The RLCS, Indies refreshing eSports
I had the imeasurably amazing chance of attending the RLCS weekend games at Theater Amsterdam, in Amsterdam (well, duh) on the 3rd and 4th of December, and I have to say, that I am quite speechless. Not just because the event was just amazing, but for many more reasons that just a simple fan of eSports wouldn’t understand. I am an indies writer, and I am here to write about Rocket League and what it has achieved through the RLCS and all its past activities.
Now, before we even start, you would probably say, “What are you on about Kelf? Rocket League ain’t no indie game!” Well, if you look at it now, you would surely not regard it as an indie game per say, but the story of the company would tell you otherwise. Starting from the point of making mods for games on the Unreal Engine all the way to getting to the point of running a 60k viewers tournament is not a small feat and kudos have to be given to Psyonix for their achievements. Not only do they have people’s attention, but they also have quality, in everything they’ve done thus far. Let’s take it from the start though, shall we?
If you were ever wondering about how Psyonix made it all the way to this point, then you should most definitely watch this amazing YouTube documentary by NoClip. This should tell you more than you need to know about the people behind the rocket powered cars shooting a soccer ball. The thing is though, how did we actually get to the point, where a simple, yet so interesting, idea got to the point where thousands of people around the world are enjoying that much? The answer to this question lies in the minds of the developers of Rocket League. As amazing as it may sound, it was a simple conversation about game design between the Psyonix developers that sparked this enthusiastic scene in the first place. If one of the developers hadn’t said “let’s play football with cars” then we would have never had what we have now.
See, I am not trying to make a huge deal out of the game that is Rocket League, but out of the fact, that the risk that just a few indie devs took a few years ago, has evolved into something that many people across the world rejoice in a religious fashion even. Who would have thought, people would arrive with flags of the countries their favourite players are from and who would have thought that 16 year old players from the other side of the world, would be travelling to Amsterdam to shoot a ball into a goal with a rocket power car in a video game. The simple idea and risk was just the spark that was later nurtured perfectly by Psyonix to give birth to a very unique eSports scene.
Why unique though?
Well, unique, because unlike many other games, Rocket League is new. It’s new from the perspective that there are no other games like it. It’s not an FPS, it’s not just a traditional sports game and it’s not a strategy game. It does not compete with Counter Strike, FIFA, PES, League of Legends, Call of Duty etc. It is its own thing. It created an eSports scene, out of nothing. So this is the reason why we need to be congratulating Psyonix. Even though we may see them grow big, they are true to what they made and continue to support it the same way they did in the past, the same way people loved it.
We are seeing a similar situation happening with Awesomenauts by Ronimo for example, where more and more tournaments have been popping up time and again with bigger and bigger stakes all the time. I had the awesome chance of being one of the first people of creating a competitive team in that game, and I can tell you that the developers behind the indie company Ronimo, are just as passionate as any other developer about developing the same sort of scene that Psyonix created for their game. It just goes to say that indie developers are giving a fresher take on the whole competitive gaming scene.
And boy oh boy, are people loving it.
I feel the need to talk about the RLCS a little bit more at this point, since it would be a pity to not at least, review, the whole ordeal that went down that past couple of days. Despite feeling quite ill, me and girlfriend attended both days of the RLCS and enjoyed very much all of it to the very end. Huge thanks to the awesome organisation of Psyonix as well for supplying us with media badges for that purpose.
Arriving at the venue was quite difficult, but not surprising to any denizen of the Netherlands, since roadworks are a given here and having to devise a new way to get to a place is pretty much everyday practice in this flat country. Theater Amsterdam though, was by far one of the best choices Psyonix could have made. I am not entirely sure how much they paid for the venue, but it was so worth it experience-wise. The amazing ambience of the theatre, the comfy and well placed seats that allowed everyone to enjoy the games and not be blocked by tall people (which are also very often found in the Netherlands) and last but not least the atmosphere, all played a huge role in allowing the attendees to enjoy the RLCS experience to the fullest.
As an audiophile I would be a fool not to mention how much I loved how the sound in the venue was handled. The enthusiastic fans made tons of noise, but not enough to cover the nice bassy sound the ball made every time it was hit in the matches. The sound of the game was also comfortably loud and allowed for a much more immersive experience.
I actually went back home for the last 2 games of Saturday (the first two of the Lower Bracket games) in order to see the game on stream and be able to compare. I can tell you that being there is a hundred times more exciting and enjoyable, not only because of the sound, but mostly because of the atmosphere. Being able to hear the loud clapping and “OH!”s of the audience during a match just makes it so much more worth it.
Just after the Upper Bracket games, all of the North American teams were already in the Lower Bracket and the crowd was going wild. Pretty sure that is because of the location, since most people attending were from some European country. I had the chance to talk with some random people around us in the theatre and it was great to find out that the RLCS fans vary in so many ways. They all play Rocket League but are not all hardcore fans. Some were Prospect and Challenger players, while other were Grand Champs. So it goes to say, that despite the game being a skill-based game, everyone enjoys watching it, no matter how good or bad they are at it. The ratio of boys to girls in the theatre by the way quite low, at an astounding 20:1, but that is not very surprising since, if you think about it, it is basically cars playing football. By today’s social standards, it can’t get anymore masculine as a sport than that. I do know a lot of girls that play the game though, and I can’t wait to see more girls involved in this, eSports wise, too.
Razer was also showcasing their PS4 controller, which I have to honestly say I didn’t quite enjoy when I tried it out, but I can see why people who play with the normal PS4 controller would like it. I am more of an Xbox controllers fan, so not much I can give you on the PS4 one. What I can tell you is that I was losing 0-3 in a 1v1 game against a random guy and then managed to turn it to a win with a 4-3. Kinda made the day better, you know?
The food was great too, nice selection of things to try out, both general food and more Dutch-specific delicacies. No complaints on the overall organisation of facilities such as wardrobes, restrooms, food stands and others. Best part of the Theatre though was by far the huge screen in the theatre room. We were all amazed when the screen opened up to reveal the seats where the players will be playing from. Quite funny since everyone was trying to figure out where the players will be sitting for the games.
I have to say that I was a bit disappointed by the merchandise stall since they only had T-shirts and a couple other things such as a mousemat and a poster. Maybe it’s just me wanting to get a Rocket League stress ball real bad, but I was really expecting a whole lot more from the RLCS merch store on-site. Nonetheless, I got a poster and I also got it signed by my favourite team Flipsid3 Tactics, who also turned out to be World Champs the very next day (I’m their lucky charm, I guess?). Go Kuxir!
Overall, amazing experience, totally worth trying out and furthermore a huge entry into eSports for indie games. If anything, this is a sign to developers all around the world, that your silly idea may one day be something that people religiously follow by running to such events around the world. Amazing organisation, amazing event, great teams, great games and a very happy Constantine at the end of the weekend. Thank you for making all of this possible Psyonix.
This was just the 2nd series of the RLCS, pretty sure the 3rd one will be even greater. Looking forward to that then!
-Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis