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Unread 01-08-2018, 02:47 PM
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Power Cubes as a finite resource

It seems to me there will come a time during the season (maybe in elims at a well-attended regional, maybe not until the Festival of Champions) where Power Cubes will go from being an “infinite” resource to a finite one. Before this time, there will always be Cubes available either on the field or in a Portal when a robot needs one. After this time, two high-powered alliances could be left with no more cubes to place by the end of the match.

The math:
  • There are 60 cubes available, so each robot would have to score 10 cubes during a match to completely clear the field. That breaks down to a 15-second cycle time, including autonomous (and ignoring endgame). It might be tempting to compare that cycle time directly to gear cycle times from last year, but I believe average cycle times will be lower this year (due to the relative ease of scoring a cube compared to a gear, and the starting placement of cubes directly beside Switches).
  • If each alliance completely fills their Vault, that leaves 42 cubes in play, which would mean an average of 7 cubes on each of the 6 Plates. Based on the photos from the live kickoff event, the Switch Plates can easily handle more than 7 cubes, and the Scale Plates may be able to as well.

I for one am excited to see the additional layer of complexity this adds (in an already complex game). A few implications I can see:
  • Maxing out cubes scored in the Vault is not necessarily a good thing. A cube in the vault is worth 5 points plus its share of the points associated with its Power Up. The same cube could be worth more if it tips a scale with 30 seconds left in the match.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the 12 cubes which start in the platform zone will become the “center 4 recycling cans” from Recycle Rush. Each alliance is given control of 24 cubes at the start, and assuming no mistakes (dropped cubes, knocking your own cubes out of your Power Cube Zone), the 12 platform zone cubes are the only available extras. I’d be surprised if teams weren’t racing to score these 12 cubes right at the start of the match. Auto routines that score these will be even more valuable.

All that being said, I expect this “no cubes remaining” scenario to occur very few times this season, if only because none of the above considers teams playing bot-on-bot defense, which would certainly slow cycle times.

Perhaps the more useful question is “How do I maximize the value of each Power Cube I play?” The obvious answer is that it’s totally dependent on the real-time conditions of each match. No single cube you play will have the same value in each match. Any cube played on a Switch or the Scale could be worth 0 points at worst and over 150 at best. Even Vault cubes, with their associated 5 points, have variable additional points based on the match conditions when you play the Power-Up.

But is there a less-obvious half-answer? Is there a way to rank the relative value of every possible action you can take with a cube, and allow that list to drive your in-match strategy? I haven’t tried much yet, but the number of uncertainties is daunting. It seems like too much for a drive coach to remember and act upon. Yes, there will be plenty of matches where a team clearly needs one last cube to tip the Scale, but in the two minutes leading up to that last one, the choices may be far from clear. Maybe drive coaches will end up holding iPads, furiously tracking the location of Power Cubes in a simulation of the game and letting their team’s proprietary strategy algorithm determine the next move.

I feel like I need PhDs in math and economics to properly analyze the game this year…
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Unread 01-08-2018, 03:04 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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Originally Posted by Chris Hapstack View Post
[*]Perhaps most importantly, the 12 cubes which start in the platform zone will become the “center 4 recycling cans” from Recycle Rush. Each alliance is given control of 24 cubes at the start, and assuming no mistakes (dropped cubes, knocking your own cubes out of your Power Cube Zone), the 12 platform zone cubes are the only available extras. I’d be surprised if teams weren’t racing to score these 12 cubes right at the start of the match. Auto routines that score these will be even more valuable.[/list]
I was thinking back the the 2015 game as well, I'm excepting the best strat to be a full team rush to the enemies platform zone to try to either take as many cubes to use elsewhere, or just dump them in to the switch. This game is going to go down to a game a nutrition, where the team that steals, or wastes the opponents cubes is going to win
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Unread 01-08-2018, 03:06 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hapstack View Post
It seems to me there will come a time during the season (maybe in elims at a well-attended regional, maybe not until the Festival of Champions) where Power Cubes will go from being an “infinite” resource to a finite one. Before this time, there will always be Cubes available either on the field or in a Portal when a robot needs one. After this time, two high-powered alliances could be left with no more cubes to place by the end of the match.

The math:
  • There are 60 cubes available, so each robot would have to score 10 cubes during a match to completely clear the field. That breaks down to a 15-second cycle time, including autonomous (and ignoring endgame). It might be tempting to compare that cycle time directly to gear cycle times from last year, but I believe average cycle times will be lower this year (due to the relative ease of scoring a cube compared to a gear, and the starting placement of cubes directly beside Switches).
  • If each alliance completely fills their Vault, that leaves 42 cubes in play, which would mean an average of 7 cubes on each of the 6 Plates. Based on the photos from the live kickoff event, the Switch Plates can easily handle more than 7 cubes, and the Scale Plates may be able to as well.

I for one am excited to see the additional layer of complexity this adds (in an already complex game). A few implications I can see:
  • Maxing out cubes scored in the Vault is not necessarily a good thing. A cube in the vault is worth 5 points plus its share of the points associated with its Power Up. The same cube could be worth more if it tips a scale with 30 seconds left in the match.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the 12 cubes which start in the platform zone will become the “center 4 recycling cans” from Recycle Rush. Each alliance is given control of 24 cubes at the start, and assuming no mistakes (dropped cubes, knocking your own cubes out of your Power Cube Zone), the 12 platform zone cubes are the only available extras. I’d be surprised if teams weren’t racing to score these 12 cubes right at the start of the match. Auto routines that score these will be even more valuable.

All that being said, I expect this “no cubes remaining” scenario to occur very few times this season, if only because none of the above considers teams playing bot-on-bot defense, which would certainly slow cycle times.

Perhaps the more useful question is “How do I maximize the value of each Power Cube I play?” The obvious answer is that it’s totally dependent on the real-time conditions of each match. No single cube you play will have the same value in each match. Any cube played on a Switch or the Scale could be worth 0 points at worst and over 150 at best. Even Vault cubes, with their associated 5 points, have variable additional points based on the match conditions when you play the Power-Up.

But is there a less-obvious half-answer? Is there a way to rank the relative value of every possible action you can take with a cube, and allow that list to drive your in-match strategy? I haven’t tried much yet, but the number of uncertainties is daunting. It seems like too much for a drive coach to remember and act upon. Yes, there will be plenty of matches where a team clearly needs one last cube to tip the Scale, but in the two minutes leading up to that last one, the choices may be far from clear. Maybe drive coaches will end up holding iPads, furiously tracking the location of Power Cubes in a simulation of the game and letting their team’s proprietary strategy algorithm determine the next move.

I feel like I need PhDs in math and economics to properly analyze the game this year…
I count 66 (I think you missed the 6 in the robots at start).

I agree that a starvation (tactic at higher levels of play) is a possibility.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 03:22 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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Originally Posted by Daniel_LaFleur View Post
I count 66 (I think you missed the 6 in the robots at start).
I think the 6 cubes starting in the robots are from the PORTALs:

Quote:
When a DRIVE TEAM loads their ROBOT onto the FIELD for a MATCH they may elect to preload up to one (1) POWER CUBE in or on their ROBOT such that it is fully and only supported by the ROBOT. A minimum of five (5) POWER CUBES must remain in each of their two (2) PORTALS after any preloads.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 03:33 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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Originally Posted by John Bottenberg View Post
I think the 6 cubes starting in the robots are from the PORTALs:
You are correct ... I missed that
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Unread 01-08-2018, 03:36 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

I'm worried this will create a real yawner on Einstein.

How long will it take an alliance of the best robots to score 30 cubes (+ or - 6, depending on who grabs the "neutral" cubes on the floor)?

I think some robots will average 5 seconds per cube. A middle tier robot will get 10 seconds per cube. Let's say an average of 7 seconds. The game puts a premium on fast scoring. If you hold back cubes, your opponent is scoring points while you delay, so you have to score fast.

70 seconds into the game, there's nothing left to do but watch the score tick up, and there's a good chance that one alliance has an insurmountable lead.

I hope my analysis is incorrect. That would be a very boring game to watch. I am liking the strategic elements of this game, but I'm really questioning its spectator value.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 03:46 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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Originally Posted by David Lame View Post
I think some robots will average 5 seconds per cube. A middle tier robot will get 10 seconds per cube. Let's say an average of 7 seconds.
Is there a poll about this already? Has Vegas released the betting lines? I'd be willing to bet the over, especially considering the driving paths required to get those last few cubes to their meaningful scoring locations (for instance, getting a cube from the portal on your opponent's side of the switch to anywhere useful).
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Unread 01-08-2018, 03:51 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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Originally Posted by Chris Hapstack View Post
Based on the photos from the live kickoff event, the Switch Plates can easily handle more than 7 cubes, and the Scale Plates may be able to as well.
Yes, the scale plates are the same size as the switch plates.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hapstack View Post
I feel like I need PhDs in math and economics to properly analyze the game this year…
Agreed; the best analysis of this game (especially before CMPs) is almost certainly going to be Monte Carlo simulation and watching videos.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 04:02 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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Originally Posted by GeeTwo View Post
Yes, the scale plates are the same size as the switch plates.
However, the guardrails around the edges of the switch seem to prevent some spillover, whereas the scale only has a short lip on 3 sides. Wouldn't be surprised if it takes fewer cubes for the scale to start spilling.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 04:33 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

This is one interesting element that shows how useful the HP station above the exchange is. If and when this becomes an issue, teams can put a ton of cubes in the exchange ASAP, then put them back into the field to reclaim switch/scale if they arent needed for powerups. A simple HP robot with a good driver and convenient bumpers can push a cube from the ground into the exchange, then the HP can put the cube back into the robot so it can control it.

Interesting stuff to think about...
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Unread 01-08-2018, 04:53 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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Originally Posted by David Lame View Post
I'm worried this will create a real yawner on Einstein.

How long will it take an alliance of the best robots to score 30 cubes (+ or - 6, depending on who grabs the "neutral" cubes on the floor)?

I think some robots will average 5 seconds per cube. A middle tier robot will get 10 seconds per cube. Let's say an average of 7 seconds. The game puts a premium on fast scoring. If you hold back cubes, your opponent is scoring points while you delay, so you have to score fast.

70 seconds into the game, there's nothing left to do but watch the score tick up, and there's a good chance that one alliance has an insurmountable lead.

I hope my analysis is incorrect. That would be a very boring game to watch. I am liking the strategic elements of this game, but I'm really questioning its spectator value.
If you've used up all your cubes after 70 seconds, you're doing something wrong. There's so much potential for strategizing here. For instance, if there's 50 seconds left and 3 cubes can permanently win you control of the scale, I sure hope you didn't already lock those cubes in the levitate vault, cause they're worth more points on the scale.

One thing to consider when strategizing is that cubes are worth less on the switches as the match goes on. At 10-20 seconds left, they're probably worth more in a vault for 5 points plus boosting or forcing or something. Elim play is going to be wildly different from quals, just because once your alliance is set, you finally have a chance to put a single person in charge of the overall match tactics. I can't see 3 teams in quals coordinating nearly as well as they will in elims.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 05:08 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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If you've used up all your cubes after 70 seconds, you're doing something wrong.
But if both teams are capable of scoring that quickly, or nearly that quickly, if your alliance goes +1 on the scale, the other alliance can't sit back and let you have those points. They have to take it back. Then you have to take it back....repeat for 70 seconds, until whoever grabbed the most of the floor cubes can take it permanently, and rack up more points than can be made up by climbing.

I hope I'm wrong here.

Being optimistic, it may be that this will drive the need for defense. To take control of a contested element, maybe you need a simultaneous scoring push, plus a defender to slow down the opponents' efforts. I don't know. People controlling strategies for their teams are going to have to do some thinking and/or simulating to see what is the best way to go, and maybe there will be a better strategy than to grab as many cubes as you can, and score them as quickly as you can.

Thinking about the cube shortage, the "return" starts to make some sense. I was really having trouble figuring it out on kickoff day. If you control two elements, you can only have three cubes ready to respond to an opponent's counter-attack, but you can keep some back at the return.

I hope all that strategizing works. It seems to me that if everyone just goes all out to score the cubes as quickly as possible, we'll have a lot of idle time on our hands, and the winners will be determined early. I would predict that we will see cube shortages and idle time by the late season finals, if not sooner.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 05:11 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

Corollary to this: alliances with ramp-bots waste 3 cubes (and the time delivering them) every match earning the Levitate Power-Up compared to an alliance with 3 climbers.

If you can climb, you can put some nice, low bars on your robot, and your partners can use something like a 2013 passive hanger to come along for the ride. I expect Playoff alliances to make the modifications to do this, but you can't reasonably expect to use this strategy in Qualifications to earn the extra RP like the ramp-bot would. That will make Championships interesting.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 05:31 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

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Corollary to this: alliances with ramp-bots waste 3 cubes (and the time delivering them) every match earning the Levitate Power-Up compared to an alliance with 3 climbers.

If you can climb, you can put some nice, low bars on your robot, and your partners can use something like a 2013 passive hanger to come along for the ride. I expect Playoff alliances to make the modifications to do this, but you can't reasonably expect to use this strategy in Qualifications to earn the extra RP like the ramp-bot would. That will make Championships interesting.
My guess is by that level of play, ramp bot alliances would put the 3 cubes for levitate at the end of the match when the scale is less important. I think the first 75% of the match will just be a huge arms race of scoring cubes on the scale. Of course switch specialists will probably be in charge of putting cubes in the exchange, feeding their partners, and pressuring/defending switches.

I don't think I agree with cubes being that much easier to score than gears if at all. Guess we will see.
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Unread 01-08-2018, 11:15 PM
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Re: Power Cubes as a finite resource

This game is going to be fun. Better make sure you own a cube when you grab it. The flashiness of the Power Ups could distract from the big point game of switches and scales, I don't remember the last time FIRST had a single game element worth as many points (150+ per switch/scale).
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