With 3v3 being the dominant competitive game mode, maybe there's room for more 1v1.
The Salt Mine 2 proves it again: professional 1v1 matches are a blast to watch. The high-risk plays, the mind games, the zero-second goals - all these incredibly talented players get to show off what they can do on the pitch just by themselves. Watching two masterminds at work in a game mode that punishes every little mistake is exciting. It’s not surprising that the 1v1 gameplay is the most popular Rocket League content on YouTube.
When it comes to professional 1v1 play, it all gets overshadowed by the 3v3 game mode. Renault Vitality’s Fairy Peak, for example, decided to not play in the Salt Mine 2 because he has a career as a 3v3 player. A bummer, because Fairy Peak is possibly the best 1v1 player in the world right now. 3v3 steals the spotlight and leaves little room for 1v1… or does it?
Few opportunities to play competitively
If there is one person who put 1v1 on the map, it’s Johnnyboi_i. The Scottish streamer and caster has been providing showmatches on his streams for years, giving upcoming talent a place to show what they got. Many 1v1 and 3v3 players today have gained popularity through these showmatches.
But his involvement doesn’t stop there. Johnnyboi is also the man behind the Salt Mine and the Salt Mine 2. Show matches are great fun, but it’s tournaments like these that show the true potential of competitive 1v1. Together with the Twelve Titans 1 & 2, this is what gave the 1v1 players a chance to compete over the past few years.
Apart from these tournaments, though, 1v1 players get few opportunities to play competitively. They might still grind the leaderboards and make content out of it, but that is not a career. Maybe there is room for a 1v1 league or bigger 1v1 tournaments to create a fully-fledged 1v1 scene alongside the established 3v3 scene.
Focussing on one skill
72PC’s coach Josh Baty sees the merits of a bigger 1v1 competition.
The more Rocket League events, the better. With events like Fusion and other new Psyonix supported events, a 1v1 LAN would be a natural addition to the already expanding event landscape.
72PC has 1v1 prodigy LionBlaze on its roster. LionBlaze made it to the finals of the 1v1 bracket in the Fusion tournament and is now competing in the Salt Mine 2.
Josh Baty thinks a fully competitive 1v1 scene could exist alongside the 3v3 scene, but not with the same players.
"In Fusion, it was common for teams to bring in a 4th member to their team to deal with the 1v1 while the rest of the lineup handled the other game modes. Why? It’s because many top tier teams are not top tier 1v1 players. Some players might be strong contenders in both 1v1 and 3v3, but they have to make a choice."
Baty goes on to say; "It’s absolutely true that 1v1 ability transfers to 3v3 but typically it takes a coach to create that switch. The player will be far stronger by becoming skilled at 1v1 but as they start to focus on 3v3 their 1v1 skills begin to take a backseat."
The Fusion tournament gives some insight into what would happen if the 1v1 game mode were to get integrated into the existing esports scene. Some 3v3 rosters might have a strong 1v1 player already, but ultimately, they don’t stand a chance against players who can focus on 1v1 and perfect their playstyle. So if we’ll see more Fusion-style tournaments in the future, the teams will take on a dedicated 1v1 player as a substitute or extra.
"I firmly believe we would not end up a with Squishy vs FairyPeak 1v1 grand finals," says Josh. Instead, "we would have a finals like, say, NRG Lionblaze vs Vit oKhaliD.’"
An RLCS-calibre 1v1 scene can create more interest in the game mode from players who are trying to make a career out of Rocket League. Right now, the only viable option is 3v3, so even players who might get better results from playing 1v1 shift their attention to that. What it takes for players to stick with playing 1v1 is hard to say, but it must be much more than what we have right now.
Excited for the future
The fast-paced games make 1v1 interesting for the viewers. The players have to play out of their minds to make it to the top and show the best Rocket League to win. Tournaments can see crazy upsets. There’s a running gag on Johnnyboi’s stream that he writes the script for the matches because 1v1 matchups can be quite a rollercoaster to watch. Insane comebacks are more common in 1v1 than in any other game mode, which makes it all the more exciting.
Whatever the future brings, the current popularity of competitive 1v1 is undeniable. An RLCS for 1v1 "would truly expand the scene in ways that we have not seen before," according to Josh Baty.
And LionBlaze? "He likes 1v1 and would love the opportunity to play one at a LAN." Let’s see where it gets him.
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Images via Javier Bolivar