Rocket League’s presence as an eSport continues to grow, with an NBC partnership and several championship seasons already under its belt. In fall this year, Rocket League is taking that to a new level entirely, with a Steam open beta for a fully fledged tournament system, built into the game client itself.
Tournaments will have their own space on Rocket League’s main menu, and will allow players to join or create their own formally laddered competitive series’ with very specific, or very loose requirements. You’ll be able to set a date for a tournament two weeks out, with any game mode, eight to 128 teams, and whichever platform (including crossplay) and rank requirements you desire, including none at all. There are options for tournaments to be 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4, to be public or private, and to focus on players from specific regions.
From what I can tell, that just scratches the surface of custom tournaments, but if you don’t want to create one yourself, they can also be easily searched for with those filters in mind. The tournament search menu will be organized with the nearest starting time at the top, and players will automatically be pulled into tournaments they’re enrolled in as soon as they begin, so there’s no need to sit on the tournament screen and wait for it to start. That said, you can only play private matches while you’re enrolled and waiting for a tournament, to prevent people regularly being pulled from public matches.
Once you’re in a tournament, the UI neatly lays everything out for you – who’s playing who in which round, who made it to the semi-finals, which matches are in progress, which match is next, and how a certain team has performed in the tournament so far. The layout of the tournament ladder, and the information presented, was inspired by both physical sports, and EA’s FIFA series, and I was genuinely, pleasantly surprised by how neatly everything was communicated. Gaming tournaments can be a complicated thing, especially when you have to input win-loss information manually on an external site, and Rocket League seems to successfully automate the entire system without overwhelming you with data.
It’s ultimately aimed to get people into eSports, and, with a sleek UI and fully built-in tracking systems, it seems like the perfect introduction. The eventual goal is to have in-game rewards and incentives for participating in tournaments at every tier. Along with this, there’s a hope that one day, tournament creators will have the opportunity to offer up items as prizes themselves, too, which will be held in a kind of “limbo” until the winner is decided, and awarded, creating more incentive outside of just addictive competition.
The tournament infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with Rocket League’s plan for a cross-platform party system, where players on different platforms will be able to communicate over a built-in audio chat system. There’ll be PC beta tests for the party system later this fall, and it’s intended to go live on all platforms in early 2018. Rocket League’s Autumn update introduces an “eSports camera”, too, which is an AI-powered camera that can predict player moves to create an ideal spectator environment.
The tournament update is set to release some time in 2018 and a lot of components are still being decided, but from what we’ve seen, I’m genuinely excited for players to experience tournaments this way for potentially the first time. As someone who played the original Gears of War competitively and had to manually add scores into a third-party website where other players could lie about match results whenever they wanted, I might even be a little jealous of anyone who’s first tournament system is so automated, and so easy to absorb.
It’s an exciting progression of Rocket League’s already impressive example of how to involve a community in competitive play, and I hope more developers follow suit with built-in systems like this one.
Alanah Pearce is a writer at IGN. You can find her on Twitter @Charalanahzard.