After 18 Grid tournaments and six Regional Events, it’s time to look back and evaluate what the overhaul of the RLCS has done for the Rocket League esports scene.
The first Split of RLCS Season X is coming to an end. A lot has happened since the first weeks of The Grid and the first Regional Events, back in August. After 18 Grid tournaments and six Regional Events, it’s time to look back and evaluate what the overhaul of the RLCS has done for the esports scene of Rocket League.
After a long off-season, we got to see the RLCS teams back in action on the biggest stage. But not with the traditional league play, and with a lot more contenders. Every Regional Event is a new opportunity for up-and-coming teams to prove themselves in the Qualifiers, and to be one of the top 32 teams in Stage 1. From there, the so-called Swiss System brings it down to the best eight teams for the Playoffs.
Many teams have made good use of the new opportunities. They no longer have to make their way through the Rival Series and can reach the top much faster than ever before. In Europe, nine out of the fifteen players who have made it to the grand finals in a Regional Event, have made their RLCS debut in 2020. That shows how many new talented players the scene has gathered this year.
Endpoint was one of the teams to make their first RLCS appearance in 2020. They did so in Season 9, so before the big changes. They still had to deal with the RLRS standing in the way between them and the best teams in the region. Aron' Eclipse' Jones, Endpoint's coach, explains how their experience compares to rookie teams trying to get into RLCS Season X: "It was a crazy journey. It was definitely difficult, but we were coming out with a newer playstyle, which caught most teams off guard. That meant we ended up at the number one spot, which was something we never expected."
I just think this format makes it easier.
"It's easier for that to happen now, in my opinion. Teams are no longer competing for four to six spots in a league, and instead are competing for 22 spots to play against the best in Europe. That offers them much more opportunities to show what they've got. I don't want to take praise away from those teams; I just think this format makes it easier."
RLCS X makes it easier for new teams to play at the highest level, but that also makes it harder for established teams to stay at the top. Eclipse isn't too worried about that, though. "I don't think that is a concern at this moment in time. I think - as with all sports - the people at the top now will get toppled eventually. But that's not because of the format change, that's more down to the evolution of the game. Personally, I think we are still on the rise, and are still trying to perfect our playstyle. I think you'll find that's common amongst most teams at the moment."
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Rookie teams have something the established teams don't have. Because they're new to the scene, they can be unpredictable. Every team has their own playstyle, and the teams at the top are aware of that. They know how to counter those playstyles too. But they don't know how to play against the rookies yet.
So do rookie teams have an advantage over established teams? Eclipse is sure about it. "Not so much because of their playstyles, but they bring a new kind of energy to the mix. All rookie teams play with freedom, and that's the single hardest thing to compete against. That's what catches big teams out and knocks them off their stride. Now that's not to say it works against every team, because that energy is usually curbed by maintaining composure and your own level of speed, which teams like BDS and Giants exhibit. But every once in a while, even those teams will be knocked down."
If there's one thing the new format changed, it's the sheer number of games played. Eclipse thinks that's the best thing about the RLCS X. "I believe I saw a statistic that noly and Th0. have now played more games with Scrub on Guild than with Godsmilla on Singularity. That is insane to think that Godsmilla was with that team for two seasons; While Scrub only joined them since Eurocup. The number of games really shows why the teams at the top are there, and it provides a spectacle to the viewers as long as there is enough diversity in the matchups." Eclipse is right: noly and Th0. played 107 games in RLCS Season 8 and 9 with Godsmilla, and 240 games in RLCS Season X with Scrubkilla (data: octane.gg). Those are numbers nobody could have imagined before RLCS X.
Eclipse sees room for improvement too, though. "My only issue with the format this season thus far is the number of 'rematches' you get between teams. With the number of games we are having, we expect to play the same team two or three times, but when you see teams matching up in every round of every tournament, it gets a bit boring for both the viewer and the teams, in my opinion. I think the two best examples of this are BDS versus Vitality, which is ultimately a grand final but they never seem to play there, and ourselves versus Guild. It's great to have the rematches to build rivalries and storylines, but there comes a point where they happen too frequently, which is the only real flaw I see in the system."
How the matchups will play out in the next Split is yet to be seen, because, after the coming Major, the RLCS is stepping away from the Swiss System. But first, we have the Major to look forward to. The best sixteen teams from each region get to decide who's the best team this fall before we move into the Winter Split. There's been so much Rocket League this season already, and there's only more ahead.
Images via Psyonix