I bought Rocket League for my son for his 8th birthday. He’s probably played 20 times since then. I’ve played it nearly every single day since. 6 months later, I am ranked Platinum.
Sometimes it feels like I’m amazing at this game, but I know that compared to many, many others…I’m terrible. But that’s exactly what keeps me coming back. It’s what experts call “flow” and it’s so addicting. Like throwing back some Planters Pop & Pour, proud sponsors of The Dad Gaming League, once you start, you just keep coming back.
Rocket League is the most sport-like game I’ve ever played. The strategy and coordination, sure, but I think mostly it is because of the progression of skills. It’s one of those games where you can come in, learn the basics, and have a blast. But there are so many skills that can be honed and refined over days, weeks, months, and YEARS, just like real sports. Yes, really. The soccer car game.
Normally we write comprehensive “getting started” posts that will help newbs get up to speed immediately while giving experts some tips and tricks they can use as well. However, the skill range of Rocket League players is just massive. The difference between a first time player and a Grand Champ is hard to fully comprehend. And that’s what makes the game so great.
So here we’ll list out the top things to focus on, in order of importance, to get started in Rocket League. But a lot of these things may just link out to other sources. And that’s because a single comprehensive training guide for Rocket League cannot exist. Everyone’s journey will be different.
PREREQUISITE: HAVE FUN
So there are a ton of Rocket League guides out there right now. 99% of them are geared towards mechanics and skills and how to sweat it out and grind and get better fast. We have a lot of that too, but more geared towards casual players who want to have a good time. See, above all else, we recommend you go into Rocket League with one goal in mind: to have a good time. In true dad fashion, we know it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, we just want everyone to try their best and have fun.
Rocket League lends itself well to sweaty players who want to prove to everyone they are better than them, talking trash along the way. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We encourage you to go into it expecting to have fun and doing just that. So while you can work your way up the ranks and do all of the right things, try not to take it too seriously, and absolutely don’t be a toxic player. Tell the other team, “good shot,” when they make a good shot. Never use “what a save!” sarcastically. And say “gg” at the end of each match, win or lose. This is what being a dad and Rocket League are all about.
So work on your skills if you wanna, but above all else: have fun and treat teammates and opponents kindly. *Dad steps off his soapbox*
Now, for how to play.
Before you even get in to try your first training module or play your first practice game, change your camera settings. The defaults are just so bad. They’re very zoomed in on the car and tough to see the full field. Making this change will make your experience so much better and your leveling up so much faster. You’re welcome to jump right in the game and play with the defaults, find what you like, and change later, but I’d recommend changing them to the below settings right out of the gate…
Play the Bots
The most accessible way to get started is by playing the always-polite bots. In local matches, you can play against varying skill levels of bots. Play some games against the easiest bots, then when you find yourself winning most, increase the difficulty. The max difficulty for bots is not anywhere near the max skill level of real people, so you can use this to get your skills up before jumping into online play.
This tip is listed early because you can jump in and play against bots right away for fun. All the while working on the below skills and returning, again and again, to practice what you learn.
Training Training Training
As I’ve gotten better at Rocket League, I’ve realized the importance of training. It’s laughable, but I’ve even told my wife, “Sorry, I can’t hang out tonight, I have to TRAIN.” This particular move is NOT recommended, but for real, training is important.
You should spend a certain amount of time each RL gaming session in training before you jump into a match. There are a few methods of this.
When you start the game up for the first time, it’ll walk you through the basic controls. This is important for getting started, so take it seriously. From there, there are built in training modules for things like shooting, defending, etc. Try those on beginner. There are also custom modules that are really great for honing particular skills. You can browse them within the RL interface, or Coach JSU gives some really great training package codes in his videos.
Lastly, FREE PLAY is an invaluable resource. It’s just you and the ball. Seems basic, but you can do all kinds of things. Practice dribbling, knock the ball in the wall and then try to nail a shot, or even use your infinite boost to learn to fly.
This skill is so early mostly because I want to get the word out that LEFT GOES FIRST. Kinda kidding but not really. You’ll notice that you are positioned randomly for kickoffs. Some spots are closer to the ball than others. Whoever is closest should go for it and the other people can defend or boost up. The far left and right diagonal spots are always closer than the back positions. So whoever is there, goes. And if there is one on the left, and one on the right, the one on the LEFT goes! When in doubt, use quick chat to let your team know “I got it!”
The easiest way to get to the ball fast is full gas and full boost all the way through. Then double jump (flip/dodge) into it at the last second. More advanced technique allows for flipping on the way to the ball to get there quicker and preserve boost.
Speed (Boost and Lips)
Rocket League is a game of accuracy and positioning, but above all it is about SPEED. Getting to the ball or in position quickly is vital, and boost is the easiest way to make this happen. But don’t use it all up and have nothing left. You’ve gotta preserve boost.
When you hit supersonic speed, you’ll notice a trail behind your wheels. This is essentially MAX SPEED. So when that happens, you don’t need to use boost anymore. Preserve it.
The quickest way to accelerate is actually not boosting, but flipping. So if you need to get back on defense and go the whole length of the stadium, try to boost a little to get started, and then do two rapid front flips to hit supersonic speed as fast as possible. If you get used to flipping forward to gain speed quickly, you’ll preserve boost and get where you need to go fast.
Flipping into the ball at the last second has the same speed effect, but this time on the ball. Flipping into the ball is the best way to blast a harder shot.
Positioning is nearly as important as play mechanics. Even if you have amazing skills in everything else, if you spend the whole time chasing the ball around the field, you’re not going to have a good time, bro, and your team will lose and hate you.
An entire book could be written about positioning and rotations. But the thing to know is that a good and efficient 3s team will always be “rotating” or taking turns being in particular positions. If you’ve spent time on offense trying to pass or take shots, when you run out of boost or possession changes, it is most likely time to get back on defense so whoever was back can move up. It’s not about fairness; it’s about a smooth movement of players around the field to set up pass/shot opportunities and all the while make sure the goal is covered.
With good rotations and positioning, your team won’t need someone planted in the goal, not moving. There will be smooth movement and someone who is ready to be goalie when needed, but also able to take advantage of missteps by the other team.
Shot accuracy and Big Booms
Take some shots when you have an opening! The key to getting better at shot accuracy is to take a lot of shots. In training, sure, and also in games. Keep at it and you’ll gradually get better. Focus on lining up the shot as well as you can as you approach. Those are higher percentage shots.
The other key part of getting good shots is hitting shots with power. A slow moving ball is an easy one to save. But if you hit the ball solid, with speed, and you flip into it right at impact, you’ll launch it at a speed that is much tougher to defend.
Dribbling and Flicks
Just like in soccer or basketball, dribbling is maintaining possession of the ball and moving down the field to where you want to take it. Free play is an amazing place to practice this. Most recommend turning ball cam off when dribbling. Just drive around, slowly tapping the ball on the front of your car and get used to this. Then, when you’re in a game, don’t just blast a wild shot from way downtown, put your dribbling skills to use. This is especially important in 2s or 1s games, with less people to come take the ball away.
Once you have your dribbling capabilities down, you’ll find that sometimes, if you creep up on the ball quickly from the side, the ball will slide onto the top of your car. If you have the ball on top of your car and you single jump or flip forward, it’ll POP into the air straight ahead. Congratulations, that’s your first flick. This type of shot is great for catching opponents off guard who may be coming to challenge your dribble, but also great for popping the ball over a goalie who has to fly high to try to get it.
For new players, aerials are easily the most intimidating skill. Don’t let it be. Work on the other stuff first.
The thing about aerials that I found is that it starts with something far simpler: boost+jump. Early on hitting jump and boost at the same time felt so strange, but for us dads with adult-sized thumbs you get accustomed to it. So start by getting used to hitting boost and jump at the same time when trying to reach those slightly higher shots.
Once you have that down, you’ll find you can press and HOLD boost and jump at the same time. The holding of the boost button will simply allow your jump to continue. If your car is aimed upward, you are flying. Again, just practicing this, and doing it in game when trying to reach balls, will get you used to the mechanics very naturally.
To get higher even faster, you can press that jump button twice. As long as you aren’t pressing any direction on your joystick, your car will push a bit higher on that second press (rather than flipping). Try that to get higher faster.
Just by getting in the habit of this boost+jump button pressing, it’ll naturally lead to more advanced mechanics on aerials when you’re ready.
Again, this article attempts to give you some skills and things to think about as you start your Rocket League career. But mannnnnnn, people in those champ, grand champ, and SUPERSONIC LEGEND ranks are just unreal. They all have their own styles and mechanics. So if you’re at the level where you are ready to progress, seek out some more advanced material. There’s a ton on YouTube and other places. And join up with a group like The Dad Gaming – Rocket League. There are a ton of extremely elite players there, who are always happy to help folks of all skill levels!
For more of a hands-on look, check out some clips on The Dad Gaming Youtube page:
Above all else, have fun with it! Rocket League is my favorite video game of all time. I love it so much, and I can’t wait to stock up on some Pop & Pours on tournament night to play with all the great Dad Gaming League friends – It’s gonna be a blast!
(This article was written by the head of The Dad Gaming, Joel Willis. Though he will readily admit he’s not very good at this game, he is getting better all the time. And everything he knows about the game was taught to him by Rocket League Grand Champ and Coach JSU, who also advised on this article and created the instructional videos referenced.)