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Rocket League competitive play will no longer feature alternate, non-standard arenas


Coming in the fall update

Conformity is a tricky thing when it comes to competition. Every basketball court is the same perfect rectangle with a 10-foot hoop. Every football field is 100 yards long. Conversely, baseball fields have their own unique outfield shapes; the one in Houston used to have a hill and a flagpole right in the field of play in centerfield.

Even though soccer -- which has a standardized pitch size -- is Rocket League's closest traditional sport analog, developer Psyonix has spent nearly two years with the mindset that the game did not necessarily need uniform arenas. Ever since the introduction of Wasteland in December 2015, Rocket League has featured "alternate" stadiums in ranked playlists. As long as both teams were saddled with the same arena oddities, Psyonix viewed it as fair play.

That will change with the next update. Starting sometime this fall, only standard arenas will be used for both competitive and casual online play. The two current alternate arenas, Wasteland and Starbase Arc, will be reworked to have uniform dimensions. There's already precedent here as Neo Tokyo, which featured elevated sides, was given the same treatment earlier this year. Moving forward, alternate maps won't make their way to online play in the first place.

As for why this decision was made, it seems as if Psyonix is finally committing to the stance that many competitive players have taken since the beginning. In a post on Steam, the developer says "We introduced non-standard arenas partly to provide variety for pro play, but they have not been embraced." It feels pertinent to note here that high-level Rocket League competition never deviates from the same few and familiar stadiums. "We no longer feel that map variety is needed or appropriate for the competitive scene," Psyonix continues.

But, it's the next point that drives home most people's frustrations: "Ultimately, the alternate layouts we devised simply didn't add enough strategically to offset the corresponding loss in predictability and muscle memory." Dedicated players will spend hundreds and thousands of hours learning every little nuance of how the ball will react in all situations. Trying to figure out Starbase Arc's angles because it's the one map that's an octagon feels counter-productive in a way.

Some sports and games thrive on environmental unpredictability, as they highlight the players who are best able to adapt and react on the fly. That's not the game Rocket League should try to be and Psyonix has apparently come to terms with that.

Starbase ARC and Wasteland Redesigned as Standard Arenas [Steam]

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Brett Makedonski
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