Rocket League is in an interesting place right now as an esport. It sits in a sub-genre of its own and has an exciting future ahead of it, especially with it featuring in the Olympic-backed Intel World Open tournament ahead of Tokyo 2020.
However, it is also now at the stage in its life where real growth needs to happen, in terms of the growth of the scene, and trying to attract a wider audience than its existing passionate community. At times like this, where the fate of an esport could go in either direction, it’s always interesting to hear from the cream of the crop.
And that’s exactly who we’re speaking to. Team Vitality are the current world champions and are looking to defend their crown in Season 8 of the Rocket League Championship Series. At Vitality’s new training facility in the French national stadium, the Stade de France, The Loadout got the chance to talk all things Rocket League with two members of the team: coach Mike ‘Gregan’ Ellis and 16-year-old prodigy Kyle ‘Scrub Killa’ Robertson.
Here we talk to the duo about defending Team Vitality’s crown, training in one of the world’s most famous sports stadiums, and what the future holds for Rocket League esports.
The Loadout: RLCS Season 7 champions. How did that feel, especially for you Scrub, becoming a world champion at 16?
Gregan: Youngest world champion ever!
Scrub Killa: Aye, but I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience already. I mean, I was already kinda used to it all but that’s not the point, coming into your first worlds and winning the whole thing is like a dream come true. Quite incredible.
G: I mean yeah, that’s the goal really isn’t it. When we first got a Rocket League team at Vitality the goal was to be a world champion…
SK: Yeah and all I wanna do is win…
G: Yeah, and having this team that went on to win Worlds is pretty special, there’s nothing better than that feeling. We’d been working for six months, specifically for that Worlds, and to come to the end of it and get the result just validates all the hard work you do in the build up to it. And no one can take that away from you. Victor ‘Fairy Peak’ Locquet said that nothing is more special than being number one in your chosen field, even if its just for that six month season. Just being the best in the world, even for a moment, is amazing.
TL: What do you think each of the three players bring to the team, Gregan?
G: The easiest player to explain is Alexandre ‘Kaydop’ Courant, because he’s the one that brings the experience and he’s been at the top for so long…
SK: I mean, technically, I’ve been playing longer than Kaydop has. I know he’s been to way more world finals than me, but I’ve got experience too.
G: That’s true. I mean Kaydop’s mentality is one of the best I’ve seen in Rocket League – he barely ever tilts. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him tilt during a competitive match, really. He’s so calm but he’s also so passionate. I’ve never heard anyone after so much time still be that excited about what they do. You saw at Season 7 Worlds how much it meant to him, and that’s why he’s so good because it means so much.
You [Scrub Killa]… you bring the excitement to the team I think. Like on stage, you are the entertainer. The way you play is very entertaining, and I think you bring a lot of flair to the team, and when we need it, you can just come in and say ‘I’ll create a goal out of nothing now,’ or turn an amazing goal line save into a counter attack.
And then Fairy Peak is just solid, isn’t he?
SK: Aye yeah, really difficult to play against.
G: He just reads the game so fast. When I’m listening to you guys on comms he’s always the one that knows we’ve scored early, like he will celebrate early before a goal has even happened and shout “Yes we scored!” and then a few seconds we’ll all shout “Yes we scored!” He’s just always the first one to spot everything, he calls what people are about to do, he knows the game inside out and just has this future sight in Rocket League, it’s really incredible. The fact he’s solid and the fact he’s so consistent is just great.
TL: What’s been different for you in Season 8?
SK: I’d say there’s a wee bit more competition, I guess, especially with NRG at the moment. But, if we can play the same way we did last season we won’t have any issues.
G: I think the biggest problem for us now in Rocket League is that the talent pool is getting bigger and bigger each season, and we’re noticing that there are more orgs playing at the top level. For us, when we play our best, we are the best team in the world.
Related: Rocket League ranks, rewards and MMR explained
The difference now is we can’t get away with sub-par performances any more, so we have to make sure that we hit peak performance every single series. We know we’ve got the skill to win every game, but it’s now about ensuring we get those performances from the boys every single time.
TL: Vitality have now got this training facility here at the Stade de France. How do you think it will help you improve as a team?
G: Having a ‘home’ boot camp space is amazing, you know coming to a Vitality boot camp where you have everything you need. If I could dream up a boot camp location, this is the kind of place where I’d have it.
When you’re travelling around the world to different cities it’s often difficult to find a location that has everything you need for a good boot camp, whereas here we have the PCs with the specs that we need, plenty of space to chill out, there’s whiteboards and TVs for reviews and strategies, there will soon be a gym to keep fit, areas for mindfulness, a kitchen… They’ve got everything they could want all in one space. Also, all of Vitality can come here and interact with the players and it makes you think that you’re part of a family and that’s the key to this is that it feels like home.
.@TeamVitality prend ses quartiers au Stade de France !
Leader européen d’esport, la team devient le premier club résident du Stade et y installe son centre d’entraînement 🕹
— Stade de France (@StadeFrance) June 21, 2019
SK: I mean, it’s a state-of-the-art facility… at the Stade de France. It doesn’t get much better than that. The PCs are really good, I think that’s the most important aspect of it for me. Even though it isn’t 100% ready yet, it’s still really good and been very helpful.
G: I think we can safely say a boot camp here will be better than any other boot camp we’ve ever done.
SK: Yeah we’d usually end up in like a gaming cafe or something, so you’re more cramped in and have less space whereas here you have your own room and own space just for us.
TL: What would you change, if anything, about Rocket League?
SK: Well Kuxir [mousesports’ Francesco ‘kuxir97’ Cinquemani] thinks there should be more boosts and I think that might be a good idea, maybe like 150 boosts – more freedom. But that would be a pretty crazy change.
They do need to add non-standard maps back too, put them into ranked and stuff, that’s a big one actually.
G: I remember speaking to Low5ive [ex-Rocket League player William “Low5ive” Copeland] back in the day and he reckoned that the arena needs to be increased by like 10-15% in terms of size. The arena does feel a bit cramped at the moment. People are constantly on you which means defence is certainly more dominant at the moment, which is why games are often so close. It also leads to a lot of kick off goals now too because it is so compact.
SK: I also think in 1v1 they should spawn you with like 50 boost for the kick off so if you lose it you’ve got a little bit more team to get back because at the moment, if you lose kick off you almost always concede a goal.
G: I’d be interested to see 1v1 and 2v2 have potential professional leagues as well. They’re interesting in their own right…
SK: Well I personally think 1v1 and 2v2 are actually more entertaining to watch than 3v3. And there’s a lot of people who think that as well. I don’t find it as much fun to play but I’d say 1v1 is the best for a spectator. There’s way more ‘comeback potential’ like in 3v3 if you’re two goals up then it’s game over, but in 1v1 you see five goal comebacks with 30 seconds left!
G: And that again comes down to the aspect of space. 1v1 and 2v2 have much more space so maybe a 3v3 game on a slightly bigger map would mean you’d get the same level of freedom. Individually, you have to be more skilful in 1v1 or 2v2v as you’ve got to outplay your opponent in a larger space whereas 3v3 is more team-focused.
SK: I think the biggest thing they have to do is make the hitboxes different, actually. There’s only like four different hitboxes yet there’s thirty different cars so really they’re all just the same. Most cars are the exact same, so what’s the point? They did that in the first place so that people would play as different cars but it actually just made people play the same car and had the opposite effect. They should make the cars more different. And add those non-standard maps into ranked.
G: We might end up seeing all these significant changes come in with like a ‘Rocket League 2’, similar to what Fortnite have done. I don’t think they’d be able to introduce these kind of changes tomorrow or whatever, so I think that’s the route it will go.
TL: What do you think the future holds for Rocket League then?
G: Well one thing we know for sure is that next season there’ll be 10 teams in the RLCS…
SK: I think they’re probably going to go for a franchise model, if they’re making it ten teams?
G: Yeah, I think they’re definitely thinking about it but it’s a tough decision to make. They might go for something similar to football where you’ve got a semi-franchise system where there are rules in place but players still have a significant hold in that spot. But yeah, I think it’s needed because Rocket League is struggling with talent sticking around too long with the two out of three rule. Teams are having to stick with players that they might not want, whereas a franchise would allow the best of the best to be selected and put into the top.
SK: I think the future’s definitely bright. Especially because we’re in the Olympics next year as well, that’s pretty insane.
G: I think Rocket League is the perfect esport to bring non-esports fans in because its so easy to understand, it’s non-violent, it’s skilful, and it’s a team-based game, so you get to see teamwork and can start following a team. I think it is certainly going to be used as that ‘bridge’ esport, but the development needs to happen on the Psyonix side and speed up the professionalisation of the scene – but it will eventually get there.