The last two rocket league blogs that I published were about how many hours it takes to become good and how to focus on so many mechanics in such little time that we have. With today’s blog, I am going to continue talking about achieving rocket league mechanical mastery but I’m also going to get more specific and talk about mastering the controls.
For those players that use the controller, this means controller mastery. While for those that use keyboard and mouse, this means keyboard and mouse mastery. Whatever your preferred choice of controls, mechanical mastery is directly linked to control mastery.
Mastering the Controls
Beginners often run into this challenge when they take up trying to learn and practice their first challenging mechanic. For some, it could be the wave dash for others it could be the speed flip. The only condition is that it has to be a slightly harder mechanic for new players to learn and master. Set yourself up for that and your brain will throw its arms up in the air and throw a tantrum about not wanting to learn.
But once you put in the hundreds of hours of practice and get past that obstacle, the mechanic itself gets absorbed into your system.
If you want to get to a point where learning new mechanics and executing them begins to feel much easier, you’re going to have to specifically start working on becoming good at the input controls of the game.
The best non-video games example of this is learning to drive. When you begin, it’s overwhelming, too much to handle, and too much to process. A few years later, you don’t even have to think to drive. You drive around all the time while thinking of so many other things.
Mechanical mastery is like an experienced driver effortlessly manoeuvering through heavy traffic without the slightest thought of it. Old skills are executed and timed to perfection without a single thought, while new ones are automatically being picked up and learned all the time. This means improvement is happening all the time without consciously being aware of it.
The same effortlessness can be witnessed at the highest level in Rocket League too. For instance, when a pro executes a double flip reset in an RLCS game, they are not thinking about the move or their controls. Their thinking mind is occupied with higher-level game decisions and strategy but they do not have to stop and focus on their fingers to execute a mechanic.
Here’s something for you to ponder. If your thinking mind is completely occupied while driving or playing, then what do you think does the actual driving in a car or the actual playing in rocket league?
Let’s try and break down how to achieve that level of control mastery so that regardless of your skill level in rocket league, mechanics don’t have to be consciously executed, instead they just effortlessly happen.
Control mastery has not one but three levels, you can call them stages or even steps.
Here they are.
- Learning the Concepts
- Perfecting Motor Skills
Let’s talk about each one of these in detail.
1. Learning the Concepts
Learning the concepts means getting comfortable in the domain of words. So when a youtube tutorial that is teaching you how to do a speed flip asks you to execute so and so steps in such and such order, you are able to understand the logic of what they are saying and make sense of it in terms of your specific controller or kbm layout.
Don’t worry if conceptual understanding takes time for you, just keep coming back to your tutorial of choice again and again. The initial block that you face is a normal part of learning something new.
Conceptual understanding means being able to comprehend what you have to execute, how you might do that, and when it might be useful. This is the first step in learning new mechanics and is by far the slowest of the three steps. It is slow because the ideas being presented are new and we have to navigate through the words and concepts over and over again while trying to make some sense of them and possibly even fiddle with our controls to try and execute the thing we’re attempting to learn.
After spending enough time with words and ideas, when you have sufficient knowledge of the concepts, then your mind can begin to visualize more easily. Once you start visualizing, you’ll notice specific visual patterns that your mind is categorically learning and linking as ready-made responses to specific scenarios that you may encounter in the game.
When compared to conceptual learning, visualization is much faster. This is mainly so because at this stage we’ve gone beyond words and logic and now our brains have formed a mental reconstruction of the key binds, the in-game situation, and the possibilities of execution. So for instance, in the case of speed flip, your mind begins visually going over the sequence steps for the left thumb on the left analog stick along with those for your right thumb and index finger.
When you’re practicing with visualizations, mistakes become easier to identify because you’re able to point out where the timing of one of your fingers isn’t coordinated with the rest of them.
3. Perfecting Motor Skills
Finally, after grinding for hours with concepts and then visualization, you’ll begin entering a stage where things will begin to feel automatic. Say you’ve been working on a specific mechanic, you’ll sometimes catch yourself executing the mechanic in a game, in the right scenario, and at the right time. But you’ll become aware only after the fact. Aha! These are signs that indicate that you’re entering the last stage of perfecting motor skills with that mechanic.
But, do not make the mistake of abandoning or halting your practice by rejoicing early. You’ve got a long way still. You’ll be continuing to perfect the mechanic in your practice sessions until it becomes invisible to you – like breathing.
Once you’ve perfected the motor skills of a mechanic, you don’t have to remember the words or visuals any longer, it will just happen. Your fingers already know their way around your controller or your keyboard and mouse, so your thinking mind can remain occupied with high-level strategy.
What’s more this thing that does the gaming for us while we are busy thinking, is lightning fast and it doesn’t need concepts or visualizations. It has learned and moved beyond all of that because your body and your fingers just know how to respond to a particular situation.
This effortless mastery of controls is true rocket league freedom. And even though it requires thousands upon thousands of hours of practice, it is something that each one of us should strive for. Because it feels every bit as great as it looks and sounds. In case you are one among those that have no idea what this freedom looks like, please do yourself a favor and catch the next RLCS game.
There are 2 reasons why this sort of 3 step layout may be useful to rocket league players that are pushing hard to get better.
First, a lot of the time in our quest to improve at rocket league, we feel so lost that we completely abandon it.
This is because we are lost in a cloud of not knowing what we are doing and where we’re headed. Having this sort of map of 3 progressive learning stages makes the entire thing real and lets us pinpoint the exact stage we are at with regards to a particular skill or mechanic that we are practicing. And so our expectations of improvement are able to become slightly more realistic.
Second, in our attempts to improve we often mistakenly think we’ve become the best version of ourselves and arrived at the final destination, so we give up practicing too soon.
Keeping this kind of 3-step map in mind gives players a reference to check themselves against and go on pushing until perfect mastery is attained.
What about you? Have you picked up learning a new rocket league mechanic yet? If so, which stage are you at in your journey to master that mechanic? Tell me in the comments below.