Alternate Alliance Selection Formats for Offseasons

Has anybody actually found a better solution for alliance selections than what is employed in official competitions? Outside of IRI and Chezy Champs where the level of play is abnormally high, I can’t think of a good reason to change the alliance selection format.

It annoys the heck out of me that it’s a standard practice in Minnesota offseason events to disallow captains to pick each other. I’m assuming other regions have similar modifications. I haven’t been to an offseason event where the event is made better by these modifications. All they make me want to do is game the system. No team I’ve been on has ever tanked at any event I’ve participated in, but we talk about it all the time. “Well if we just lose this match we can get picked by X”. It’s detrimental to the experience for my team.

If anybody is in favor of those offseason event alliance selection modifications, please speak up and defend it.

If you’re opposed to these modifications, please condemn them along with me so we create enough of a dialog to convince event coordinators to change their minds.

MN is the only place I’ve seen that rule. Most other offseasons seem to only change how many teams move on (4 alliances instead of 8) or adding another team and having them rotate out so everyone gets a chance to play.

MN disallowing interpicking is one of the more stupid rules I’ve seen, along with the double pick one (sorry PJ)

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It was common at a few Texas off-seasons for a while. For a few year’s TRI used an alternative system.

Alliance Selection and Playoff Bracket Rules

Alliance Selection: The top 8 seeds will be the alliance captains, but their selection order will be randomly assigned. Each alliance captain will keep their seed going into the playoffs, just not their selection order. Alliance captains may not select other alliance captains. A serpentine order will be used for the first two selections of an alliance. The fourth members of each alliance will be randomly assigned to them from the remaining teams.

During every round of eliminations, all 4 teams on an alliance must play at least one match. If we don’t host 32 teams, this rule will be removed, as only some of the alliances will be assigned teams and won’t have to play all 4 robots if they decide not to.

Rosters are turned in to the head referee/scoring table, as at championships.

As TRI grew to include 40+ teams we no longer needed to do this to keep the playoffs competitive, so we stopped.

The reasoning for the random selection order is to reduce the incentive to be ranked 9 instead of 8, as exists when you just prevent the alliance captains from picking other teams in the top 8.

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I went to a California off-season in like 2013 that used a modified version of the normal selection process:

Essentially, the first round of picking was the same, but the second round started again with the #1 seed instead of #8. I have no idea who made the decision to so blatantly stack the deck in the #1 alliance’s favor.

Please don’t do this folks.

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I’m only familiar with the double pick alliance selection used at MARC II in 2019 as I was there (although I don’t really understand it fully) and I thought it was a fun change that made alliance selections a lot more interesting. I can see how people might not have liked it though cause it was complicated. I definitely don’t like the idea of not being able to pick captains, but I am definitely interested in seeing if anyone can come up with new methods for alliance selections that improve in some way on what we have. I’m all for changing the process for offseasons just to see how it goes.

Allow teams to decline the captain-ship: Modified Tournament Rules

Believe me, I’ve got crazier ideas. Let’s start with this one though :sweat_smile:

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Was double acceptance at MARC II better than normal rules? No

Was it simple to understand? Also no

Was it more fun? Depends on who you ask

Double acceptance was a brainchild of myself and a couple of volunteers that we had developed over a few years as a joke idea of something to do at an off season event. With MARC II being a super small event we decided to test it out, the head ref (myself) and the FTA only agreed to sign off on it if every team agreed to the idea, and the EC/VC got agreement from every team so we ran with it. The basic concept was that any team could accept twice during alliance selections, but only decline once (as per normal rules).

So for example: Seed 1 picks Seed 3 who accepts. Seed 2 now asks Seed 3 to join their alliance. Seed 3 declines. This is their one decline they are now locked on the 1st seed alliance. Seed 2 now asks Seed 1 to join their alliance and for whatever reason Seed 1 accepts. Seed 3 now becomes the captain of the first alliance. Seed 3 now immediately picks again as they are down one alliance member. Seed 3 asks Seed 1 to join their alliance and Seed 1 says yes. This is Seed 1’s second acceptance and they are now locked in to the first alliance, albeit now as the first pick rather than the captains.

Yes. Needlessly complicated. Led to some really weird alliance compositions and one or two teams figured out the best way to strategically attempt to game the system.

It was fun for one event, it will probably never see the light of day again. But that’s what off seasons are for.

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I think the majority of teams in MN find this rule frustrating. Minnesota robotics invitational adopts this rule, but also has a 1-4,1-4 draft order. So not only is the 4th seed not eligible to be picked by a higher seed. They don’t get the benefit of picking 1st in the 2nd round.

I would find it interesting to see how an auction draft would behave in FRC. The higher seeds could be awarded a larger budget to spend on teams. For example, the #1 seed has a budget of 245, #2 has 230, #3 has 215, and #4 has 200 (assuming 4 captains at off-season events). This would make alliance selection more strategic, but I wouldn’t like to see this adopted in regular season events.

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What does everyone see as the purpose of an off-season event? And, once you’ve defined that purpose, how do the different methods of alliance selection discussed aid (or not) that purpose? It’s really not enough to complain about a method, we need to be able to articulate how a different method would help the event get nearer its ultimate goals and purpose.

For my team, attending an off-season event is a training and experience process. We have different students drive every match, so they can have that experience and decide if it’s something they want to pursue for the regular season. We aren’t there to try to win, so ultimately the question of picking other captains or the selection order doesn’t matter at all to us.

For me personally, I would love to see some sort of selection process that incentivized picking teams that haven’t made the playoffs in-season the past few years. Give those teams that miss out on the playoffs a chance to experience them in the off-season, and it might help to push them to more success during the season. After all, if you look at it from the perspective of those lesser-performing teams, how fun is it really to see the same teams that were in the playoffs during the season in them again in the off-season? Is there even much reason for those teams to stick around to watch the playoffs at the off-season?

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You may not be, but pretty much every student I’ve ever worked with has been. This seems really out of touch.

Offseason wins can be just as inspiring - and sometimes more inspiring - as regular season wins to kids on good teams, especially for teams who feel they had a disappointing champs appearance.

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I don’t set the goals for my team, I just tell it like it is. If we were there to win, we would have our best drivers out there every match, not a rotation that lets everyone get some experience behind the glass. That’s something that has been set and created by the students every year.

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Personally I’d like to see more events run four team alliances with all teams on the alliance required to play. Probably wouldn’t get all teams that haven’t made playoffs but it should help some. And removes need for backups.

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@Jon_Stratis we go to offseasons to have fun and compete. Just like we do in-season. Offseasons still are amazing team building and bonding experiences and let individuals come out and try something new: driving, pit crew, etc.

Are we in it to win it at every event? No. Some we run our primary teams, and some we emphasize providing opportunity and have our primary teams take a back seat support role. But that doesn’t mean the aspect of competition is diluted. I haven’t met a student on our drive teams who isn’t there to win a match when provided an opportunity to be on the drive team.

We still take them seriously. We require a few drive practice sessions and limit events to no more than two rotating teams in qualifying rounds and even then we limit rotation. We discuss strategy, review past matches, and teach them to operate the robot properly. I’ve found this helps students understand the additional steps that are involved in being on the drive team drive team that go overlooked or unseen. It also means they are more prepared and ready to be better alliance partners even if they are first time drivers.

To the OP’s point.

There really isn’t a “better” system for picking than what we have in season. It really is just up to the host teams and the twists they want to add to their events. We see more random rounds locally than we do no picking in the top 8.

My only annoyance is if an event modifies the system and its a higher profile event. Its rare, but does happen. If its something like a state championship or one with higher fees for a single day event, just keep the rules the same.

The SCRIW trophy is not the most prestigious one in FIRST, but gah it makes me smile when I see kids going nuts over it.

SCRIW does four-team alliances, 1-4, 4-1, 1-4, to reduce backup surprises and make sure we actually hand out all the hardware. Our only house rule is that we make the alliances play all four robots across the first two semifinal matches. We used to define it further, but that created its own issues when a team had issues.

With about 24 robots in attendance, we run more qual matches and then start in semis to ensure nobody is saddled with a truly shot robot (as happened with eight alliances) and that finals end with something exciting.

Barring something special (like when there was an FMS setup miscommunication in 2019), I think we have our setup.

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I think this is a great set of additions for small events.

Everyone plays in elims, everyone plays, and you get to get in an extra round of qualifiers.

To be clear, not everyone plays in playoffs–and that’s by design. SCRIW is almost certainly the very last competitive match a robot will play*; I can’t think of an event in the Carolinas or Georgia that’s happened after us. And South Carolina is not known for having a deep midfield. We’ve had teams that finish quals with shot drivetrains, electrical gremlins, things rattled apart, and I think one year 2815 sat out half their qual matches because nobody had a copy of the code.

Structuring playoffs so everybody makes the show means:

  1. More room for hurt feelings. (“Yeah, our robot was great but we got stuck with a robot that never moved…”)
  2. We have to play quarterfinals rounds, which means we have to rein in the number of qualification matches.
  3. If we can’t make eight alliances, it requires special interventions from the FTA that we don’t feel are worth it. (We did the old “fake match with dummy alliances” out of necessity in 2019, due to a miscommunication that we couldn’t fix on the day of. But Juan didn’t get a lot of joy out of the fix, and we didn’t get joy out of asking him to do it.)
  4. And heaven help us if we have an odd number.

A chop down to 16 (four four-team alliances) means the final pick is from 7 or 8 robots at a normal SCRIW. In 2018, the six that were left out of playoffs included three teams that went a combined 4-22-1 in quals that day and three B-teams. I can sleep soundly with that kind of dividing line.

*It’s also why the mentor match is after finals.

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Full disclosure: I was on a Minnesota team for 4 years, every offseason I attended with them had the rule that captains couldn’t interpick

Tacking onto this point, offseasons using silly rules such as no interpicking or random first or second round takes away a lot of potential experience that could be gained from students about the process of alliance selection strategy. For example, by employing this rule, you are disallowing declining between captains (in my opinion, one of the most interesting parts of alliance selection) and picking strategies that depend on the seeds of the other captains.

Re @Jon_Stratis: I get your sentiment that offseasons should be used for training new students rather than trying to win. However, what I observed during my tenure on 2491 was that when we weren’t trying our best to win/do well during offseasons, the new team members would be less motivated to try our best in the season when real events came around. This culminated in our 2019 season in which we failed to achieve our goals and determined that we needed a culture shift. We used MRI to try to be competitive, while continuing to train new members in a competition atmosphere. While we didn’t have the best showing, it set the stage for our success in 2020. Training students and trying to win at offseason events are not mutually exclusive, and doing both generally leads to good performance in season. Standard disclaimer that every team’s culture is different, so your mileage may vary.

Lastly, there must come a point where we have to talk about the elephant in the room. That would be throwing a match to get out of a captain position and be a first pick as a result. Within my home state, I’ve heard of at least two instances of this, and many other situations where teams seriously considered it. This behavior should not be encouraged at all, as it is wholly antithetical to gracious professionalism no matter how you slice it. So let’s stop incentivizing it!

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We do not go to offseason competitions to win, although it is fun to place well. Typically we will use one offseason to test out future drive teams and one to be competitive. However, we will still swap out pit crews and scouts so that people gain experience. I don’t think this approach is out of touch, when the students understand the impetus.

Some searching brings up Fantasy Football drafters asking the same question, and it seems there’s no good answer, at least not for a 2-3 round draft as we do for alliance selections. Alternatives like auctions could work for off-seasons, but this will draw out event times unless handled extraordinarily well.

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Man, I’d love a super low-key off-season, or even better just a well-organized scrimmage, where teams just play a bunch of matches and try out new drive teams and let all the kids who wanna try driving drive.

Doesn’t even need to be super legit, could be wooden field elements and a carpet rolled out in a parking lot with folding tables as driver stations.

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I have two alliance selection formats which I’ve encountered and kind of hate. Mayhem in Merrimack (Sorry Connor). There, they do a legacy draft as opposed to serpentine (1-8, 1-8). This TOTALLY screws the 8th alliance. They were the 8th best team in quals, yet get last pick first round, and potentially no choice second round depending on how many teams participate. I’ve been a captain of that 8th seed, and it kinda sucked. I’ve also been that 2nd pick from the #1 seed. We won, but it felt kind of weird, and was an unrealistically good alliance in any other context for the event level.

The one which REALLY got under my skin was Governors cup. This is essentially the NH State Championship, and the winning seniors from each alliance got scholarships, so the level of competition was high. So it made NO sense to me that they not only disallowed interpicking, but made the second round of selection random pick. I just don’t understand the rationale behind this rule, especially at an event with such steep consequences.

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