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NA closing the skill gap

skill gap

It’s no secret that many consider Europe to be the dominant region when it comes to Rocket League esports. However, North America appears to be closing the skill gap.

Major LAN Events

Take a look at the top four teams from major Rocket League LAN events in the past. It’s easy to see EU’s domination over NA at the beginning.

RLCS World Finals

iBUYPOWER, a former NA team, won the first ever Rocket League Championship Series world finals. Regardless, EU was still dominant overall. Flipsid3 Tactics, Northern Gaming and The Flying Dutchmen, all EU teams, took second through fourth place respectively.

In fact, in all three seasons of the RLCS thus far only one team has represented NA in the top four of the world finals:

Season Two

  1. Flipsid3 Tactics (EU)
  2. Mock-It eSports (EU)
  3. Northern Gaming (EU)
  4. Take 3 (NA)

Season Three

  1. Northern Gaming (EU)
  2. Mock-It eSports (EU)
  3. NRG Esports (NA)
  4. The Leftovers (EU)

Since the season three finale of the RLCS, there are several tournaments one can look back to which suggest this skill gap is narrowing.

DreamHack / FACEIT

The RLCS features equal representation from EU and NA at the world finals. DreamHack Summer 2017, taking place in Sweden, only featured one team from NA. Of the 15 teams total who competed, the NA team, Rogue, placed in the number 3-4 spot.

skill gap
Image courtesy of steamcardexchange.net

The most recent major LAN event to take place was the FACEIT X Games Invitational. The tournament featured eight teams in total, four from NA and four from EU. The bracket was broken down into two groups, each consisting of two NA and two EU teams.

While EU looked strong as always, NA certainly showed up to play in this tournament. Out of nine matches that were played between an NA and EU team, NA came out on top five times. This includes the finals, in which NRG Esports beat Gale Force eSports four to three in a best of seven match.

Five out of nine games is relatively even, which is exactly the point I’m trying to make. The skill gap is closing. On top of this, the ending placements were just as even. Gale Force eSports took second. After that, the 3rd-4th, 5th-6th and 7th-8th slots each had one NA and one EU team.

Mechanics

It’s difficult to lock down a group of players, let alone a single player, as the top mechanically. There are too many top tier players in NA and EU, not to mention from other regions of the world.

When it comes to mechanics, top players may have certain mechanics that they are known for executing frequently and nearly flawlessly.

skill gap
Image courtesy of steamtradingcards.wikia.com

David “Deevo” Morrow is well known for his double taps; Francesco “Kuxir97” Cinquemani is well known for his mechanical ability playing off the wall; Jacob “Jacob” McDowell is known for his unusual mechanics; Chris “Dappur” Mendoza and Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson are known for their one-on-one abilities, just to name a few.

That being said, you don’t make it the top without being proficient in all mechanical aspects. Pick the “worst” mechanical pro player you can think of, and they’re still miles ahead of the average player.

So, I’m confident in arguing that NA and EU have been relatively equal, in terms of mechanics, since the beginning of the professional Rocket League scene. Decision making, on the other hand, is a different story.

Decision Making

Perhaps the most important aspect of decision making in Rocket League is knowing when and when not to rotate back. For those who don’t know, rotation is when you decide not to pursue the ball, rather opting to fall back and allow a teammate to attack.

It only takes one poor decision regarding rotation before you quickly find your team getting scored on. Watch past seasons of the RLCS and you’ll see EU’s superiority when it comes to rotation. That’s starting to change.

skill gap
Jacob. Image courtesy of nrg.gg

NA teams are refining their rotations, making effective decisions. One team worth taking a look at, regarding rotation, is NRG.

Along with his unusual mechanics, Jacob is known for his sometimes unusual positioning. While that has been advantageous at times, making it difficult for the opposition to predict, it has also been the cause of breaks in NRG’s rotation.

However, as the skill gap tightens and NA teams make increasingly better decisions regarding rotation, Jacob’s unusual positioning makes NRG more dangerous than ever. Without impeccable decision making, unusual positioning is a recipe for breaking rotation and ceding goals. Add in proper decision making and it becomes a recipe for breaking the opponent’s rotation instead.

Conclusion

With the skill gap getting smaller and smaller, there has never been a better time to be a fan of NA Rocket League. Fans should psych themselves up.

A closing skill gap means tighter competition and, in turn, tighter matches. The best Rocket League matches are won by one game. The best Rocket League games are won by one point.

With DreamHack Atlanta beginning today and season four of the RLCS just on the horizon, it promises to be a great few coming months for Rocket League.

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Featured Image courtesy of amazon.com

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