Comp RL: A History
Before reading this, is is recommended the reader listens to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySFWsvOA0KI
Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle-Cars came out on the 9th of October 2008 in the United States on the Playstation 3. Soon after that the Psyonix forums became the hub for competitions and small organized play. Many players would communicate when they would be on for a 1v1 or 2v2 as those were more easily organized. According to Wikipedia, the game was downloaded a total of 2 million times off of the Playstation Network, and with the release of the game in Europe, the game gained a bit of traction as some players wanted to see a much more competitive landscape.
Gibbs was extremely active in the community for about the first year of US release, even keeping tabs on a variety of players and attempting to keep records and a ranking system together. At some point this became too much and he had to step away from that responsibility, but the seed was sown for a more serious tournament. A tournament that would keep track of players improvements and, using certain metrics, would rank them externally from the game.
SARPBC has an internal ELO system, and it was this system that was used to determine the first seedings of the first big tournament that was formed. Spurred on by the players, Fenrir12 created a post asking for votes on what his first foray into the competitive scene would be. 2v2 eventually won out, hence Duality was born. “2v2 team games 'was' sarpbc for the vast majority of it's lifespan” Fenrir informs, hinting that he was not surprised by the result of that first result. Nowadays the forum post has been updated to show the end of the tourney, and the images are gone from the page. (http://psyonix.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1389).
The first seedings were based off of the in-game team rankings, one of the features of SARP that Fenrir and others sorely miss in Rocket League. Fenrir used the “2v2 team rankings as seedings, or if it was an unknown team I would've based it off of the 2v2 player rankings.” The ranking system was a bit complex. “I just invented it myself to add some sort of continuity between tournaments. I think it probably draws a bit from various real life sports that I was into at the time but it seems to be it's own convoluted beast. A lot of the earlier stuff I did was a bit like that, high concept or overly complex. I would plan this stuff for ages in my own time.” A goodly number of factors went into creating a points structure and a way to sort players actually based on thier skills as opposed to the in-game ELO.
Results were posted on another post in the forum, where Fenrir and others would pull the results and enter them into a flash document to keep track of things while the play would resume. Unfortunately those flash images and documents tracking these results have been lost to the sands of time, and a simple opensezme has not revealed anything at this point. The separate forum post also seems to be gone, but if this author manages to find it in the future, this article will be updated.
This tourney and most that featured the best of SARP included both NA and EU and ping was a huge issue as the title used a local player as the lobby host. Fenrir was quick to point out that it usually was not too bad and players basically just dealt with it. “The two regions playing against each other would have high ping but it was playable enough. Because it was peer to peer sometimes you would get a matchup where one player's internet was just much better, so everyone would just agree to let them host the entire thing rather than play a game on each other's host. Other times we would get a neutral player with a good connection to host the lobby and then just spectate.” Some players complained about ping early on, and “there were players that didn't want to play on an orange connection or worse (the in-game ping symbol), but over time internet speeds of players got better and I think everyone just realised it was sub-optimal but better to include everybody rather than exclude. It's not much of a tournament if someone can put an asterix next to it because the best NA players weren't involved.” After a time, players just realized it is part of the game and learned to deal with it, eventually getting really good at predicting where the ball was going to be.
Matches were intense affairs, and these early games were definitely not streamed as the infrastructure just was not there. My_bypod_4shor harkened back to many names that are familiar to modern RL connoisseurs, “A guy called KissMyTinyAss and Mephistofes dominated the scene in the early days and players winning and placing high in tourneys were mikerules, ryan (doomsee), (and) kuxir.” Fenrir also reflected on players he was working with, “Well, I've gotta say my friend Dorian, PSN ID: Dori-Yan, we found SARPBC together on the demo of the US version as soon as it was released. We had some great times, getting up to 2nd in the in-game 2v2 team rankings with Cattle Bars, most of the time we were playing split-screen too which looking back on it now is pretty insane.” Some of those names were not in the first Duality, but showed up at later tournaments that Fenrir and others were involved in organizing.
Fenrir was not the only one organizing events. A browse through the forum shows many small tournaments that others organized, trying to fill the void that playing in the big events that were waiting on matches to complete. Tournaments would sometimes take weeks to complete, but Fenrir would not have any of that. “You couldn't rely on people checking back in on the forum thread to see who their next matchup was, so a lot of it would be sending people PSN messages directly telling them who they were facing.” Doomsee and Cole were also very active on that front, trying to make sure the first Duality would not stall out, and would continue to do so in later installments. “After 2 weeks I would nag people to get on with it in a small grace period and if no effort was being made to organise the game I'd cancel the game, normally kicking the player out of the tournament and recalculating the league without their results in it.” A TO had to be reasonable in these early days. “I was never able to start up a tournament with set times that people had to play their matches in as people had such wildly different schedules. The whole point of the tournaments was to include as many people as possible that wanted to be involved, so to shut out a whole group of people just didnt work. Also most of the players were just kids, they weren't going to stick to schedules if I gave them to them. It was bad enough trying to get 3 people to come online at the same time together for a 3v3 tournament.” At least until later on...
Many small regional tourneys came around organized by a variety of users trying to keep interest in the scene. The International Battle-Cars League setup by TheGreatGambit was quite the endeavor, but organizing something that early just did not pan out. Duality II was the one to be a part of next. 3v3 would eventually become part of the standard…
Huge thanks to all that responded to the first article and I am glad you came back for this one. The history of competitive RL is rooted in this first milestone tournament, and this marks the nexus of what we now know as RLCS. Stay tuned as we delve into the ideas that culminated into todays competitive environment!