You all bring up great points as to why climb and dump robots were not as successful as was predicted or hoped. As a member of a team that built such a robot this year, hopefully I can lend some insight.
The crux of the issue comes down to the fact that building a robot that can complete the wombo combo is really difficult! As shown through the season, a 30 point climb is very challenging, and brings a lot of risks if not looked at carefully. Take my team as an example. We never successfully completed a 30 point climb at our first regional and fell off the pyramid three times during the season (as an aside, it is quite a site to see your pit crew jumping on the robot frame to bring it back into square). Add in collecting and dumping frisbees and you have a very complex robot that is already not a realistic solution for most teams.
As far as raw points are concerned, a climb and dump must be part of other point differential methods to be competitive at a high level. At a regional, a 50 point play is already enough to put you above most third partners on an alliance. If you can throw in a 12 or 18 point auto mode, you can boost yourself to a very competitive robot. Championship is a different story. If your alliance’s goal is to win the entire thing, you basically need to beat a four-cycle robot pretty consistently. Look at the following:
Teleop: 48 (4 disks * 4 cycles * 3 points per disk)
Somewhere in there, you have to create a 22 point differential between you and your opponent robots. As mentioned in the Twenty-Four blog, you can hope to do this by playing enough defense to remove a cycle, and then score at least 12 points in autonomous. Is it possible to remove an entire cycle’s worth of points in 60-70 seconds of defense? Yes, but it is very difficult (see GTR West QF 1.1 as we manage to remove at least one cycle from 1114/2056).
The big problem is that you now HAVE to score a complete wombo combo at the end of the match, which as I mentioned before, is very difficult to execute with a high degree of consistency. Failing to climb to 30, and/or not getting the disks out will put you way too far behind to win.
All of this also highlights the big issue with the strategy; you cannot carry an elimination alliance to victory off of a climb and dump alone. High powered disk robots that can complete 6+ cycles and a 10 point hang on their own can lift otherwise poor alliances above mediocre ones through sheer firepower. Taking GTR West QF 1.1 as an example, despite the fact that we did what we needed to do, there is no way that our robot could carry this alliance over 1114 or 2056. This comes back down to the ceiling issue, as pointed out before.
This begs the question “Why would anyone build a robot that cannot compete?” At the beginning of the seasons, if you looked at previous years robots and games that involved shooting, you could have make a fair argument that shooting is hard to do and would not be all that accurate unless you are a high level team. This played out to a certain extend this season, but the floor for shooting accuracy was much higher than it was in previous years (i.e. a 50 percentile shooter this year would score about 8 disks, and 12 points on average in autonomous, while a 50 percentile robot from 2011 is probably only good for points in autonomous or a handful of balls in the 2 pt. goal). The other answer to this question is that for many teams, there is something inherently fun and awesome about taking on a cool or unique challenge. It was a great feeling to finally see our robot pull off the wombo combo, and seeing it do it each and every time afterward seemed to be sweeter and sweeter.
From a game design standpoint, it would have been really cool for the upper parts of the pyramid to have been worth more points, bringing the climb and dump robots into the fold a little more. That being said, I have no regrets with our team’s decision.