The new and improved RLCS format isn't without fault, here are some of our worries.
It has been a couple of weeks since the announcement of RLCS X, and now that the dust has settled, let us be overly negative about it. In all seriousness, the changes have been met with near-universal praise. Just for this writer alone, a year-long roadmap, a prize pool doubled & a new weekly league in The Grid are just scratching the surface of what there is to like. Excitement about Rocket League Esports is perhaps at an all-time high, especially with Team Liquid finally entering the scene.
But it would be naive to say everything is perfect, so let this piece be some constructive criticism of some new elements of RLCS X.
Battlefly - A New Platform
For years, Rocket League tournaments have, for the most part, been done through smash.gg. Having access to the in-game API to easily fetch results, along with being the home of the RLCS open qualifiers, smash.gg has become a second home for many players, both pros and amateurs. So moving the RLCS to Battlefly has raised some eyebrows. Now Battlefly isn’t a brand new platform for esports tournaments, but they’ve never dealt with something on this scale. The RLCS open qualifiers that were twice a year would see thousands of signups. The new open circuit format means its happening nine times in the calendar year now.
This will be a big test for Battlefly’s platform, they’ll hope to avoid the faith LetsPlayLive dealt with when first running the Oceanic RLCS qualifiers, where they ultimately ported their qualifiers over to smash.gg ironically. Another concern is a lack of player familiarity to Battlefly, while the responsibility ultimately falls on the players. There will inevitably be teams who are unable to play due to a lack of understanding of how this new platform works. It ultimately makes you wonder, why the switch from smash.gg. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it - right?
Roster Rules - Substitute Shenanigans
This is not about the main change to the roster rules. There are two trade windows during the season, one after the 1st split and another after the second, with the rosters being locked until the world championship. If a team makes use of both trade windows, or makes two roster changes in a season, ”upon completion of the second trade, such Team will forfeit their then-current RLCS X point totals and become an inactive team."
Now while this promotes roster stability and means organizations don’t have to spend money to contract new players for the usual multitude of roster moves, the concern lies with the definition of a roster now. Minimum three players, maximum of four players. This means that what was your substitute is now a part of the roster, and if they wish to leave just to play as a starter elsewhere, replacing him or her is using up your roster move for the year. You can bypass this by simply not having a substitute, but that’s playing a dangerous game, one internet outage means being unable to field a team of three, but for rosters, the choice is between giving yourself roster flexibility down the road or having no backup player on hand.
An Expanded World Championship… for NA & EU
A year-long season means the world championship is now a once a year affair, down from the twice a year spectacle. The pinnacle of Rocket League Esports is also expanding, from twelve teams to sixteen, a lovely number which allows for a plethora of potential formats without any awkward byes or anything. The issue is where these four extra sides are coming from. Two from North America, and two from Europe.
Now sure you’ll be hard-pressed that twelve of the top sixteen teams globally are in NA & Europe, but isn’t the whole point of a world championship to be... a world championship? A more fair solution would have been splitting the four extra teams evenly between all four RLCS regions, one for NA, one for Europe, one for Oceania & one for South America. The latter two regions could really have done with an extra worlds spot to continue their growth and development, it wouldn’t take away from the competitiveness of those regions, compared to the top of NA & EU now where the drama and intrigue of qualifying for the world championship is less intense with six whole spots per region available.
Asia - Nowhere to be Seen
Well, this is the big one. If expanding to a sixteen team world championship wasn’t the perfect opportunity to add Asia & Middle East to the RLCS, especially off the back of their first Psyonix sponsored major in The Kickoff, it’s tough to know when their opportunity will ever come. The main TO in Asia, APL Esports has gone through many highs and lows in their history but the region, in general, remains a hidden gem to the wider Rocket League community. 1ne Esports flew out an Asia All-Star team to Dreamhack Pro Circuit Montreal, but there were unable to yield any victories, but this would unlikely be the case if they got long term support like other regions. The only thing keeping their best player Realize from moving to OCE is COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Middle East sides often play on European servers with 80-100 ping just to experience high-level games and tournaments with decent prize pools. Fan favourites Sandrock Gaming are the clear standouts of ME, but despite victories over former RLCS world champions in tournament play, they will be waiting for at least another year until they may potentially participate in the RLCS.
While The Kickoff is fantastic, there are also concerns Asia & ME are the biggest losers from the postponement of the Intel World Open. That event would have seen one Asia qualifier, one Middle East qualifier, one Chinese qualifier, all for a trip to the first stage of the event in Katowice Poland. And a Japanese national team would get a bye to the finals as the host nation. This would have been their chance to flex their talents on a literal global stage, but after the Kickoff, in terms of A tier competition, there is seemingly at least a year of barrenness two regions that sorely deserve to be part of the RLCS.
Images via Dreamhack & Javier Bolivar