Despite missing the normal tapestry and theater of a Rocket League Championship Series broadcast, the North American and European regional tournaments kept the hype and excitement of an esport’s playoff atmosphere this weekend.
The entire broadcast was done online due to the coronavirus. RLCS announcers and the analysts recapped each round of the tournament from their homes — their normal desks and suits replaced with T-shirts and gaming chairs.
The gameplay stayed largely the same. The esports title is a 3-on-3 soccer game featuring cars with rocket boosters trying to score goals instead of people.
The RLCS English broadcast crew last streamed from their studio in California in early March before Psyonix, the games developer, announced that all broadcasts would transition to an online-only format. This came about a week before California issued a stay-at-home order to its citizens. The play-by-play and color casters left their production crew for in-home mics and pets.
The structure of the broadcast was roughly the same. The analyst desk was hosted by Brody “Liefx” Moore and Randy “Gibbs” Gibbons, joined by a rotating cast of commentators and analysts through both tournaments. Both the European and North American broadcasts clocked in more than six hours of total broadcast time.
The online broadcast lacked the polished look of an in-studio presentation, and there wasn’t a Psyonix logo in sight. In most RLCS broadcasts, the developer logo can be seen everywhere, from the back of analyst laptops to the front of the announcer's desk. The only resemblance of corporate marketing was the lower-third graphics and RLCS logos that appeared while the casters yelled about flying cars hitting a very large ball.
From a pure gameplay perspective, both tournaments delivered. The RLCS playoff format is a bracket of best-of-seven matches with the top six teams from the regular season making the cut. The bottom three seeds compete in a lower bracket with the winner making the semifinals against the No. 1 seed.
Each bracket plays out over the course of one day, with teams going into one match after another. The only breaks in the action are for announcers to break down each game and for customary five-minute ad break between matches.
In both brackets, the sixth seed — Ghost Gaming in North America and FC Barcelona eSports in Europe — made it to the semifinals. Both squads were on a hot streak before getting bounced by their region's top seeded team.
In the North American bracket, the finals were a matchup of the top two seeds in G2 and Spacestation Gaming. Announcers Callum "Shogun" Keir and James "Jamesbot" Villar, both with rocket league and gaming memorabilia shelved in their backgrounds, wondered whether the astronaut-themed team could come back facing a 3-0 deficit.
G2 went into the fourth game and finished off Spacestation Gaming 3-0 to claim its second North American championship title ever.
In Europe, the region's top two seeds also battled for a title. Dignitas eventually bested Renault Vitality in a much closer 4-2 series. The last game went into overtime, and Dignitas won the trophy after a dominating possession and a strike from the team's captain Jos “Violent Panda” van Meurs.
The European broadcast ended with a guest appearance from Gibbs’ kid, sitting on his dad's lap, while Liefx asked for everyone's final thoughts of the season. In the end, the only real difference between pre and post-coronavirus RLCS was Twitch chat begging Jack "Corelli" Collier to pet his cat that was lounging in the background.
These regional tournaments usually feed into a world championship, and teams qualifying from around the world. The pinnacle tournament was supposed to be held this summer in Dallas before being canceled. In response to this, Psyonix added some of the prize money that was to be up for grabs to the regional tournament prize pool. The pot of money split between the 10 teams this season was $413,973.60 compared to last season's $214,250.