Buyers' remorse / Pig in a poke


Buyer’s remorse:
When one buys an item and feels regret about the purchase soon thereafter. While buyer’s remorse is normally restricted to expensive purchases that have probably busted the buyer’s budget, this sentiment can also occur when a person buys a totally useless and inappropriate item.

Pig in a poke:
Literally, ‘a pig in a bag or a sack’ that you buy without actually examining the pig. Buying something sight unseen. Often resulting in buyer’s remorse.

By definition, every year when a team signs up for an FRC competition they are buying a ‘pig in a poke’. It is the nature of the system. Registration has to happen before the game reveal. Most of the time, they receive a reasonably healthy pig, one that meets or exceeds their expectations. There are sometimes a few blemishes and imperfections (there are not very many perfect pigs in the world) but for the most part the vast majority of purchasers are satisfied.

This year, the pig arrived barely alive, with very little meat on the bones, and once prepared, the meat turned out to be severely infested with Trichinella, so consumption was immediately followed by Trichinosis. Most of the people with whom I spoke at the competition agreed that this is the worst game to come from the GDC in recent memory. I saw one of the best head refs in FRC extremely frustrated and upset. At the conclusion of almost every match, there were one or more angry kids in the question box wanting to argue a call. This is not the fault of the refs. There is no way a ref can watch two robots collide, and then go through the mental flow chart necessary to decide if a foul occurred, and if so, what foul, who initiated it, was it intentional, consequential, strategic etc. and still perform the rest of their duties.

Compounding the ref / foul issue, there is the single game piece aspect. With only one game piece, there are always at least four robots on the field with nothing to do, so they end up just bashing into each other, creating multiple action areas on the field that the refs have to watch for these fouls. And since it is the refs’ job to assign fouls, assign fouls they do! I have seen stationary robots assigned technical fouls for “contact inside the frame perimeter” when they were hit by another robot while waiting to catch a truss shot. It appeared to me that if a robot was damaged in a collision, the other robot was given a foul, regardless of who initiated the contact. It adds a new strategy where a team could simply affix fragile items all around the robot, inside the frame perimeter, then run into an opposing robot’s appendage causing said fragile item to break, and get 50 free points.

What was the goal? Did the GDC foresee the outcome? Was the goal met? Was the result intentional? Or is it possible that they did not realize what would happen? As soon as I read through the rules I knew that reffing was going to be an awful, thankless, and near impossible task. A long time ref is a friend of mine, and we discussed how bad the ref’s job would be right after kickoff. As the season went on, and more responsibility was heaped on the refs, things just got worse. At Peachtree, the top four OPR robots were eliminated in the quarterfinals. Perhaps that was the goal, to “level the playing field”. I have never been a fan of the “randomness factor” in FRC, where you are at the mercy of the alliance scheduling algorithm for your seeding position. As a mentor I have been on both sides of the equation. There have been times when we were matched with only great robots, and we seeded first, as well as times where we were matched with pizza boxes or no-shows and seeded low. This year put much more emphasis on alliance partners for seeding. If the goal of the GDC was to teach kids that “life ain’t fair”, they succeeded. I’m not saying the kids were not inspired, they were. They were also frustrated, disappointed, and disillusioned.

I don’t think the seeding is any worse this year than it was for Rebound Rumble, and it’s nowhere near as bad as week 1 of Breakaway where you could beat an opponent and end up ranked below them as a result. This game forces you to actively think of ways to create assists, and even with the “pizza-boxes” there are ways to do that consistently. This is not a game that you can win on your own, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I think they did a better job of trying to force teamwork this year than in the past.

I find this concept of “forcing teamwork” extremely frustrating. Every team, by definition of being a team, ensures that the students are doing teamwork. Throwing in two more randomly-chosen teams as alliance partners and forcing you to rely on them to succeed is just excessive. It’s very demoralizing for the kids to have their awesome robot, which they spent so much time and effort on(as a team, don’t forget), be seeded at a horrible spot due to a random number generator and a game that forced that random number generator to be a deciding factor. Ultimate Ascent was, in my opinion, one of the best games FRC has ever seen because it was a game where one great robot could carry their alliance, while at the same time, 2 or 3 great robots in alliance together made things even more awesome.

Then what it the point of having alliances if you want each robot to just do their own thing? We should just play one on one if that is the case. In understand it can be frustrating to end up ranked low because of partner pairings. I’ve been there too, but only creating games that teams can win on their own is not pushing the teamwork between teams (coopertition) that FIRST wants to promote.

Emphasis is mine.
I truly believe this was the core goal of the GDC with this game. If I am correct, then they achieved their goal, and I for one, really like that as the objective.

Now here comes the “but”.
Too many other aspects of this game fell short of the standards FIRST has demonstrated over the last few years. Threads like “Hot Goal Timing Issues”]( and “paper: Spanking the Children”]( examples of the frustration teams are dealing with (Martin’s proverbial Pig).

In defense of both FIRST and the GDC, I understand how difficult it is to develop a game each year that is a serious challenge to the elite teams as well as having contributions to the game that the struggling teams can achieve. Although, I believe they missed the mark this year.

These are my thoughts exactly. It’s like saying Apple and Microsoft have to work together to make computers. It’s called a competition for a reason. You’re trying to defeat other teams. It makes everyone better and forces teams to turn out higher quality robots. GP is one thing, but this game is another.

Teamwork between alliances is great, it just shouldn’t be the major deciding factor of success or failure for an individual team. Take a look at what I said about Ultimate Ascent:

In 2013, teamwork and strategy were required when you got to elims, because you were playing alliances just as good as yours. However, you could still make it to elims if you were paired with poor alliance partners in qualifications if your team built a good robot. This year, they’re forcing teams to rely on factors that are completely beyond their control to get to elims. It doesn’t matter nearly as much how well-built your robot is this year; if you get paired with box-bots all day, you’re toast. Teamwork between alliance partners should definitely be a factor when competing, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to build games that force it to happen.

I don’t think they missed on the difficulty level at all, the number of teams that cannot shoot into the high goal consistently is no higher or lower than in the past. I like the addition of the mobility bonus in autonomous especially. Where they missed was in the requiring the refs to do too many things at one time. They needed dedicated scorers so the refs were free to actually ref the game.

I thoroughly enjoy watching this years game. I think the strategies that develop throughout the competition are awesome. Where teams are having issues is they are going into each match thinking that they can play the same strategy each match and do well. This game is about adjusting your strategy for each match and adjusting on the fly during the match. You can’t win this game on your own, so come up with a way your partners can contribute each match. If you don’t do this you will not like where you end up ranked come alliance selections and that is your own fault.

Does it force better quality? Or do you just end up with battles like the ones between Google and Apple and fighting over who is allowed to use what?

Ultimate Ascent was, in my opinion, one of the best games FRC has ever seen because it was a game where one great robot could carry their alliance, while at the same time, 2 or 3 great robots in alliance together made things even more awesome.

I don’t necessarily agree with this. All you get when you have a game that robots can win on their own all on the same field is higher scores. Does higher scores necessarily mean more excitement and more entertainment? I don’t think so, all I see is 6 robots doing their own thing and trying not to get in their partners way. But when you have an objective that robots need to work together to complete it is much more exciting in my opinion. You are forced to win on strategy, not just your robot.

I see two perspectives on this issue. The first perspective is from the standpoint of the game itself. The second is from the perspective of FIRST as a whole.

From a game standpoint I think it’s safe to say things are less than ideal. The issues surrounding Aerial Assist are numerous and well documented, and hopefully the GDC takes these lessons into account next year. In particular I would love to see the following:

  1. Better care taken into field and game design so that robots do not ram into each other at full throttle while crossing the field. An obstacle in the center of the field would go a long way towards mitigating the damage robots are experiencing.

  2. A more thorough review of the workload that the refs are experiencing from a game design and personnel allocation perspective. The fact that the refs were burdened with additional tasks over the course of the season is unfair.

  3. Better care with the infrastructure. Hot goal timing, issues with the lit cylinder, and similar problems are all things that should not have occured.

  4. Mitigation of the subjectivity and impact of fouls. A 50 point foul is a massive, massive penalty in a game that rarely exceed 200 points on a side. Particularly since the enforcement of those fouls is so uneven.

Now that’s the game perspective. But what about the FIRST perspective? Has this season met the mission objectives and vision of FIRST? I would argue the answer is yes. The game is secondary to the experience being provided to the students, and at least with my team (3650) it’s been an incredibly successful endeavor. While the game may not be the best for the top tier teams, the bottom tier teams have a genuine chance to contribute and feel useful. Team work and working together are critical, and even a simple box bot can assist with the ball and play meaningful defense.

In my opinion “buyer’s remorse” only applies if you consider the success of the team to revolve around the success of the event. While the game is not perfect, it opened up the field to many of the weaker teams and gives everyone a chance to participate. I think that’s an important fact that should not be thrown out with the issues related to the game itself.

In my opinion “buyer’s remorse” only applies if you consider the success of the team to revolve around the success of the event. While the game is not perfect, it opened up the field to many of the weaker teams and gives everyone a chance to participate. I think that’s an important fact that should not be thrown out with the issues related to the game itself.

This so many times. In my opinion, if you are not using the weaker teams in your strategy you are not playing this game correctly. Everybody has a role in this game, everybody.

This is just my opinion but I don’t think that’s very fair at all. I can understand that a team who ignores their alliance partners and just keeps the ball for themselves deserves to lose. But I’ve seen way to many matches where teams work hard forming strategies, and robots drop that strategy the first moment something go’s wrong. Someone might miss a truss shot or miss scoring in a goal; the ball may fall out of a bot. As soon as this happens one or more robots on the alliance will just abandon all plans and take the ball to do whatever they want. Other times the match will begin to have robots just lose communications and sit on the field dead for the whole match.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s not about the robots. There are robots for every strategy, but their are some teams that don’t play well with any strategy.

1 v 1 v 1 (add as many competitors as you please) often turns into 2v1 or something of that nature. It’s been done in the distant past and it wasn’t a great outcome. There are also logistical reasons for alliances as well, namely just making sure everyone plays an adequate number of matches.

Incidentally, Apple was (is?) partially owned by Microsoft. For a time Apple was kept alive in part due to support from Microsoft in the form of money and publishing Mac compatible versions of Office. Microsoft didn’t have to do that, but it made sense to do so for a variety of reasons. Another quick example is Samsung and Apple. They both compete fiercely in the mobile phone market (and in the courts), but Samsung has also supplied parts to Apple for those same phones.

Competition in the real world, be it in business or anything else, is rarely ever about just clobbering your opponents outright. You’re often dependent on those same people in complex ways (just try to wrap your head around car manufacturing joint projects). FRC does a pretty good job of simulating that while also creating a nice atmosphere that isn’t like traditional sports.

To me it’s less that 2014 is a bad game and more that 2011-2013 were all really good.

GIVE THAT MAN A PRIZE. He wins the internet for the day.

I don’t know if we have been watching the same game. I think this game is awesome. Yes, Qualifications points are hard to get because your score depended on your two alliance partners. Now if your robot is wicked awesome (think 16) you can win these on your own. We have a pretty good robot, however, it was hard to win games with the alliance selections we had. Sometimes we lost, sometimes we won. I was just thankful that teams were a good job scouting and as able to see what our robot could do.

What makes a good robot this year? You need a robot that can do EVERYTHING reasonably well. You have to be able to possess, pass, and score effectively. When you don’t have the ball, you have to find ways of disrupting your opponent’s cycle. This is truly a drivers game. A strategy game. There will be very few bots than can win on their own. This is why I love this game.

I recognize that it’s ultimately a matter of phrasing rather than one of essential meaning, but seeing someone say it that way makes me sad. The goal should be to play better than the opposing alliance, not simply to defeat them. I prefer to think of it as competing with other teams instead of competing against them.

It must be a Matt thing because I agree completely.

What is inherently wrong with competition and even saying you want to defeat the other teams? This seems to be a common theme around the FIRST community, and frankly seems misguided. FIRST, just like the real world has winners and losers, so why not start encouraging students to pursue winning?

I think it’s pretty well established that this game was not thought through very well by the GDC. Too many calls, including scoring are up to the subjective judgement of the refs, and making 4 refs keep track of all of the silly foul rules and all of the scoring is too much. I really think the GDC should look for community input when they’re designing games. They could recruit experienced mentors to review the rule book and look for errors, or loopholes (since there seem to be a ton of them) and have them sign a NDA until the season starts. This may be hard to enforce, but the GDC seems to overlook things that are far too obvious, specifically this year the logistics that refs have to handle, and the overall unreliability of leaving so much of this game up to subjectivism. I’m just curious how the GDC went from making quality games from 2011 - 2013, and suddenly making this blunder.

I have been hesitant to jump into this fray on any of the many threads, but here goes. The difference I try to keep in mind is the same one I keep in mind in coaching other sports. I am a competitive person by nature, and I think it is healthy to try to win. Whether I am coaching robotics, cross country, track, soccer or basketball I try to prepare my team to do their best and to devise strategies to win. But winning should not be THE goal. Not if you are actually trying to change the culture.

Many people will talk about all of the great benefits of competitive endeavors like this. They will talk about teaching the virtues of hard work, of overcoming challenges, learning to deal with frustration and how to deal with failure. But if you want kids to actually get those benefits you have to actually work to make sure they do. Because way too often what they see is adults giving lip service to all of those things but modeling winning being the measure of success. I see it this all the time in coaching other sports. I see it less frequently, but still see it, when I coach FRC.

I have never gone to a FIRST Robotics competitions and not had fun. Even years when our robot has not been good and we have not played well. This game is FAR from my least favorite, but I still had a ton of fun even with my least favorite game.