[FRC Blog] FIRST STEAMWORKS -- How Are We Doing?

Posted on the FRC Blog, 3/27/17: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2017-steamworks-how-are-we-doing


Written by Frank Merrick, 2017 MAR 27.

For the last few years, if I remember correctly, we’ve been sharing community response to the game using data from the post-event surveys that are sent to all teams competing in a given week. The information below is the final survey data from last week, Week 3, which is the most recent complete survey results we have.


We often group ‘Poor’ and ‘Very Poor’ responses together and call them ‘Unfavorable’, and group ‘Good’ and ‘Very Good’ responses together, and call those ‘Favorable’. Using that approach, last week we had approximately a 3% ‘Unfavorable’ response and approximately an 86% ‘Favorable’ response to the quality of the game. This is not a scientific survey, of course, just a snapshot of the team members who decided to respond to our request for their opinions.

Unfavorable responses have decreased, and Favorable responses have increased, as the weeks have gone by. In Week 1 we showed 10% Unfavorable and 67% Favorable, with 1,142 people responding. In Week 2 we showed 6% Unfavorable and 79% Favorable, with 1,140 people responding. I’m sure lots of things go into how people feel about the game overall, but I’m hoping the tweaks and fixes we’ve been making along the way have helped deliver a good experience to a greater percentage of our teams (whom I consider FIRST’s primary customers) as the weeks have gone by. Clearly, we’d like all our teams to have a ‘Week 3’ or better experience, even if they happen to be competing Week 1. As I noted in this blog, we have plans in place, and are currently executing on those plans, to make things better for 2018.

On to Week 5! More than halfway through the regular season!


I hope those “plans in place” consist of shipping fields out for use on day one of build season.

~c’mon, let’s make it zesty~


To where?


These numbers are reminiscent of Aerial Assist end season numbers…
AA: ~8% Unfavorable ~75%Favorable

where as Stronghold was

SH: 1.7% Unfavorable ~92% Favorable

The commonality between AerialAssist and SteamWorks is that if you are down a robot you pretty much can’t win, and 1 team can not carry. Obviously this concept is frustrating for veterans. Interesting though is that the barrier of entry for AerialAssist is significantly lower than that of SteamWorks. Its interesting though how similar the 2 games are. Both have the “tiered” scoring system, both require teamwork to score. Endgame existence doesn’t appear to really change teams views… though my guess would be that when the endgame is ridiculously unbalanced, it probably frustrates just as many teams as it excites.

Answer: to district-operated facilities and warehouses.

Context added

It’s also resulting in pretty messy alliance selections without a powerhouse anchoring the leaderboard but still turning out some pretty exciting eliminations matches. Aerial Assist probably had the best WCMP eliminations ever, but with the intentional dilution of postseason play, I doubt STEAMWORKS can recover.

Aerial Assist has the benefit of clear site lines, ease of description to the public and some of the best robot to robot interaction I have ever seen (heck it was required to do well). AA is by far a better game.

That is a big piece of the puzzle. Aerial Assist was a game where the core issues were “administrative” in that teams could not visualize the game well at low levels and referees definitely had to be broken in to the game to make sure it was called well since they had so much on their plate. You can’t fix the hoppers that almost never get used and the massive, complex opaque objects in the field.

Please, Frank, if you read this, please, please, please, don’t destroy our sight lines like that again. It makes the game not very fun to play. You end up having to look at a screen rather than your robot. We might as well be playing a video game :(.

Not to mention the teams/parents/literally anyone in the stands that can’t follow their team 50% of the time

It’s also less than ideal that the game announcers and the audiences have wildly different views of the match. It makes it difficult for spectators to really follow what’s going on.

I agree with this, but I also remember plenty of complaints about “Aerial Assault” around week 4 of 2014. AA really blossomed in District and World Championship season thanks to deeper fields of capable robots. I think it’s likely that Steamworks will see a substantial improvement as well, even with the half-champs dilution.

I definitely think this is the case, especially as we size up to the last few weeks of regionals and get to district champs. With conduit in the pegs creating a more robust field and teams learning the ropes (no pun intended) of the game, I think Steamworks may still turn into a fan favorite. That being said, I’m curious what some people would do to eliminate games in the future from playing unfavorably in the first few weeks and not fully developing until the district champs / championship level (a la 2014 and 2017). Is this something that should be modified on the game-side, on the team-side, or on both?

Whatever they modify, and however you compare the games, one of the most important things imo in making FRC more accessible to the public is the camera and streams. I have said several times how abysmal the cameras are this year.

I was watching an event with my friend who had never seen robotics and then I showed her a match from the audience perspective and her first reaction was “OH that’s how they get the gears, that’s way cool”. An hour of watching the stream and she had no idea.

Recycle Rush, if nothing else, was easy for spectators to watch. As was 2016, and 2014.

Emphasis mine as I don’t want to assume your intent on where the emphasis of the sentence was.

Are you saying that you see a stagnant metagame from week 1 to CMP as desirable? Or just that you don’t want a game to play unfavorably early on?

I see ideal game design as playing favorably early, but still having strategic development each week. 16-style defense in 2012, 469’s left station FCS in 2013, and both the passback and death cycle strategies in 2014 didn’t take hold until DCMP or CMP and I thought those culminating events were better for it. I don’t see 2012 or 2013 as playing unfavorably in early events, and I think that 2014 would have played favorably if scoring the game was not a referee job, penalties were realistic, and more teams built reasonable robots for their resource level (inbound bots).

Metagame growth and good early play are not mutually exclusive.

You said what I wanted to say a lot better than I did. I definitely want growth, but if games could be rated on a scale of 0 to 10, I’d rather start at 5 and linearly move to 10 than start at 0 and exponentially move to 10. By the time champs hits, I think a healthier game should have more marginal and detail-oriented metagame changes like the ones you listed - it should not be playing on an entirely different tier than the previous weeks.

Which fortunately applies directly to this game.

Shooters weren’t shooting week 1-3(254 and 971 don’t count) because it wasn’t worth it.

They are now, kind of, with a select few doing all the shooting. This game is 100% “who doesn’t get 3 rotors or loses rope roulette” all the way to the finals. DCMP and CMP I feel will be very similar until playoffs. This game feels like it was designed for a great Einstein, but a boring everything else.