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Unread 10-03-2018, 03:03 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Originally Posted by JohnSchneider View Post
There is no counterplay to blockading. It is the same as pinning. That's the point, you are trapped.
So 3310 couldnt of been putting cubes in the switch, assuming we use the example from Finals 3? That doing something. Does that mean it wasnt blockading?

At least with pinning there isint much you could do besides break more rules (like shoving your intake into their bot or needlessly slamming)
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Unread 10-03-2018, 03:07 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Originally Posted by JohnSchneider View Post
Blockading/Pinning is not "plucky defense". Its an unanswerable way to prevent someone from playing the game. And whatever nonsense you're saying about "you should always design to push other robots" is ridiculous. I'd bet you whatever amount of money you want that you could not build a robot that could push 1817 sideways this year....Defensive robots in FRC already have all the advantages they should be afforded, allowing them prevent a robot from competing with no counterplay should not be allowed.
I really don't think that "lock down" defense is really as simple to pull off and game breaking as some people do. Remember - every robot playing defense is not scoring, and not otherwise protecting its own alliance-mates from defense.

That said, I'm arguing the issue from one far pole, against the other pole that robots should not be prevented from doing their offensive thing. Rules that discourage almost all defense are bad imo because they contribute to the performance inequality and make games boring. But the balance is always in between. I'm open to the idea of some kind of time limit on holds / catch-all don't break the game rule as long as it's defined in a way that it's not constantly called, because the last thing we need is *more* matches decided by refs. That will make the cure worse than the disease.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 03:19 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

I'd be very much in favor of a timed countdown for blockading. Right now blockading has to be interpreted by the refs as preventing gameplay for an unspecified length of time and you instantly go from no penalty to a massive one. Having the Head Ref count it and knowing you have a few seconds to rectify your positioning would avoid accidental calls on alliances that inadvertently blockade while executing a different strategy.

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Preventing a single robot from being able to play the game is not right. Even if it takes 3 robots to do it. Just because you win does not mean that its a positive lesson for your students. Do not bring others down to lift yourself up.
I'm going to challenge the first part of this statement. If preventing a single robot from playing the game is not right then all defense is inherently not okay. Our team (and others) won matches in 2017 by preventing a robot from climbing by trapping them behind an airship. No pinning, no blockading, just our robot keeping even with them so they couldn't get by. If that's not a valid strategy then every game should be 2015 or 2001 (which were terrible game designs btw). The blockading rule already handles shutting down all of a scoring method for opponents, I don't see how you can reasonably write a single robot defense rule that wouldn't end up making really good 1v1 defense illegal.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 03:30 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Originally Posted by JohnSchneider View Post
Because I pay $5000 to get 10 plays at a regional and the opposing alliance being able to prevent me from playing at all goes against the point of FIRST. Lockdown defense is bad, and obviously FIRST agrees because we have a pinning rule. Your argument is strictly that blockading isn't as bad as pinning, and I'm saying they're the same. Obviously defense should not be banned but what is "defense"? This is not allowed in every sport. Compare blockading/pinning to holding in football. You're saying that because your line isn't good enough to stop my DE that you should be allowed to hold my DE from playing. Football is literally nothing but "you can slow me down but not prevent me from playing" penalties.

There is no counterplay to blockading. It is the same as pinning. That's the point, you are trapped.
I think we have differing views on effective defense. There are ways to play lockdown defense that aren't pinning. I will direct you to my original example of blockading in my OP, where in this thought experiment where a driver because he/she are skilled was able to get out of the blockade, while the other was not, even though the blockading alliance did the exact same thing. There is counterplay to blockading, it's outplaying the defending driver without running to the other side. Hundreds of teams did this hundreds of times over the course of many many FRC seasons... All you need to do is watch a few matches to see that good defense takes some immense skill, and is not trivial to pull off against another competent driver.

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Blockading is an equalizer. It literally just requires you to sit sideways.
This statement is just completely ignorant of the skill level it takes to play positional defense. If all good defense required is sitting sideways, everyone would be doing it, and all the top engineered robots would be constantly losing matches due to not being able to score in teleop. It is an equalizer, but it does require non-trivial skill to execute.

The middle ground that Brendan is proposing seems like a justifiable middle ground where it is clear when "teaming up" on a top level team is occurring, and limiting the teaming up. We still have to define what blockading is, and what it isn't, which isn't abundantly clear. Like Karthik mentioned, designing with blockading in mind is important, but not always possible, so doing some combination of both would probably be ideal.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 04:07 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

I don't like the blockading rule as written, but I think the intent of the rule has value. Consider the scenario:
Blue Alliance:
1 Very strong robot
2 Weak robots.

Red Alliance:
3 Medium strength robots

Now on paper, this is probably a pretty fair match. The strong robot has to make up for it's weaker teammates and can probably expect some tough defense. It's a recipe for an exciting match. However, if we have no blockading rule, the best strategy is for Red to send its 2 weakest bots to box the strong robot on Blue into a corner and let it's remaining teammate outscore the 2 weak robots. Now this is a legit strategy, but the result is a very boring match. The students on the Blue alliance are frustrated because they don't get to use the cool robot they worked hard on, instead spending their time going back and forth trying to escape. 2/3 of the students on the Red alliance aren't even trying to play the actual game, instead just trying to be roadblocks as effectively as possible, and probably aren't having a great time either, even if they win.

If the rules lead to a situation where the optimal strategy is very boring or frustrating for everyone involved, it's best to change the rules. Consider the sport of basketball. Originally, there was no shot clock, and as a result the game devolved into getting a small lead, and trying to play as defensively as possible passing the ball back and forth to run out the clock. It was legal and the optimal strategy, but very boring and made the sport unpopular. The shot clock was added and play sped up dramatically leading to one of the world's most popular sports.

I think the blockading rule makes the game better at the average level of play, which is very different from the Cheezy Champs, IRI, or Einstein level of play.

As for the rule as written, there are a lot of problems. The last two years, obstructions on the field has made blockading very easy to perform, but also very easy to accomplish accidentally. The rule requires refs to make a judgement call about what the robots are doing, and whether or not a part of the field is "closed off" which can come down to the capabilities of the robot(s) being blockaded. Refs are always going to be more hesitant to make calls that require judgement then calls that require you to have seen a thing happen. Did Robot A touch Robot B is easy, did Robot A MEAN to touch Robot B is hard.

Considering the rule's subjective nature, I think teams need a warning system during the match similar to pinning. Teams have a chance to see the pinning count and back off, even if their definition of pinning does not agree with the refs. This is presumably why it is a yellow card currently, as a yellow is a warning, but I think that has it's own problem.

A yellow card (in my opinion) should not be given as the only penalty for infractions that can skew the outcome of the match. If you do that, it gives the opportunity for teams to decided to take the yellow card in exchange for securing a particularly clutch match. The yellow card should be paired with either a points penalty, a DQ, or a replay.

In the ideal world, the game is designed such that blockading can not be easily accomplished and it is obvious when it is happening, but that is not always possible considering all the competing interests in designing a game.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 04:19 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

Having blockade as a yellow card offense makes referees call it less often. I think we'd be better off if it was a foul instead. It could escalate to a yellow or red card at the referees' discretion. This would make it easier for human referees to call a blockade that they feel 85% sure about. It doesn't automatically swing the match that way.

Having the penalty called once in a while is better at deterring teams from doing defense that makes matches boring and unfun.

I don't mind the rule as written in 2018. It describes the idea of what they are trying to prevent. Giving referees more options on calling it might help, and I like nuclearnerd's idea of a visible count similar to what we have with pinning. That allows teams to get feedback without an actual penalty or card if they back off soon enough.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 04:49 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

I was wondering about the plausibility of counterplay in this blockade scenario, so I did a little bit of math, which is hopefully reasonably accurate.

The gap between the switch and the wall is, from what I can find, about 217 cm.
Assuming both robots in this interaction are at maximum dimensions, you have two 33 inch by 28 inch robots. With bumpers, this goes to about 40 inches by 35 inches. Converted to metric, you get 101.6 cm by 88.9 cm
If one robot is sits lengthwise in this area, they leave a gap of about 58 cm on either side, a number which is noticeably less than 88.9 cm, the shortest dimension of a normally sized robot.
Given a reasonably skilled driver, with a defensive robot using wheels with quite a bit of traction, I don't think that pushing through them is a particularly good idea.
So if you can't go around them, and you can't go through them, where do you go?
In a normal pinning scenario, there is a specified amount of time that you can spend in contact before having to disengage, which provides the pinned team an opportunity to escape. Getting pinned for ~5 seconds is the risk a team knowingly accepts when traveling into an area where they could be trapped. I think that this degree of choice is what gives defensive strategy its legitimacy- a driver has voluntarily put the robot into a position where an opponent can take advantage of that choice, whether or not it was a mistake. A good defensive strategy is one that enforces the risk your opponent accepted in order to obtain their reward. This, I think, is where blockading strays away from legitimate strategy- the design of this year's game necessitated that teams use the portal at nearly any level of play. Using the portal was not a choice, it was a basic element of the game's design that could not be avoided. While not all teams need to travel to the other side of the field in any given match, someone has to. So given this particular aspect of the game's design, the geometry I mentioned earlier, and the fact that blocking an area without contacting a robot is not considered pinning, you force at least one team to put themselves into a position where there is no real limit to the risk they face, and no real reward, as they had no choice in the first place. This kind of situation is what blurs the line between good defensive strategy and abusing flawed rules and game design.

I hope that we can all agree that, regardless of how we think refs should handle it, blockading is poorly defined and poorly handled in the manual, and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 05:57 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

I'd prefer the game just be designed to not have an overpowered defensive chokehold and be done with this entirely.

Since that's probably not going to happen, I'd prefer if they enumerated every possible thing that could cause blockading. Don't just say "eg." and hope we "get" it - this is one of the least clear rules year after year.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 06:44 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Originally Posted by nuclearnerd View Post
With a hand wave countdown probably, same as a pin. The "blockading" (as interpreted by the ref) might be accidental anyway, so the handwave would give the offending alliance time to correct before the cards start flying.
I really like this idea. Also offers a time limit to any "blockading", be it intentional or accidental.

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Unread 10-03-2018, 07:09 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Originally Posted by Tired Scout View Post
I was wondering about the plausibility of counterplay in this blockade scenario, so I did a little bit of math, which is hopefully reasonably accurate.
Here are some examples of counterplay on Einstein in Detroit.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 07:12 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Originally Posted by BrennanB View Post
I think we have differing views on effective defense. There are ways to play lockdown defense that aren't pinning. I will direct you to my original example of blockading in my OP, where in this thought experiment where a driver because he/she are skilled was able to get out of the blockade, while the other was not, even though the blockading alliance did the exact same thing. There is counterplay to blockading, it's outplaying the defending driver without running to the other side. Hundreds of teams did this hundreds of times over the course of many many FRC seasons... All you need to do is watch a few matches to see that good defense takes some immense skill, and is not trivial to pull off against another competent driver.



This statement is just completely ignorant of the skill level it takes to play positional defense. If all good defense required is sitting sideways, everyone would be doing it, and all the top engineered robots would be constantly losing matches due to not being able to score in teleop. It is an equalizer, but it does require non-trivial skill to execute.

The middle ground that Brendan is proposing seems like a justifiable middle ground where it is clear when "teaming up" on a top level team is occurring, and limiting the teaming up. We still have to define what blockading is, and what it isn't, which isn't abundantly clear. Like Karthik mentioned, designing with blockading in mind is important, but not always possible, so doing some combination of both would probably be ideal.
The argument isnt about "effective defense", it's that in this years game it is possible to blockade the field in such a way that it is IMPOSSIBLE, regardless software driver skill, to play the game. Theres no outplaying it and to call my point about sitting sideways ignorant, is in itself ignorant. It's not "positional defense". You literally place a robot in between the switch and the wall on each side, sideways. They cannot be pushed through, they dont have to move. Its is IMPOSSIBLE given the constraints of the kit. That situation should not be allowed whether it has to be in game design or through reffing.

Arguments based on "play better" show an ignorance to the actual problem of what blockading is. Blockading has only been a real problem the last 2 years and In 2011 because the field allowed for it. Blockading abuses the field to create a situation in which the opposing team cannot play the game.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 07:16 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Here are some examples of counterplay on Einstein in Detroit.
You're going to need to explain to me where blockading is occurring in either of those clips. Blocking off 1 of the 2 paths around the switch is not blockading. No one has argued it is. That looks like good positional defense. The red robot could go around the switch to the other side. Only when 2 blue robots are blocking both lanes is it blockading.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 07:19 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Originally Posted by JohnSchneider View Post
You're going to need to explain to me where blockading is occurring in either of those clips. Blocking off 1 of the 2 paths around the switch is not blockading. No one has argued it is. That looks like good positional defense. The red robot could go around the switch to the other side. Only when 2 blue robots are blocking both lanes is it blockading.
Obviously it's not blockading. It's getting through a single defender in between the switch and the field wall, similarly to a move that you would need to pull off if you were being blockaded actively on both sides of the switch, thus, obviously not impossible to get through a blockade as some may argue.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 07:23 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Obviously it's not blockading. It's getting through a single defender in between the switch and the field wall, similarly to a move that you would need to pull off if you were being blockaded actively on both sides of the switch, thus, obviously not impossible to get through a blockade as some may argue.
I would argue that the defending robot made a mistake by moving. They could not be pushed. If they had just sat in the middle of the lane it would have been impossible for the offensive robot to get through. You cannot "out skill" an immovable object giving you no possible room to get through.
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Unread 10-03-2018, 07:38 PM
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Re: Blockading Rule Reform

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Originally Posted by JohnSchneider View Post
I would argue that the defending robot made a mistake by moving. They could not be pushed. If they had just sat in the middle of the lane it would have been impossible for the offensive robot to get through. You cannot "out skill" an immovable object giving you no possible room to get through.
You are right, they did make a mistake.

You do however have to move to block effectively unless your robot can't turn. Hitting a corner of a robot that you can not push still will rotate them out of the way and they no longer have the benefit of their wheel friction helping them as much. Another example of 217 eventually outplaying the choke point on the field (2013)



If there was no skill involved in playing this defense, more people would have played it, as you can see, it was pretty effective at some of the highest level of play. It's also pretty important to note that drivers make mistakes all the time, there is no flawless match where nothing could have been improved. You always can find an error and work with it.

I should clarify that I don't disagree that it is difficult to get around this defense due to the choke point, and I want to loop back to my original point. I believe that there is skill in playing defense well enough to prevent a team from passing through that choke point. You can find plenty of poor defense in this area that is less than effective. The point that is important is that there is an probable inconsistency with level of driving skills, where if you have a weak enough driver that has low ability as the defended robot, they may be the benefactor of a blockading foul/counting from the ref, while a more skilled driver (like 3310) may be able to avoid them (as shown with the positioning errors on the two clips I linked) and thus it makes it harder to call blockading consistently, which is a problem worth addressing in my opinion.
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Brennan Bibic - 2014 DLF - Drive Coach
“Skills are cheap. Passion is priceless.”Gary Vaynerchuk
FRC|> 2009-2012 (K-Botics #2809) -> 2013-2019 (W.A.F.F.L.E.S. Community Robotics #4476)
FLL|> 2006-2019 (W.A.F.F.L.E.S. #105)
VRC|> 2010-2013, 2015-2016 (W.A.F.F.L.E.S. #4476)
SLFF|> 2013-2019 (The Breakfast Company)
-------------------------------------------------

Last edited by BrennanB : 10-03-2018 at 07:48 PM.
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