So Little Time, So Many Mechanics to Learn

So many mechanics so little time

The question we’re trying to answer in this essay is that with so little time and so much to learn, how do people like Squishy and other top players achieve such an advanced level of mastery in Rocket League.If you consider the insane number of tutorials on mechanics that there are on youtube, you will be convinced that there is simply too much to learn. I often find myself overwhelmed and lost in this sea of information and fail to make sense of what I have to focus on. To top it all off, there is limited time because there are other things in life like school, work, family, friends, etc.With so much to practice and learn and so little time, getting better at rocket league beyond a point almost begins to feel impossible. So many people feel like they are stuck in their journey and that adds even more disappointment to their gaming experience. So what exactly do the pros do differently? And how do they deal with stagnation in progress?The pros intuitively know that they have to pick out a select few fundamental mechanics to focus on and practice them until they are fully perfected. Obsessing about the vital few paradoxically opens the door to then being easily able to learn the trivial many. The real challenge is to learn to figure out what it is that you must work on given your level of skill and experience.

F*** the Luck

Let’s first get the stupidly obvious answers like “It’s just talent” or “XYZ is a born genius” out of the way. Even if someone is a born genius or extremely talented they can’t perform at the highest level without working for it and practicing every single day. And if by any chance there even is such a “lucky” person, then we stand to gain nothing by talking about them. I want to analyze and learn from people who are normal like me and you and who are able to get better day by day with focus and effort because that’s something we all can do. There’s no need for luck in that.Talented Genius Rocket League PlayerThe other obviously stupid answer is when someone tells you they just practiced a lot, like 12 hours a day for 3 years. This cannot be true. This is in fact partly them being lazy to recollect precisely how much they actually practiced and partly their confirmation bias. Because they specifically remember the weeks or days when they practiced like crazy and have no retention of the majority of their time when they practiced like all of us do.So the question remains, how did they do it?

Pareto Principle

The answer lies in the infamous 80:20 rule. Forgive me for appearing like a cliched internet blogger who brings to his defense one of the most troped and over abused concepts in the history of the modern internet. I promise that this is relevant to the answer we seek. For those who are unaware of the 80:20 rule, it states that in some domains, 80% of outcomes are directly the result of 20% of factors.What this means is that, within rocket league and all of the various skills, techniques, and mechanics to learn, just focussing on perfecting 20% will get you covered on 80% of what is required to consistently play well and keep climbing up the ranks. Just so we are clear, I’m not saying that there are just 3 mechanics to learn and regardless of your ranks and experience, if you master these you will become a pro – no.Instead what I’m saying is at every level in rocket league, from all the trivial mechanics that exist, there will always be a vital few that if you focus on will give you the most results possible. Kinda like how Jackie Chan teaches Jaden Smith to only focus on one thing till it has been perfected. Here’s a clip of that scene where Mr. Han shows Dre how mastering one small move opens up the possibilities to get better at other aspects of kung-fu and how it’s all connected.The mistake we all make is focussing on too many trivial things and trying to learn them all. But the tradeoff with that kind of approach is that will never be able to give an extraordinary amount of our time and attention to just one or two things, which is what is needed for mastery. And so even after all that practice, you remain an average player.

Knowing what to focus on

Let’s sum up everything we’ve discussed so far.
  1. It’s not humanly possible to consistently practice for long hours day after day
  2. There are far too many mechanics to learn and too little time
  3. At every level of skill, 20% of the mechanics will yield 80% of the results
So the question is, based on your individual rocket league experience and skill level, how to correctly identify what you must work on.There are two ways out of this problem, both of them involve analysis. The first is external analysis: getting help from a player more advanced than yourself, this could mean informally asking your friends or formally hiring a coach. I have zero experience in hiring a coach but I do think that there is no shame in asking friends ranked above you for help, lots of my friends have improved in this way.No harm asking for helpThe second method is self-analysis: watching your games, other people’s games, and your replays. This is really something that I’ve been personally relying on and find that so far it is working well for me. You get to learn a lot about what’s missing from your games by watching your own replays and the replays of other players especially those around your skill.Now let’s see, where could one possibly go to find such replays? Why of course. It is the replays of all the games I’ve lost. The players that beat me (or my team) must obviously have been better and must have capitalized on what I’m doing wrong and possibly may also be following what is right for my MMR range.

Concluding thoughts

Wait so, who taught the pros how to figure out what their 20 in 80:20 is from time to time? I don’t know. I don’t really have a connection with any of the pros or RLCS players to be able to confidently tell you the answer to this. My best guess is they used one of the two techniques we discussed i.e external analysis via other players (or) self-analysis via replays.And though I was criticizing the concept of “luck” just a few paragraphs above this one, here I do think that some people may actually end up getting lucky. Not by being born as a rocket league legend ( I still think that’s BS). But by learning the right things at the right time in the right order all by themselves. Before I end the essay, I’d like to give a final helpful pointer that if the above-mentioned methods aren’t applicable to you and you still need to figure out what your 20 in 80:20 is then it’s always better to gravitate towards the fundamentals. An example of this would be a gold-ranked player pointlessly working on ceiling shots and flip resets, instead of mastering something fundamental like power shots or air roll shots.Godspeed fellow rocket-powered car soccer player.