January 11, 2023

Stockholm Major — The Return of Rocket League LAN

Stockholm Major — The Return of Rocket League LAN

“It’s just soccer with race cars” is how most people react when seeing Rocket League for the first time. But I can assure you, it’s a whole lot more than that. Rocket League is a real-time, physics based game where you take control of a rocket-powered car and attempt to score goals on opponents. These aren’t any ordinary cars — they can drive on the wall, flip across the map, and use rocket boost to fly through the air.

Main Rocket League game artwork. Image: © 2022 Psyonix LLC

The rules are as simple as soccer, but the learning curve and skill-ceiling is unlike any other video game. Most sports games have a button to pass the ball, but not Rocket League. The only controls you have are gas, boost, turn, jump and brake. Other mechanics like passing and shooting are derived from those basic controls to accurately hit the ball to the correct place — you are fully in control of how you play the game. This allows a lot of room for creativity and ingenuity by the world’s best players.

Speaking of the world’s best players, anyone that plays Rocket League is at least somewhat familiar with the game’s intense and exciting competitive scene. Since the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) began in 2016, the game has evolved tremendously, both in terms of popularity as well as skill-level. After 5 years and tens of thousands of hours, the best players in the world continuously improve and find new, more efficient ways to play.

Packed arena watching on as two teams battle it out. Image: © 2022 Red Bull

As with most things, the pandemic took a large toll on the Rocket League community, and because of this 2020 was the first year without an in-person event since 2016. Casual and professional players alike were disappointed–understandably so–for so many passionate fans, it was disheartening to not see everyone’s favorite players take to the stage to display their skill.

While RLCS was still held in 2020, albeit remotely, most fans agree that it just wasn’t the same. The energy that comes from a fully-packed live venue is unparalleled and that experience can’t be replicated with a Zoom-style event. Players couldn’t communicate as effectively with their teams, and some were plagued with latency issues where stoppages for disconnected competitors disrupted the fast-paced flow of the matches.

However, the most notable impact on the RLCS was the fact that tournaments were only able to be played within players’ own regions. North America and Europe–the two most prominent regions for high-level Rocket League play — were separated for the first time. With such drastic ping differences, it was all but impossible to ensure a fair playing field for teams, and due to the real-time, physics based nature of the game, even the smallest latency spike could mean the difference between a heroic save and a series-ending goal.

Eventually, on September 15th of 2021, the Rocket League community received the best news they could have asked for since the pandemic began–RLCS was returning to in-person events. Although there were no fans present, the best Rocket League players in the world gathered in Stockholm, Sweden for the greatest display of competitive Rocket League the world had ever witnessed. Fans were absolutely floored by the level of play teams brought to this event. Psyonix put forth a tremendous amount of effort into ensuring the safety of the players, with a rigorous COVID-19 protocol that included social-distancing as well as rapid testing.

After three days of the Swedish Major, it was time for the Grand Finals, where arguably the two best teams in their respective regions, NRG (NA) and Team BDS (EU), faced off. As the reigning world champions from the last in-person RLCS, all eyes were on NRG.

Team NRG celebrating their RLCS World Championship win in 2019. Image: © 2022 Psyonix LLC

I won’t spoil the result, but I will say that the game was a surefire nail-biter. Both teams showed up to play, and they did not disappoint!

Seeing RLCS on a live stage again was important to everyone in the fan base. Though these events are exciting to watch live on Twitch, where the community can interact with their favorite streamers and cheer for their team to win. Live events are so crucial to games’ communities and the integrity of an Esport. They offer a chance to all players to watch others play the game they love, at a skill level that can be appreciated by those that have put in time to practice. This most recent event was a demonstration of how professional players continue to push the limits of their skills. More importantly though, the return of live events provided a sense of normalcy in a time where things have been anything but normal.

You can watch all three days of the tournament here:

Day 1Day 2Day 3

For more information on RLCS, you can visit the official page here