As the Ontario Post-Secondary Esports (OPSE) League quickly approaches its conclusion for its first year running, the UW Warriors have continued to show dominance across multiple titles. This time, we’re focusing on the Rocket League team, who just finished their season in first place in a field of 13 Ontario colleges with a 10-2 record – a truly excellent finish going into the playoffs. Their last game of the season was on Feb. 12, against the University of Ottawa, and their first playoff games were last week on Mar. 4 and 5, both ending in a full 3-0 sweep.
“Going into the end of the season there was this odd narrative, with people saying that we’re not supposed to beat [Ottawa], even though we’d beaten them before,” said an anonymous member of the UW Rocket League team, whose gamertag reads “dpn”. “It was really satisfying when we actually did end up beating them. A commentator during the stream said something along the lines of ‘Ottawa was in first place the whole season, except the worst the time to not be first place,’ which we thought was kind of funny.”
For the uninitiated, Rocket League is a physics-based sports game with a very simple core – it’s soccer, but with players riding rocket-powered cars. Instead of teams of 11 players idling away for 90 minutes, Rocket League has teams of three players duking it out at blistering speeds, with matches lasting around five minutes.
“While it’s obviously modeled after soccer, the game itself actually plays a lot more similar to hockey,” Michael “MD22” Wong, another member of the UW Rocket League Team, said. “Soccer itself is based on the idea of maintaining possession, which leads to a slow game with not many goals being scored. But for Rocket League, synchronized circular movements are core to how the game is played, which is comparable to something like cycling the puck in hockey.”
“Much like soccer, the game used to be based a lot around passing and coordinating as a team,” Mathew “Gib” Gibson, the third member of the UW Rocket League team, said. “But overtime, defense improved so much that people started looking for alternative strategies. Eventually, everyone kinda realized that being aggressive and straight up crashing into people – which is what we call a demolition – was a good counter strategy, so that’s what the game has been moving towards. There’s a lot more solo plays now, but you still have to work as a team.”
UW Esports has seen a surge in growth in the last year as the Athletics department has moved to form more formal relationships with the esports community. This, in tandem with the recent formation of the OPSE league less than a year ago, has had a net positive on the local esports scene.
“I like the idea behind OPSE. It’s basically just a more professional version of what we had before,” Gib said. “Having one big organization coordinating with the Athletics department, just having that level of involvement, you can tell the difference. Something as simple as having dedicated coaching staff provided by the Athletics department has really helped with our focus.”
“For me, it’s less about social media and more about the fact that they hired a broadcasting team to cover our games on Twitch,” MDD2 said. “It makes it feel a bit more official, and is better for creating awareness, I think. It’s also good because before OPSE, nobody really knew how we were performing, but now there is a clear point of reference.”
The UW Warriors have also qualified in the past for the Collegiate Rocket League (CRL), another major community-run league that operates on a larger scale, with upwards of 32 teams across the US and Canada participating each season. Founded back in 2017 and with official support from the game’s developers Psyonix, it’s certainly a step above a local league like OPSE.
“Just the fact that we’ve had that level of competition puts us ahead of the field. Better practice against better players, on a national level, you just have to get better to keep up,” dpn said.
“Besides just raw skill and all the time we put into practicing, I think we’re just better at playing under pressure than other teams in the league,” Gib added.
Best of luck to our UW Warriors as they make their way through the playoffs. Feel free to watch them live over at https://www.twitch.tv/uwaterlooesports, and head over to https://opsesports.ca/schedule/ in order to find out what dates their matches are taking place.