respond with “gg” (good game) even after loosing. There are occasional sour grapes but they are in minority. There are quick chat options to say things like, “What a Save!” and “Nice Shot!” and are the mostly used phrases in game. Sometimes people tend to use it to sarcasm, and those proves funny too a lot of times.
It have been said that the players are divided as per the rank where they belong. Players at the lower most and upper most tiers are generally good, while in the middle ranks are where the most frustrated player resides. So generally a player encounters players who flame, mostly in the middle ranks. I am not entirely sure if that’s true but it does make the most sense.
Significant number of hours I have spent just dazzling over the GIF’s posted by Redditors. The incredible goals, saves and aerials posted on the Rocket League made me motivated to keep trying. When I took hiatus from the game for 3 days I couldn’t stop surfing and I can give credit to these GIF’s for my comeback in the game.
The sub is active with tons of players who post in additions to GIF, their experiences, rants and suggestions on the game. Developers are Psyonix do browse the sub and notice them first hand. Even top players like Kronovi and Gibbs are part of the active members in the sub, and mostly can be seen trolling their own friends. You know devs love the community when they fix even minor issues and incorporate features like Replay name, after discussion on Reddit.
The Rocket League Reddit sub also have been a great part in the form of guides and tutorials that it contains from amazing players. One such post is the compilation of such useful guides.
One of the best thing about Rocket League is the amount of sheer customizations you can do to your car. All of the changes are cosmetics though, so tweaking any of them wouldn’t give anyone an unfair advantage. The variety of cars are less, but with DLC you can choose some of the more amazing cars like, DeLorean, Dominus, Takumi and recently Batmobile. While top speed, boost power are all same for all the cars, the only slight difference is the hit box and turning radius, which a player can choose as per their style of playing. As for the customization you could choose colors (from predefined template of colors), toppers (hat), flags and boost trail. Some of the toppers are quit funny like chick-magnet, which puts a chick on top of a magnet on your car (just as you would expect).
A word on Wasteland:
Wasteland is the most popular map in Rocket League. RL players have extreme views about this map depending on either they love it or hate. This map was plagued with weird ball deflection bugs and being laggy in nature due to it containing a huge amount of artifacts. But even on my iGPU HD4600 the map never let me face any issues. Personally I really like the change of pace this map provides. Part of the likeness of Wasteland I would admit was due to the fact that due to unpredictable bounces it gave me an opportunity to score against the mistakes of other pro players. With the recent patch though I think Wasteland would be more fixed, but still it would have a good place in my heart for it being the most challenging. Psyonix also released a set of 4 maps seemingly inspired from TRON movie, and those are good to play, but it failed to create a space which other standard maps have done.
I wrote first draft of this article on 28 Feb. And it took me more than 2 months to get it completed. I have started a new section on my blog for Gaming, and this is the first game which provoked me to do that.
I originally intended to write this guide to have a repository of everything awesome about this game. Tutorials, Guides, Videos montages and a collection of awesome stuff from Reddit. But I will be doing that in an another post. And I will try not to delay it much.
You know a game is good when you don’t get time to write about it because of the game itself. You know a game is good when people keep coming back even after severe server downtimes. There’s a lot to be said about this game and I believe I have just scratched the surface.
In the end I would leave you with a video that shows how players who played the Rocket League beta when it came out for PS, took the server hostage when the server was about to shut down! (It begins at 05:17, but this whole video is worth watching).