2008 Game Format Preference

At the Championship Event, Team 67 plans to conduct an unofficial poll regarding team preference for the game format using the same field.

In making this announcement, it is our intention to promote thought and discussion about the game format and to give teams time beforehand to consider their vote. Team 67 is not connected to the Game Design Committee and this vote will not effect how the game will be played at the 2007 Championship. Team 67 is interested to know what our fellow teams are thinking and we think the GDC will be interested in this information as well.

Is your team preference 1 or 2?

  1. Game with Alliances – Challenges from 1999 to Present
  2. Game without Alliances – Challenges from 1992 to 1998

Many teams did not exist prior to 1999, so here is a quick example of how Rack-n-Roll might be played without alliances. Four teams on the field. Each team is assigned either red, white, blue or gold keepers & ringers. Rack scoring per team remains as in current challenge. The end game awards bonus points for returning to the home zone and elevating a ringer over ten feet. Simply an example!

The match is scored. The team with the most points receives 4 qualification points, the team with the second most points gets 3 qualification points, the team with the third most points gets 2 qualification points and the team with the fourth most points gets 1 qualification point. If a team does not show up to the field, they get 0 qualification points.

Following the Friday and Saturday qualification matches, the top 32 ranked teams would be placed in a tournament bracket per standard best practices for the Saturday afternoon tournament. The tournament opening round would have eight matches with four teams each. The top two scoring teams from each match would advance. On reaching the finals, the four teams would play and the top two would then play one on one to determine the Champion.

Teams may register their votes at the Team 67 pit on Friday afternoon. Each of the 344 teams at the Championship will have one vote. We will post results in our pit on Saturday and on Chief Delphi as soon as possible.

Please note that Team 67 did not win a FIRST event in 1997 or 1998. We have won 8 Regionals, 2 Division Championships and the Championship Event in the alliance era.

Dave Doerr – 67 Team Mentor
Walt Hickok – 67 Team Leader
Dave Verbrugge – 67 Main Contact

I like #1 (alliances) better than #2 (no alliances). I think 67’s proposed format at the eliminations would showcase offensive robots.

What about having 3 teams of 2 robots each ?

3 teams of 2 eliminates a lot of the defensive robots because you can’t guard two alliances at once. I think no matter which game format they choose, I want to see more offense. Therefore I think they should move away from the current format of 2 alliances because defensive robots should not be the main strategy.

I couldn’t imagine going back to the free-for-all format. I can see no advantage to it, except that it does, in fact, guarantee that the best robot and only the best robot wins pretty much all the time. Nice for the best robots and for those people who want seeding ranks to directly correlate with where a robot finishes after elims… But it’s pretty darn boring and annoying for most all of the other robots out there. I know for a fact that 57 isn’t capable at the moment of building a robot that could take out, say, 1114, 71, 111, etc. in a one-on-one free for all match. We’d get creamed every time. 75% of the teams at most regionals aren’t going to have a chance against the top 3 teams at that regional. Knowing that the ultimate winner is probably a foregone conclusion by the end of Friday isn’t fun.

More to the point, FIRST is about promoting GP, teamwork, etc. Why on earth would we want to move away from that? I, too, was annoyed this year at the quals alliance pairings, but that doesn’t mean I want to toss the baby out with the bathwater. The alliance system brings far too much good to the table. Teams work with teams. Teams are encouraged to do whatever they can to help out other teams, because you’re likely to be working with them at some point or paired with them in the elims. Rookie teams and teams lower on the capability scale have a chance at doing well and getting picked for elims if thy can make a simpler robot to support other teams. The alliance system encourages broader strategy and more creative problem solving, while leaving room for teams working out of a garage to play with the big boys and still have success.

A (not so) brief story from LSR: 1772, the brazillian team, had next to no school support. The worked in a small spare room the school reluctantly gave them. They borrowed tools from parents to work with, not knowing when the parents would need them back. Instead of asking for money from businesses around town, they had to ask for wood, aluminum, etc so they’d have something to make a robot with. Despite all this, they came to LSR with a decent robot. All it could do was score on the lower rung reasonably well.* All they had for tools to work on the robot was a few hand tools. They borrowed a drill, bits, a laptop and everything else they needed from 57. We were happy to help another team. We had no matches paired with them. In fact, we were against them twice and split the two games with them. We knew that helping them was the right thing to do and that the more working robots there were, the better our chances of getting picked for the elims and doing well. And 1772 did do well. They ended up seeded 5th and picking. Anyone at LSR can tell you the rest. The 4th seed, 57, 364, and 1772, blew through quarters and semis because we were a good team and a good mix of robots. We won the first finals match against 118, 476, and 1745. We lost the last two matches only because was 1772 disabled twice in a row. I think that 1772, coming from where they came from, did incredibly well at LSR.

Now what would have happened if we’d been playing in a free-for-all? You see that * up there? Cut everything after that and replace it with:

Team 57 helped them as best they could, but had tons of work to do on their own robot to try to compete with the likes of 118 and 148. Sadly, neither 1772 nor 57 could truly compete with these massive scoring teams and dropped out of the tournament after the second round.

I, personally, think the later story is a heck of a lot more boring and less interesting. If some of those massive scoring teams don’t like that they can be hamstrung by poor alliance choices or not working with other teams… Well then they have a bit to learn about teamwork. I like working with other teams. It makes us a stronger, better team and makes me feel good about what I’m doing.

Alliances according to the game rules for the season.

If one were to choose no alliances, one way or another, alliances would be made. I’d prefer they be part of the game at the outset.

Keep alliances, although what I believe FIRST needs to do is acknowledge individual achievement with the ranking. Putting the focus on individual achievement will cause teams to focus more on offense rather then defense, as they can’t afford not to be playing the game. I have to say two robots having a pushing match can only be fun for so long to watch, and doesn’t generate near the excitement that two robots attempting to score in the same place or as spoilers being placed does. Yes you need to reward teams for winning a match, but weighting that aspect 50-50 to say your robots individual results, ends in a much more deserving rank, as teams who don’t have their alliance pull through for them can still have a fighting chance in the ranks based on their efforts, or in another case, that team that luck helped them in playing with top teams every round who would have been carried to the top 8 position, now would be ranked slightly lower.

I like that idea, in fact, I like it much better than #1 and #2. It would make it a lot more exciting, and a much better strategy, on the field. It would make scouting a bit different too, heres 4 opponents, figure out what they’re going to do.

However, I think it wouldn’t work out. Say teams A and B are together… and the other too alliances, C D and E F have defensive bots, D and F. C and E would just be on the field doing the game, while A and B would be heavily defended by D and F… basically what I’m getting at are different (intentional or unintentional) sub-alliances.

Although it would be very interesting…

You will not stop defense unless you design a game that makes it impossible in one fashion or another. Penalize defense all you want in the rankings. If you make half the rankings based on a team’s individual contributions, you’ll still have teams defending the one good team on an alliance, since that’s what they’ll need to do to win and keep that team from rising father in the rankings. Even if you managed to successfully penalize defense in the rankings, teams will still play it in the Elims when it makes sense. Sometimes a defensive strategy is the smartest one and teams have a much stronger inclination to do the smart thing than to bow to others ideas about how the game should be played.

Can we get that chiseled permanently into some monument somewhere?

Make it a “Man Law” or something. :cool:

While I wasn’t around during the years without alliances, I don’t think I’d like to play a game without them. The only way you could avoid the unofficial alliances that would form would be to isolate each robot in its own section of the field, each doing their tasks with no interference from the others. I’m sure if you thought hard enough you could make a somewhat interesting game this way, but it takes away from the excitement, especially for the spectators.

Also, from the perspective of a three-year drive team member, the easiest way to get to know people from another team is by playing with them in a match. The bond you can form with your partners in the eliminations is almost like the bond a sports team has at the end of their season, just condensed into a few fast-paced and adrenaline-filled hours. I don’t think that would happen without alliances.

This isn’t necessarily on the topic of “alliances vs. no alliances,” but it’s a similar subject (and my personal feeling on how to make alliances “better”):

Last year, a single good shooting robot could usually win a match by itself if paired against less-than-great opponents; 7 balls in a match plus one robot on the ramp would negate the ramp bonus of all three opponents. We ended up in such a situation last year quite frequently: all our opponents and partners in the qualifiers had about the same scoring capability, and we knew we could outscore most of them (with a little defensive help from our partners, of course). This year, however, one good scoring robot is hard-pressed to beat an entirely defensive opposing alliance if that alliance has a set of 12-inch lifts, especially if the scoring robot has partners that are only partly working during that match - or ones that can’t make it to the field for whatever reason.

The point of all that? I’d personally like to see the GDC make it easier again for one good scorer to outlast an alliance of “non-scorers” (meaning robots that can’t score anything but bonus). While bonus is obviously incredibly important this year, it also isn’t possible for one robot to score bonus alone. If one robot can make up for “deficiencies” in alliance partners, individual rankings might better reflect the individual robot’s capabilities without taking away the partnership aspect of the game.


Since you have taken the exact opposite of my position, I’ll comment briefly. Team 57 is a defensive team. We looked at the game this year and saw from the beginning that a good defensive alliance could take on most everything except a massive scoring alliance. We specifically chose defense and lifting as our strategy. Implying that our team is somehow doing the wrong thing by analyzing the game and apparently coming up with a good strategy… Implying that upsets me. Defensive teams can be bitten by bad alliance partners just as easily as you. Most of our alliances had few problems holding the other team to low scores, but we often had teams that couldn’t climb our ramps, both from driving and sheer physical impossibility. Perhaps you’re more upset with the pairing algorithm this year or something, but I stand by my point. Sometimes defense is the smart move, and teams usually go for the smart strategy.

Having been involved since 1996 and having watched the progression, some of my more proud moments were playing with and against friends and rookies alike. There is no doubt that the early games were exciting but there were very few teams so there was no need to keep excitement high and onlookers engaged.
The greatest rewards in the most recent years were watching rookies we had helped in the pits or mentored do well and get picked and have a chance to play. They may have not done particularly well but their design and strategy was noticed and they got to play. What is more important, they got to play along side some experienced teams who made them feel like they were immediately part of the bigger group, the First family. The alliance structure has been the single greatest factor in promoting Gracious Professionalism and in bringing rookie teams and their parents and mentors up to speed on the concept of GP. For outsiders, it is immediately apparant that this competition is something special and requires casual observers to investigate further. Frankly, I wish I had come up with this idea, but whoever did, I applaud them.
That being said, one of my most memorable moments came in the game where four teams played as an alliance. Although, this was not one of most favorite games, being able to set the world high score for that season with three friends was something very special. We are all on a big team named FIRST, playing as individuals will only take away from that. I am sorry, but put me down for keeping the alliance.


Yes I agree that defense is at times the best thing you can do, however the point of the games FIRST releases is never the bonus points (and never will be). It is fine that your team (and many others) have opted for a defense robot with ramping abilities during the end game, you obviously weighed out the pros and cons of either system, and decided that the best way you could play the game in its entirety was to go with this method. It was a strategy and for many it turned out to be a good one. Yes defense will always be in the game, and without trying to undermine the thought that gets put behind the robots built for defense I feel one of these days we will see 90% of teams opting for defense and end game instead of tackling the meat of the challenge.

The system I proposed didn’t eliminate defense (and I doubt much like yourself there is any system that can), as half the battle is still the win/loss so defending can(and would) still play out, however being rewarded for your personal achievement is something that I believe needs to be done, as most have all had bad days with alliances causing a lower then deserved rank (or vice versa). Also defending in a system like that lowers the defended individual achievement, and given bonus points at the end (or the odd point scored by the defense robot) that given defense robot could very well see high ranking. Basically what the proposed system would do is tend away from bashfests like we saw this year, see more robots capable of the major objective of the game (this year hanging tubes), and when defense is played it would likely be smart strategic defense (I haven’t seen your teams style of defense, but the “smart strategic defense” would be akin to what we saw from 48). It’d add more of a risk playing defense (as opposed to offense), mainly for qualifiers, but still doable, and in many cases worth it, if you are good at it you would see high ranks, much like if you were good at scoring. The system would help see the higher caliber teams in top and working down. In the end it comes down to the fact I am sick of seeing teams get carried to a top 8 position, when a more deserving team could be there… so maybe my grip should be with the random selector (which I have a major grip with).

I prefer alliances. I like being able to interact with other robots in a manner other than defense, and I especially enjoy trying to hash out a strategy in the few minutes before a match. (Bonus points when it’s a game that didn’t even exist a day before…but that’s another story.)

Note, however, that I make no statement about the number or size (absolute or relative) of those alliances. I enjoy a twist as much as the next person.

I’m at a loss. I’m, frankly, slightly upset that you seem to think that these “bonus” points are somehow second class points that aren’t really important to the game. The fact that they are winning many games seems to blatantly contradict this. You also seem to be of the opinion that ramps and lifters are somehow an easier engineering challenge than making an arms to move around tubes. I assure you that scoring bonus points well takes just as much thought and engineering as designing an effective arm. Witness the ratio of good ramps and lifters to poor ramps and lifters. I have seen far far more static ramps that are near unscalable and lifters that don’t, or worse, flip robots over. I can tell you that getting our lifters to work as well as they do took a lot of designing, calculating, and redesigning.

As to the point of your opinion that the “bonus” points are never the main “point” of the game… I must respectfully disagree. I will assume, to remove pure semantics from the argument, that “bonus” points are those scored based on the position of robots or scoring objects at the end of of a match. That said, in 2002 robots and goals were scored based on where they were at the end of the match, and controlling goals was the most dominate strategy possible. In 2004, robots scored 50 points for lifting themselves off the floor by grabbing a bar 10’ off the ground, clearly one one of the largest challenges in that game. In 2005, teams could score massive “bonus” points for owning rows of goals with tetras. This was one of the most important scoring mechanisms, and swung many games. Honestly, “bonus” is just a word the GDC is using to separate ringer points from ramping points. They could just have easily called them “non-ringer points” or “ramp points” or maybe “Atlas points”. The modifier would have just as little meaning, and the points would be just as important.

Again, my primary point here, and the one I’ll leave this thread on before I own more than 50% of the posts is this:

The point of FIRST is, obviously, to inspire students in engineering, etc. The “point” of the game, in so much as it has one, is to present a problem to be solved using engineering skills. In my engineering training one of the most important things I learned was to simplify your goal to the most basic level. Your client may come to you about designing a robot for this game speaking of a robot to pick up tubes, etc. However for this game and all others your actual goal is simple. The point of the game is to win the match. If the point of the game was to score ringers, we’d have ringer races to see which robot can score ringers faster undefended.

I would vote for alliances as well but with some kind of twist. I love how these games work, but I think a 6 vs 0 or 2v2v2 game would be alot more fun and really change up the system. GDC I am giving you permission to do whatever you want with alliances, Dave please don’t torture me that much.

There will never be a perfect game, and I would like to applaud the game designers (maybe if I suck up to them, dave will give out easier hints :wink: )
But seriously, I doubt that there will ever be a game that appeals to everyone, and in fact, it will never happen. Many of my team mates disliked '05 compared to '06, but I found that I was the other way around. Its just their opinion and my opinion… and GP demands that we respect it.

I would recommend that we post carefully here, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Pertaining to bonus points, I enjoy them. I especially like when they don’t have anything to do with the “meat” of the challenge, so a wider variety of robots can be found. The strategy that my team has taken to heart has been, pick one thing, one game element, and do it better than anyone else. When the bonus is entirely separate from the main game, it makes it even funner, especially the discussions held with teammates. What can we do better than everyone else?

To Game Format Preference, I would like to see the “meat” of the game easier? than the bonus, so that more teams can participate effectively. However, the bonus should be lucrative enough to attract teams.

Thanks to all that have posted your comments. Having good constructive feedback is always great.

I do want to make a few comments about why we started this thread. FIRST is not about winning and losing and we did not post because we are upset about not winning this year or in an attemp to slant the game so that we would have a better chance. As a Hall of Fame team we feel that we should be helping all teams to have a great FIRST experience and helping to improve the game whenever possible.

With that said, we have been in the competition under both circumstances. The only difference is that when teams competed by themselves the level of engineering for all teams seemed to be higher. Teams tried to complete all parts of the game. Now we are seeing specialized robots that can only run around the field and climb on others. I would like to know, what type of engineering inspiration was given to those students? I talked to teams this year that had an arm, but it put them overweight, so instead of trying to remove the weight and use the arm, they just took it off and became a defensive robot. In real life, do engineers do that? Edison tried hundreds of materials before he was successful with the light. (I know he had more than six weeks.)

It is the belief of the Heroes Of Tomorrow that the most important part of the FIRST experience is the build season, not the competition season. Yes, we come to win, but our high (from the mentor’s point of view) comes from seeing students work with some of the best mentors and them move on to careers in science and technology. We are asking the question, is the curent game format providing the excellence that we expect from FIRST? Or are we becomming Battlebots (win at all costs at the expense of inspiring students)?

I was an ambassador at the GLR and it is hard to show sponsors the positivies of continuing their sponsorship when all six robots on the field don’t interact with the tubes at all and only push one another around. While this is leagal and a part of the game, we want to ask the question of teams, Are we doing the right thing? I ask that you look beyond the game to the real object of FIRST, changing the culture of the students.

Disclaimer: My comments in this post are not ment to be condemming of any team. Teams seem to be playing to the rules of the game and are right in doing whatever they want within the rules.

Thanks for listening and helping make the total FIRST experience great.

Having three (or more) alliances would not work for the reason Jane posted. Back in the days of pre-alliances, if you had two average robots going up against a third powerhouse robot, the two other robots would form a secret alliance before the match to take down the other team. I’d rather have known alliances than secret ones conspiring against ours.

Wow!!! I like all the ideas presented here. They’re really cool. :cool: I especially like the 2v2v2 idea. But there is one suggestion I would like to throw out to you guys.

I think that the game next year should be divided into 2 parts.

  1. Individual Based
  2. Alliance Based

The first part of the game should include a section where teams play by themselves and try to score depending on the means of the game so that people don’t limit themselves to building a robot based purely on defense.

The way I see it, there should also be qualification points based on the robot’s abilities, ie. scoring through the normal method and gaining bonus points (so blocking doesn’t gain any qualification points:D). This should be determined while the robots are playing during the test matches and qualifying rounds. And robots that don’t have enough qualification points aren’t allowed to continue into the final round, even if they do well during the qualification rounds.

Then the second part of the competition should include alliance matches were teams work together to achieve the goal, something like this year’s competition. Then during the alliance selection, teams form an alliance of 2 or 3 (based on whether you like 2v2v2 or 3v3 matches) and teams w/o enough qualification points should be removed from the list of teams that can compete.

To give an example of this (based on this year’s game), lets say Team BLUE has a bot which can score on the middle and low rack easily and has a ramp. That team would get 3 pts for low scoring, 5 pts for mid scoring and the ramp boosts there score another 5pts, totaling up to 13 pts. Then lets say Team RED builds a robot which can reach all three heights for the tubes and score well. Then this team would get 3 pts for low scoring, 5 pts for mid scoring and 8 pts for high scoring, bringing their total to 16 pts. Now since both teams have more than 8 pts, which would be the cut-off for qualification points, both teams could possible make it into the final rounds. And robots which can’t achieve this minimal requirement are automatically disqualified. (Qualification points don’t affect your actual score in the game)

Don’t ya think this is much cooler!?:cool: At least we’d see MUCH MORE robots achieving the tasks given during the competition and less robots designed based purely on defense.

Don’t get me wrong. I think defense is still a vital component of the game. :smiley: And it is what makes FIRST competitions fun. But teams should really be focusing more on the task at hand.

Plus (and this has little to do with the competition format), I think that there should be an award for teams who manage to gain the highest number of qualification points. That way, more people would try harder to build a cool robot and just some defender.

I think you’re underestimating some of the effort teams put into their defenders. We were on the recieving end of plenty of defense at regionals this year, and let me tell you…some of those drive trains are pretty intense. Just because someone doesn’t have a massive, shiny, high-scoring arm doesn’t mean they’re any less inspiring to the students or any less capable of competing.