With the first split of the revamped Rocket League circuit coming to a close, we take a look at some small adjustments that could make RLCS X even better.

19:00, 24 Oct 2020

RLCS X’s Fall Split is about to come to a close. It’s fair to say that the revamped format has been highly beneficial for Rocket League as an esport, with the huge increase in matches resulting in more great gameplay than ever before. Psyonix got a huge amount right with their new format, but not everything. The main complaint that’s been made about RLCS X is its lack of simplicity. It takes a lot of effort to stay on top of the scene, and there are a couple of main culprits for this. So, how can they be improved upon? Let’s take a look.

Problem 1: Grid Points

Separating Grid points from Regional points simply makes things far more confusing for a casual fan. Not only that, but passing The Grid’s wildcard spot for the Majors down the Regional leaderboard means that, unless every top team in a region starts to slump in the majority of a split’s Grid events, the chances of that wildcard spot ever having an impact is incredibly slim. It’s a shame because The Grid has been fantastic this season, providing teams with the opportunity to put on some great broadcasts as well as providing fans with even more matches.

Thankfully, it’s a simple problem with a simple solution—scrap Grid points. Allocating Regional points to The Grid removes both the confusion and lack of meaning. In terms of points allocation, what seems to make the most sense is having each Grid event give out around 1/9 of one Regional’s points. This even gives Grid sides who struggle in the regionals (looking at you, Liquid) a chance to gain some ground despite missing out on the Major. Unless Psyonix want to restrict points to the top handful of Grid teams each week, the number of points gained through regionals might need to be increased. Many treat this as a taboo topic, but it even opens the door to franchising for The Grid, giving orgs a big incentive to invest in Rocket League.

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Liquid's strong Grid performance may have benefited them more with a different points system

Problem 2: Regional Scheduling

The introduction of swiss brackets into the RLCS has been, on the whole, a bit of a mixed bag. The huge increase in matches has been fantastic, but the fact that half of a day’s matches can’t be watched live due to them being off-stream isn’t ideal. This is because, whilst other titles (such as Counter-Strike) will set aside an entire week for a swiss stage, Psyonix have chosen to cram it into one day of action, with fifteen broadcast matches (out of thirty total) across two streams. It’s a long and exhausting day of Rocket League for players and fans alike, but there’s also another issue. Having the playoffs of a Regional take place just one day after the teams have been decided is another decision that just makes things more confusing as a spectator.

Psyonix can easily fix this by simply adjusting the scheduling of each Regional. By having the top eight teams play one week after those spots have been determined, it gives teams more time to hype up their appearance in the final stage of a big event. Additionally, it also affords Psyonix the option of marketing the playoffs as the “main event”, opening the door to more casual fans only looking to watch the occasional set of matchups. The Winter Split's Regionals will be switching to one long double-elimination bracket. This reduces the number of matchups per event from over 100 to fewer than 50, the necessity for off-stream matches has been completely removed. Assuming that 16 matches will be played out on each of the opening days of matches (eight on each stream), the new format also allows for the field to be whittled down to a final twelve teams after just two days, helping to solve the other major issue with the swiss format.

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Read More - The RLCS X Effect

Problem(?) 3: Roster Changes:

On the surface, the new roster rules seem incredibly restricting, allowing just one change across the entire year-long season unless a team wishes to reset their points total. There are a couple of ways in which these rules could be changed, but after taking a look at them, it does feel like Psyonix have found a relatively optimal solution to what can quickly spiral into a never-ending cycle of complaints from all sides.

One possible change is to take a note from Dota’s book, where teams can make as many changes as they want to during the Dota Pro Circuit, but each change results in a points deduction. Since teams lose points according to how many events that player played in, this would require rosters to shrink from 4 to 3 members, leaving teams without a sub that many have grown used to depending on over the 4+ years of the RLCS. Dota’s system also punishes teams for even one change, as opposed to Psyonix allowing one free change per season. Another change, and one that would probably work better for the RLCS, is to allow two changes per season instead of the present one, but adjust the definition of a roster change from adding a player to the roster to adding, removing or both. This would prevent scenarios such as Monkeys parting ways with Tahz, who went on to play with Nameseekers for the rest of the Fall Split. Theoretically, teams could swap out two starting members and keep only one, but this would require the substitute to remain on the roster throughout the entire season.

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Even though both of these changes offer their own benefits, restricting roster changes in the way that Psyonix have done (aside from the loophole which Monkeys took advantage of during the Fall Split) actually makes things far simpler for both players and fans, which is exactly what roster rules should be doing.

Quality-of-life improvements:

There are also a couple of small improvements that can be made that, although they don’t impact the overall format, would still contribute towards a simpler RLCS circuit. 

The first is an easy way to keep track of off-stream matches. Having the only method of score-checking for those ties to be constantly refreshing Liquipedia or another third-party website is, simply put, inconvenient. Once again returning to Counter-Strike, HLTV’s scorebot is a brilliant system, giving up-to-date game info, a match feed and live stats. Such a system could easily be implemented into Rocket League thanks to the technology that is already used for custom overlays and would make following off-stream games a far more enjoyable experience than it is now.

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The second is one that’s exclusion is somewhat baffling - a central hub for RLCS X. The new Rocket League Esports website should be the prime candidate for this but, given that it’s effectively just a reskin of the Battlefy RLCS page, there are still two main stumbling blocks. There’s no way to look at a bracket for an event without swapping to Battlefy’s tournament UI that is intended for participants rather than viewers, and (Fall Major aside) there’s not even a mention of South America or Oceania. Ideally, the website should have easy access to brackets, team rosters and event times for all four regions, and in its present state Psyonix’s new solution doesn’t quite pull it off.

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Whilst not requiring any large-scale overhaul of the RLCS ecosystem, this small set of changes could vastly improve the viewing experience to both casual and more dedicated fans alike. However, this definitely doesn’t mean Psyonix have done a bad job with their new format. On the contrary, the fact that the only issues are relatively small in the grand scheme of things is a testament to how great the updated RLCS ecosystem has turned out, even after just one split.


Images via Psyonix | DreamHack | HLTV

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