I’ve Been Playing Rocket League Again – A Retrospective

Alright so maybe you can tell by my avatar picture at the bottom of this article that I'm a fan of Rocket League. I played - a lot and for quite a while but I eventually stopped because of a few problems that I'll get into below. Alright here we go this might get a bit long and rant-y but hopefully not too much. I started playing Rocket League after I was introduced to it by Cody when I was up visiting one weekend. I bought a copy when I got home since it was still on the promotional sale for PC and I dove in with a big smile on my face and I loved every aspect of it. At first.

The Beginning

Psyonix thought of an awful lot when they put this game together. Players get more than a tutorial map and thank goodness for that because Rocket League is easy to play but mastering all it's ins-and-outs is extremely tough to do. The training mode helps players learn the basics of how to strike the ball, how to be a goalie, how to jump and perform air rolls, dodge, boost, and fly the cars for more advanced moves. Holy cow does that ever help because without that training it's all down to chance whether you even figure out how to double jump or not. Anyway the point is - Do the training if you're new to the game.

Once you've finished that there are few single player modes to get started with. It's possible to play exhibition matches with bots through varying skill levels. That's super cool because it helps familiarize players with the arena size and the way the game itself played. Then there's the "Season" mode where players can choose a team and play through a competitive bracket versus bot teams. I found this to be pretty fun actually because the bot skill ramps up and up that gave me a chance to sort of hone skills.

Got to play a match with one of the devs here. Pretty neato

Of course you could just skip all this crap and drop into multiplayer online matches which is the main draw of Rocket League. I wouldn't recommend skipping the training but the other stuff, though fun and in my opinion helpful, isn't necessary to learn the game.

The Middle

Anyway, I played Rocket League pretty religiously for quite a while. Mostly online and when I felt like I needed to I went back to training and sharpened some button mashing skills. I'm not an excellent player. But that's alright because Rocket League is fun and that's all that matters... right? Well on paper yes, and for all that actually matters, yes. But...

...So before I go on I should also note that there are a couple of ways to play online matches. There's the normal match play where you can jump in with friends or rando's and just roll around smashing a ball across a pitch with your nigh indestructible vehicle. There are also the ranked matches which contain bracketed teams competing for the all important leader board scores...

...Okay now I'll go on. I absolutely never play ranked matches. This is my opinion of course but I think when you decide to take a game that seriously it becomes a job and as such becomes less fun. Now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with friendly competition. The problem is that it's almost never friendly and competing doesn't get you anything except a higher score on the leader board. Unless you're able to qualify and sign up for a tournament. Unfortunately for those of us who just want to play for a shit and a giggle or two the spill over from these competitive matches began to flood into the non-ranked games.

The End

Up until now dropping into a match as some random PUG was fine. If I joined a match in session and there was no chance of winning, who cares? I just played it out and went on to the next match. I don't care about my global stats or my score on a leader board and I think lots of folks feel that way. But in a matter of weeks since I had noticed a trend begin. It had gotten to a point that it was almost impossible to finish a full match with the team I had started with. The very second the first goal was scored the dominoes started falling. One from the opposing team would bail on the match leaving whoever was left with a bot. Which is solid enough early on but bots are almost useless when your skill curve takes a nose up and you're performing areal strikes and so on. Soon someone else would leave because --Ugh they got a bot. Then someone on the other team would bail because this is an online match and why would they play against the AI team if they can just join another match? And so on until the match is lost or won by forfeit.

This of course lead to a lot of eye rolling and frustration. Not to mention abuse from both sides in the form of chat. I used to play as a full time goalie, I would essentially only come out if it absolutely necessary. I was told more than a few times to "kill yourself" by team mates if I missed a save.

Now I know that there may be people out there reading this saying to themselves things like: Turn off chat if you don't like being yelled at. Git gud and stop whining you little bitch! And so on. But I like having chat on. I like being able to give a "nice shot" to my team or the opposition if credit is due. And my skin is thick enough that I don't give a fuzzy rats ass what people think about me. However I find that kind of non-constructive behavior so disruptive that this one-time fun, crazy, laugh heavy, friendly sports game became cringe inducing and frustrating. If my team fell a goal behind everyone left because they might have to take a loss and my goodness that could affect their global stats!

Anyway --I didn't last much longer and a year ago I put my controller down and didn't pick it up again to play Rocket League until about a week ago.

Starting Again

If you watch the LP channel at all you may see videos about Vemrintide that I posted while playing with my friend Nikolai. Well, he picked up a copy of Rocket League for himself and his girlfriend and had started playing. Cody broke his arm and about all the gaming he could do while in his cast was play RL because a controller worked okay in his hands. So I reluctantly picked up my Xbone paddle again and fired up the game. First we played bot matches because Nik and company were just starting out and learning and that was good for me because I needed to learn to play again if we were gonna do this. Soon Cody was joining us and we were playing 4v4 matches and in all the chaos it began to make me smile again.

So again with some reluctance I decide to jump into an online game by myself and see what happened. To be clear, I'm super hit or miss when I play this game. I'm level 50 and I have "Master" tag but I certainly don't play like one. Luckily nowadays it's an option to turn your tag off so there's no preconception based on your account level. That's pretty cool. I also noticed that even though I was playing pretty poorly, missing strikes and learning to fly the car again, people didn't care. "Close one", "No problem", "Whoops...", these comments took the place of the abusive bullshit that was so prevalent before. Not that everyone feels that way. Everyone gets frustrated when they're not doing well and there's a fair amount of sarcasm and the like that flies around during matches. But it's overall a much more sportsmanlike place than it was a year ago when I decided I'd had enough.

Leavers are still an issue. That problem hasn't changed at all but at least if I'm playing with friends I don't have to worry about it and honestly the match maker has been improved so much that a new player is usually found in a few seconds. I do feel pretty strongly that some kind of punishment for leaving a match early should be implemented. I understand that's hard to do because there are real reasons for having to leave as well as illegitimate. But even if it's something like 'If you leave more than one match before it's completion you can't play online for 30 minutes' it would cut down on that silliness quite a lot. Not to mention for folks who have to go for legit purposes are more than likely going to be away for more than a half hour. Even the ranked matches have underwhelming penalties for leavers. They'll lose whatever points they may have collected on a win and take a very small hit to thieir MMR** along with a small wait before they can start another match. I'm never going to play a ranked match but leaving early because "...everyone sucks except me" is genuinely ruining people's game game play whether it's a ranked match or not.

**If you're not familiar with MMR: That's the ranking the game's match maker considers your skill level at before placing you in a match of any type.**

The Game Has Changed... A Little

One thing I'm not entirely sure I like or not yet is the addition of a microtransaction system. Psyonix started adding some payed DLC content in the form of new cars back before I quit playing. I bought the Supersonic Fury, DeLorian and the Revenge of the Battle Cars DLC when it came out because I had no problem supporting such a well developed title. Frustration or not Rocket League is a great game and that deserves a little appreciation. I still have no problem with that and in fact I have recently purchased the Chaos Run pack. Cool.

The issue is the addition of these rare crates that drop when you win an online match. They contain any one of a randomized set of items including, cars, skins, wheels, rocket trails, animated decals etc. But in order to gain these items from the crate you MUST purchase a key from the online store. There is no option, no set of parameters, no way at all to earn keys through game play. The best you can hope for is to trade your crate to another player for some item that might be in that crate to begin with. And that's only if they consider that a fair trade. Not to mention items can't be traded at all for at least six days.

The only positive side to this is that a percentage of the money one pays for keys goes to funding e-sports tournaments. I've opened a few crates myself and for the most part I'm okay with that. However I don't like in the least bit that the percentage of money that goes to these tourneys isn't disclosed by Psyonix. That should change. Keys aren't expensive, but if I'm paying $1.49 each to open a crate and it maybe turns out that only 5% is going to funding, then I'm never opening another crate.

On the up side, there are lots of new arenas and ways to customize game play and that was given to us for free. Playing with a gigantic, extra bouncy, super fast hockey puck is pretty ridiculous but it's possible. Basketball mode is fun as well with the goals turned into big hoops and played on a nice shiny hardwood surface that squeaks when it comes into contact with the tires of your car. The Rock Labs arenas are crazy shapes and filled with obstacles and a neon, laser, Tron-like feel. Somewhat reminiscent of the old Super Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars game that preceded RL.

Conclusion

So far I'm having a pretty good time after jumping back into Rocket League and I plan on continuing. I've put my old goalie habits aside because frankly I'm not very good at it any more and it's fun to play the field anyway. I'm enjoying the new options and of course playing alongside friends makes everything better. Hopefully things continue to get better and better for this title because Psyonix has really built something great here. Thanks for reading, maybe I'll see you guys out there.

System requirements for Rocket League are as follows:

MINIMUM:

    • OS: Windows 7 or Newer
    • Processor: 2.4 GHz Dual core
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 260 or ATI 4850
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 7 GB available space

RECOMMENDED:

    • OS: Windows 7 or Newer
    • Processor: 2.5+ GHz Quad core
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 660 or better, ATI 7950 or better
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 7 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: Gamepad or Controller Recommended