Climbing the ranked ladder in any competitive game can be a challenge, but reaching the top tiers (less than 1% of the playerbase) really pushes players to their limits.
British Esports school and college liaison officer, Elliot Bond, looks back on his Rocket League ranked journey in this blog post. Can he make it to Grand Champion?
One night in late July, after getting giddy and excited like a child before Christmas, I eventually managed to calm myself down.
I had finally reached a certain rank in Rocket League, which inspired me to document my journey in the game over the last three and a half years.
Having bought the game on PC in early 2017, I originally enjoyed just playing with my friends who already owned it and didn’t really take it very seriously.
However, given that I was new and my pals could already hit the ball, it was a disappointing experience for me to be flopping about like a fish on land whenever we played a game.
I was determined to get better so I could play with them at their level, and not be the cause of conceding every goal. It’s also worth noting at this point I am a keyboard and mouse player which, due to the difficulty using them, hardly any players do. Almost all professional players use either an Xbox or Playstation controller, as the analogue sticks make for much easier control of your car.
After a few weeks of jumping into walls, completely missing the ball and basically playing bumper cars, I started getting good enough to consistently hit the ball. This was a good feeling, being able to contribute in a match made me feel like I was actually able to do something useful.
I started out playing a few ranked games with my friends, right at the end of season 4, and ended up in the bottom tier (Bronze) as expected. However, I really enjoyed the pace of the game, the competitive elements, and meeting new friends along the way.
Silently competing to be the best among my friend circle, I also practiced a lot by myself, and began spending hours in free play and beginner training packs. I watched a lot of YouTube videos, my favourite creator being Sunless Khan by far. In fact, his series entitled ‘Why You Suck At Rocket League’ contained some insightful and amazing strategies and helped me improve my gameplay a lot.
On a cool side note, I actually featured in one of his recent videos (see right, embedded):
Meanwhile, my friends weren’t sitting idle, and before long, I found myself grinding with them through Silver, Gold and into Platinum in the short space of only 2 seasons. Being successful and improving quickly is really what grabs and holds my attention in a game.
Breaking out of ‘elo hell’
I felt in sync with the Rocket League mechanics and knew in myself that I had much higher potential than Platinum. That being said, I found myself trying to push into Diamond – and what I experienced was one of most difficult ‘hard-stuck’ phases I’ve ever encountered in any game.
Getting out of Platinum and into Diamond was insanely difficult, and I was met with tough challenges and obstacles from most of my opponents – and sometimes even my own teammates! This was by far the toughest rank up so far, and I suddenly felt maybe my potential more limited than I had originally thought.
Not one to back down from a challenge, this inspired me to try even harder, and after an undisclosed amount of months, I finally managed to progress into Diamond tier during Season 6.
At this point, I was both excited to have achieved such a challenging goal, but also exhausted as progressing past this point would undoubtedly be undertaking a serious endeavour. This was my make or break point, where I had to decide whether to commit to ranking or just continue playing casually.
Naturally, Rocket League is an awesome game and I love playing it. I was already hooked by the feeling of success when ranking up, and climbing to new heights. At this point, I had invested somewhere between 600-800 hours over a period of about 2 years.
I began training again, and somehow found myself basically skipping through Diamond rank with ease. Training was paying off, and playing as often as I could enabled me to go from the low to top end of Diamond within a single season.
I was once again experiencing that brilliant feeling of winning, and each successful rank up kept flooding me with endorphins and making me want to play more.
I had a solid group of 3-4 real life friends who had also been playing with me throughout this journey, and I’m pleased to say they were also keeping up! The many games we have played together really contributed to our friendship, and it was a pleasure to be progressing with them.
Together, we were all concentrated on reaching the rank above Diamond: Champion. At around 1,100 hours, I finally broke through Diamond and reached this rank, right at the end of Season 8.
After each season, you get rewards based on the rank you achieved. I was stoked to finally receive a cool new item: the Season 8 reward was the boost. One of my teammates pushed through with me, and the others got into Champion the very next season, and I think at this point, no matter how hard we tried, progressing was just so difficult. It was hard enough to stay in Champion, let alone rank up. This went on for a few seasons, and it was starting to get really tiring.
We were improving, but it was so slow it was sometimes extremely demoralizing. We started playing ranked less and less, and soon we mostly just played casually for fun in private lobbies. I think, in a way, this was a subconscious decision in order to protect our friendship, as whenever you play team games, there’s always temptation to cast blame, and that’s no fun for anyone.
Whilst playing casually was still very fun, this didn’t satisfy my desire to improve. Reaching the Champion rank and stopping there was not my cup of tea. I wanted more!
With only one rank to go, I really wanted to reach it, and gain the special title that comes with it. I knew my goal was to get to Grand Champion, so I continued to play ranked on my own, and only played ranked with my friends and teammates sporadically.
By the end of season 10, a lot of late nights, and almost 1,400 hours in the game, I had reached the level of Champion 3, one rank below Grand Champion (ranks increase as follows: Bronze 1, Bronze 2, Bronze 3, Silver 1, Silver 2, Silver 3 with individual divisions inside each rank).
At this point in my life I began working for the British Esports Association, and over the next 15 months I spent 500 more hours ‘yo-yo-ing’ up and down between Champion 2 and Champion 3.
As you can imagine, spending over a year trying to move up just ONE division really took its toll on me, and I had almost resigned to the fact that I was never going to reach my goal. In fact, I had mentally made the decision that by the end of Season 14, if I didn’t achieve Grand Champion, I would give up and just accept the fact that I wasn’t good enough.
COVID-19 lockdown was as good an opportunity as I was going to get, so this was going to be my last push. Given the extra free time in the house, I played a lot more than usual and managed to attain both Champion 3 in both 2v2 and 3v3.
I was feeling good about my play style, and once again had the feeling that I could push through.
With advice and encouragement from some of the best players from the British Esports Championships, as well as the general positivity and support of the Rocket League community, I was finally able to go on a crazy win streak and break into the elusive Grand Champion rank (reached by 0.7% of the total player base).
What a feeling of achievement!
My journey has been a fun struggle for 3 and half years, both alone and with friends (it was much less painful when I had my friends alongside me). I’ve had fantastic hot streaks that lasted for days, and unbelievably shocking losing streaks, that have tested my patience, but in all honesty, I’ve enjoyed every minute of the 1,925 hours I have played.
Now, anyone who plays Rocket League at a high level knows that Grand Champion is actually only the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to achieve, and I know that I’m nowhere near the level of some players (they have also since announced a new, higher Supersonic Legend rank)! Some people reading this might laugh at me because I think reaching Grand Champ is a big deal.
I’m not going to lie, I’m actually still really bad at the game, but that’s the point, right? You can always improve, and there’s always another level you can reach. (editor’s note: he’s not bad, readers. I am bad – Dom)
I guess the message I want to highlight the most from my journey is that no matter how tough things are, with hard work, good advice and friends, you can always achieve your goals if you work for them.
I’ll see you on Champions Field!
Elliot ‘Ellito’ Bond
“You are a Grand Chump now! Welcome” – Mike ‘Gregan’ Ellis, July 28th 2020
More Rocket League action from British Esports
The British Esports Association has a lot of activities around Rocket League. It’s one of three games in the British Esports Championships for students aged 12+ in schools and colleges (the other two being League of Legends and Overwatch).
Broadcasts take place every week from 4pm at twitch.tv/britishesports and the opening 2020/21 season broadcast will focus on Rocket League on October 7th 2020 from 4pm BST.
Sign-ups to the 2020/21 season are closed for now but check back on britishesportschamps.org for the latest news and openings.
Our Rocket League game adviser is esteemed British Rocket League coach Mike ‘Gregan’ Ellis, who currently works for David Beckham’s Guild Esports.