It's been a long time coming but we're finally on the cusp of Cross-Platform parties and with that in mind, I'd like to get us started with a lovely little talk about manners, or more importantly Rocket League etiquette.
When it comes to manners we're told we're all born with at least some, but I'm afraid that isn't always the case. In most circumstances, we're taught manners by our peers as we grow. In a society where humans live and work in such close proximity to one another it's essentially a necessity, and one that's expected of us in most all walks of life.
Walking down the street and catch someone's eye? Smile and say hello. Going to the shop? Say please and thank you. Finished your meal? Set your cutlery to “5 o'clock” on your dinnerware. That last one may be a bit much for some but I'm a personal fan and, as we're so often told: 'they don't cost a penny'.
That being said, where's the fun in being nice all the time? What if you get some abuse from the guy that just did a quadruple front-flip off the wall and air-dribbled the ball past you with an agonising lack of effort before you could move an inch to stop it? Are you just gonna take it!?
How do you have good manners and rub your opponent's nose in it, and moreover is there a reason to do both? Is a war of words just good fun or does it serve a purpose? Well that depends on the situation, but I'd put it to you that when it comes to rocket-powered battle cars you stand a far better chance of winning by making friends than you do by making enemies.
You see, as with all great team endeavors communication is the key that will unlock the door to success, and none so much as in a competitive 3v3 Solo Standard match in Rocket League.
In 3v3 Solo Standard individual players join a team selected at random for the purposes of playing one match at a time, a feature introduced so that the lone wolves among us can spend some time socialising in a baptism of fire with only a preset 16-word range of messages and no compelling need to whack on the headset and talk to strangers. It's all self-explanatory: “Thanks!”, “Great pass!”, “Nice shot!”, etcetera. “$#@%!” is favoured by all as a universally recognised expression of 'Why/How in the holy s**t did you just do that!?'
So what's so important about mastering this generic dialogue?
In my experience games are so much more fun when you aren't under pressure. A little bit of pressure is fine of course; anticipation, excitement, competition – these things give multi-player games the edge over playing on your lonesome, but at the end of the day we all just like to chill and have a good time, don't we? As important as it is to have a decent set of comrades that know how to get to the ball in lightning-fast time, the relative ability of your temporary buddies isn't all it boils down to. It's a fact that people perform better with what you might call a “carrot and stick” approach as opposed to working their socks off so they don't get a dressing down, and communication is a huge part of that positive outlook.
In Standard 3v3 or 2v2 you're often working with a friend or two, linked up and chatting happily away in-party, but the reason 3v3 Solo exists is to take away that edge and put solo players on a level playing-field. In situations like this (let's assume none of our theoretical team here are the sort to bail on us when we go 2-0 down) you've got five minutes to become a well-drilled unit, and the best way to achieve that is to make yourselves feel like a team. No one wants to perform for someone that's acting like a toddler in a tantrum, but I'd gladly steam along the walls to get back in time to support a buddy who shows a little sportsmanship.
Will it make you a better Rocket League player? No, but it will make you a better teammate regardless of your ability.
Now, it is true that mashing the D-pad as you try to inject some encouragement into your flagging allies can be a temperamental business, but it's one which when mastered is surely worth the payoff. A few kind words can turn a game on its head, and when the ultimate goal is to win as often and in as awesome a fashion as you possibly can, that extra edge can mean the difference between divisions. An unlikely winner in the dying minutes of a match is about as pleasurable a victory you can achieve but when teams turn on themselves, they not only spoil any chance of achieving that victory, but they spoil the overall experience of the game.
Of course, if we were all so magnanimous that we could resist the odd playful dig it would be a little counter-intuitive to the competitive gaming experience, but I'd just say keep it to the pre-selected terms you have at your disposal – there's no need to get nasty. It's easy to see when a pointless little argument is developing between two players, opponents or otherwise; both cars will become rigid as if magnetised to the ground, and as the rest of you speed towards your objective you shudder at the certain knowledge that a crucial cog in your team is tapping away furiously on his controller trying to formulate as stinging an insult as he can muster in the heat of the moment with a hyper-sensitive analogue stick.
In this sense it's important to note the huge chasm in age that can exist between players in any one game. Rocket League appeals to players of all ages and so it's not uncommon for someone like me - a world-weary man-child just barely on the right side of 30, with matchsticks for wrists - to be clinging to the coat-tails of teenagers who have no earthly concept of carpal tunnel syndrome, screen time migraines or any other facet of the long-term consequences of a lifetime of rigorous, unapologetic gaming. In this environment it's inevitable that the relative maturity of a player will be on display with each sarcastic “What a save!” that follows your botched attempt at clearing the ball. Fair play to them though – I really should have cleared that ball. My bad.
The vast majority of budding Rocketeers you'll come across in the arena will be as sportsmanlike as you're likely to find in the gaming world, and Rocket League is played at such a blistering pace that even if you should happen to come across someone that would sooner blame everyone around them than share the collective responsibility, you'll only have to tolerate them for five minutes. It's a fact that no matter how hard you try you're never going to make everyone happy. Mistakes are a part of life though and becoming a better player is something that happens every time you pick up the controller so long as you have the breathing room and the inclination to keep picking it up.
That all being said – if you're just straight-up awesome this likely doesn't apply to you, so for the sake of all of us duking it out on the bottom rung, spending precious seconds struggling upright off our backs like drunk and capsized turtles: be gentle. We're doing our best to have a good time and win while we're at it. It's not my fault all those shots went in guys: I was busy being a gentleman.
So why do I find this to be such an urgent and pressing matter all of a sudden? Well, if you're anything like me you've been eagerly awaiting the Summer for the plethora of updates it brings with it, and chief among those is undoubtedly the advent of Rocket ID.
What is Rocket ID? It's a standalone system created specifically for allowing cross-platform parties, and a very welcome one at that. Rocket League has long been cross-platform, allowing players across PC, Xbox, Nintendo and PlayStation to jump into Private Matches and veritably batter one another as friends are wont to do. The issue up to this point has been the inability to create a party and therefore to play with your buddies on the competitive. That changes next month and I for one am ecstatic.
Yes, the introduction of Rocket ID is an eagerly anticipated one and not least for console gamers. The debate of PC over console has raged for longer than many of us care to remember and is worthy of a dissertation by stronger minds than my own, but while both platforms certainly have their strengths and weaknesses - and it will melt the brain of most hard-core PC gamers to hear it - when it comes to a game like Rocket League I personally feel the differences are marginal at best. What matters most is that we can now take our personal differences and use supercars to beat each other around the arena for having conflicting opinions.
Psyonix have really pushed the boat out with the new update and looking at the update log it's plain to see they've been hard at work preparing to implement many improvements across the board so we can expect to see the new system in place on schedule for August 29th, though we'll have to wait a little longer for Rocket ID as they push to have it ready for release before the end of September. The gamer in me tells me to expect some minor teething issues initially but it won't be long before the world's best can seamlessly battle away to their hearts' content regardless of the hardware at their disposal. As if Rocket ID weren't enough to get the juices flowing, the promise of competitive modes for Hoops and Dropshot will bring new opportunities for healthy and hard-fighting competitions, and rob me of any hope of unwinding on the court after a pasting up and down the arena on 3v3 Solo of an evening.
Where will I find a match easy enough to make me feel better about myself now?
A full list of details on the new updates can be found here at rocketleague.com
The suspense is killing me! Let us know in the comments section how you feel about the upcoming improvements and check back here for more updates and features in the days to come.