Deep Space is going to be ruined by Defence

Since kickoff, I’ve had a nagging feeling that this game is actually going to be one of the worst FIRST games we’ve seen. This game has a lot going for it: scoring multiple different game pieces, new unique end game, a new take on autonomous mode, but it’s all going to be ruined by unprotected scoring zones. Privately I’ve seen lots of discussion about how defence is going to affect this game but I haven’t really seen a deep dive here on CD yet.

Let me first say that I’m super proud of the robot 610 has built at this year, technically it’s the most impressive we’ve ever built. We put thought into having scoring flexibility to be able to deal with defence, but still a well-driven kit bot can easily shut down an alliance from scoring a full rocket or a significant number of teleop game pieces. I’m not sure how many teams out there have practiced with a defence bot yet, but we always try to, and it was brutal. Scoring on an unprotected rocket is a bloodbath, there are going to be tipped robots and broken manipulators everywhere…

Unfortunately, with how this field is designed I’m not sure there was a good solution, making the rockets a protected scoring zone would have been foul central as there just isn’t enough space between the rocket and cargo ship. Splitting the rocket RP between the two rockets wouldn’t have fit the narrative of completing a rocket. Also, no one wants to see a fully protected defence free game like 2015 again, at least for a while.

I now understand why some top teams invested so much time into building triple climb robots, those 12 extra points (over 1 third level, and 2 second level robots) is going to be a huge advantage.

I just feel like this game is just going to devolve into an ugly game where aggressive defence is very very valuable, and it’s going to cause lots of broken robots and unhappy teams. I’d love to be proven wrong, but now that I’ve seen how brutal defence is in this game, and how tight your zone gets with 3 scoring robots, I’m going to be sending a defence robot to cause chaos every match.


The hotest of takes


Obviously, GDC foresaw this because they limited defense to one bot. I feel that in qualification matches, teams that can score the top level of the rocket will have heavy defense played against them during qualification matches. However, I would guess the game will not be a complete defense-fest during eliminations because teams will have two good robots and one robot can’t guard two effectively.


I hope you are wrong too. It wouldn’t take much for a robot to combine offence with some defense. I also suspect that in addition to the rookies, the teams that got overly ambitious with their design concepts will also end up playing defense.

I am also looking forward to seeing your reveal video and studying it.


@Jonathan_Norris I’ve been waiting for this thread to come out and this discussion to happen. Defense is 2OP in DDS.

Absolutely same. There are multiple reasons to do so… get your slowest cycler out of the way of the best cyclers (sharing loading stations sucks with a slow cycler in your way), and massively slow down your opponent. I’m happy FIRST decided to only allow for 1 defender at any given time because it removes the game killing temptation to send two teams over to play defense.


Without insane coordination that probably won’t happen at the regional or district level, the two feeder stations are going to have a hard time supporting three offensive robots. Two offensive and one defensive robot will be a pretty strong strategy.


Well, being an old timer, and I’m probably one of the few that actually view it this way, but I find the the lack of defense a little disappointing.

If this is supposed to be a “sport”, then by using Hockey, Basketball, Football as some comparisons there are even numbers of offense and defensive players. One team on offense another on defense. That’s not to say their aren’t other sports where it’s you against the clock (Like sail boat racing which I’ve done). Why not in FRC too?

Now, I’m not saying a box on wheels that does nothing but knock people around is acceptable. (Let’s at least attempt to face the engineering challenge presented to us) but, I do think a robot should be able to stand up to defense and be able to deal with it and still score.

Like a running back bursting through the line, or a power forward trying to post up while a defensive player is trying to hold their ground. Defense and offense. Find a way to score.

Just my 2cents


Keep in mind that the highest score at 2017’s Week Zero event (skipping over 2018 due to time-based scoring) was 190 points. The average winning score for alliances in week 1 was 198 points. Teams will get better at cycling.

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Teams also generally don’t play defense during week 0. Defense is going to have a major impact on scoring and there’s really no debating that. The degree to which it “ruins the game” will be determined when we see how the top teams at an event are able to score through defense.

If it proves to be easier than I expect it to be to score against defense then this game could be a lot of fun… but if it’s as difficult as I fear then we might be happy those Rockets are obstructing our view of the field…

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I wonder if the GDC added the rule restricting defense to one robot to avoid a bunch of rookies mobbing 118/254/148/1678 and shutting them down totally and leading to scores near 0 to 0. That would make for a really terrible spectator experience.


I agree, that having a score of 0 to 0, would probably be really boring and I agree terrible for spectators, especially those off the street that know nothing about FRC.

It’s shame those types of situation had/has to happen as I personally don’t find that in the spirit of the game, or FRC. Play defense sure, but play the game too.

I think even the hard core FRC people would find that boring too. If it happened once or twice in an event because some teams played briliant defence, that would be fine. It would be too easy for one robot to park in front of a rocket and a second to park in front of the loading station and essentially shut down half of a field.


My “spirit of the game” is winning. Whatever it takes within the rules to win a match is what I’ll have my drive team do. If that means suffocating defense and a boring 1-0 game then that’s what it’ll be. If defense is allowable per the rules then teams are going to do it, as they should.


@Jonathan_Norris what were some the most effective defensive strategies that you have seen? Was it the combination of precise placement and unprotected zones that allowed defenders to easily bully robots or was it more of being able to get in the way of the paths of robots?


While I dont think this is wrong, I think that youre overestimating the strategic prowess of the average team. Maybe at more competitive events (DCMP’s, more stacked regionals, Late CMP elims) this will be common, but outside of that im not sure if we will see it much, if at all.


Let’s remember defense is not created equally. Just because a team is sent to play defense does not mean anything will be accomplished (outside of probably a team just trying to block the rocket in quals). On the other hand, some teams will make a lot of enemies with elite-level defense.


i think Phalanx was referring to the opportunity to just harass the opposition. One of my former teams (2789) played some serious defense in 2013 and 2014, but we at least attempted to play the game.

What I would prefer not to see is a tank like robot that is designed just to push the opposition. Yes, it’s in the rules, but that’s not the spirit of the game.

Practically speaking, though, Ginger_Power has a point. If such a team took a destructive approach to their defense, then I think the refs would get involved. And, when you account for all the rules, penalty-free defense is really confined to the third or so of the field between the hab and the centerline. And, the penalties in the last 30 seconds are quite severe.

Can defense ruin this game? Sure. Are there rules to prevent it? Yes.

Will it be defined by defense? Possibly, and a bit more probably at the higher levels. This does not constitute ruined by defense.


Hey 610, we agree. Defense is going to topple a lot of tall robots this year, and only really fast and effective scoring robots will be able to go high on the rocket without getting knocked around easily by a box on wheels. We all dream of being that robot, and almost none of us are.


Another trend I saw this year is lighter robots. Many of the robots I’ve seen so far tended to be lighter that previous years; ~100 pounds. With lighter bots I wonder if tanky heavy bots will have a bigger impact than before