[FRC Blog] Timeout & Playoff Tournament Updates

Posted on the FRC Blog, 9/7/2022: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2022-timeout-and-playoff-tournament-updates

Timeout & Playoff Tournament Updates

2022 SEP 07 | Written by Fiona Hanlon, FIRST Robotics Competition Team Experience Specialist

This summer, FIRST ® Robotics Competition assembled a working group to explore ways to improve the playoff tournament timeout process. I am happy to share some updates on progress we have made so far.

In looking at the current timeout process, we first assessed areas for improvement and identified some things to improve with a new model:

  • Avoid unbalanced matches in playoffs (i.e. 3 robots vs. 2 robots)
  • A simpler process for all participants
  • Provide more time to teams between playoff matches
  • Improve the overall team experience (both for teams competing and teams watching)

To address these areas, the following changes will be incorporated for the 2023 season:

  • More time for teams between playoff matches. Our goal is that each alliance will have at least fifteen minutes between each of their matches. Note that this does mean removing timeouts available to alliances, as all alliances are allotted more time.
  • Backup robots are required to play in the first match after they are called and may not be called until after the alliance’s first match. After that, the alliance can choose to play any of the four teams now on their alliance.
  • Alliances can choose which driver station each team is in for each match.
  • Instead of immediate disablement for a robot being late, teams will receive a penalty for causing significant delays to the start of playoff matches before being disabled.
  • Printed copies of the backup robots list and playoff bracket will be provided to the alliance captain prior to the start of the playoff matches.
  • We are evaluating additional audience and team focused displays will help teams know exactly when their next playoff match will be and how the tournament is progressing.

The group also made a recommendation that implementing a double elimination tournament would achieve even greater improvements over the current system. The Double Elimination Tournament Overview has more detail about how this model would be implemented for FIRST Robotics Competition events. The page also shares additional advantages of this model with more detail on the other changes being implemented. Some details are still being finalized, including any potential changes to District points.

It’s important to note that changing from best-of-three to double elimination is tentative. While we would love to wave a magic wand and have this all finalized before the season, this is a large undertaking, and we had other projects on deck for our engineering team to focus on this fall (like the 2023 game). So, we are working closely with volunteer members of the community to help us execute this with the goal that we will feel confident in implementing this for the 2023 season. If we are not ready, we will make the other modifications listed above for the 2023 season.

We will update the community later this fall with confirmation of the playoff structure that will be used for the 2023 season. Please note that specific details in the overview document are subject to change. The 2023 FIRST Robotics Competition game manual will have the complete tournament ruleset.

We are excited to share that some offseason events, including Chezy Champs, are implementing a similar tournament structure as an opportunity to test the model. We plan to attend Chezy Champs to talk with teams about their experiences with the new model to see if we need to make any adjustments to our plan.

Finally, I want to give a big shout out and thank you to our working group who was mostly made up of volunteers. I also want to preemptively thank the volunteers who have agreed to help us with implementing this new playoff model. We have said it before, but I will say it again, FIRST ® runs on volunteers, and we couldn’t do everything we do without all of you. Thank You!

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This is big!

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Well, this explains why Chezy Champs is doing Double Elim and not Round Robin.

Love the end goal of allowing teams to get back onto the field and increasing time for repairs.

Not sure I love the de-facto 4-team alliances. I don’t look forward to the controversy the first time an alliance sits a robot in order to grab a team off the back-up list to deny other alliance’s a chance at getting that team, or even for strategic reasons for a specific match-up. I also don’t love its ramifications on district points, as it creates drama based on who actually sees the field in terms of accruing district points (under the current district point playoff advancement structure).

Mixed feelings on the double elimination bracket. As a team that’s frequently in blue bumpers, I appreciate that we’re getting away from “match-up losses” and giving a potential path for advancement deeper into the tournament even if you’re matched up against a stacked #1, 2, or 3 alliance in the first round. But I don’t necessarily love the change to “Best-of-1” matches within each part of the double elim bracket (even if a single loss doesn’t eliminate you), and I’m not in love with double elim brackets in general. Seeing the ramifications to district points may also influence my opinion. Also curious what will be done to balance the “finals,” considering one alliance will be coming in from the losers bracket with a loss on their slate already while the other will be undefeated.

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I’m hoping that, especially in finals, if teams are ready that they get to the field before the 15 minutes is up, because otherwise that seems like a lot of waiting for the other teams at the event. Or have some useful content in that span.

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I am a fan of double elim. Not a fan of not resetting the bracket if the “Upper” team loses in grand finals. The Upper team is losing the advantage they should receive by not losing. (There is a slight advantage of wear&tear on the bots having played less matches, but that is outside the tournament mechanics.)

Making the grand finals “Red wins 1, or Blue wins 2 in a row” would also preserve the advantage. But a straight 2/3 does not preserve it (Blue can lose 2 matches and not be out of the tournament).

I explain this more in posts from the thread in the earlier part of the year here and here

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Why should they receive an advantage? In the current bracket there’s no advantage for not losing a single match until finals, and that works out fine.

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It’s a key part of the concept of a double elimination tournament. In the current state, the team coming into Grand Finals from the lower half can lose 2 total matches and still win the tournament. If the team coming from the upper half loses 2, they are out.

In a typical double elim tournament, the “lower” beating the “upper” in the grand finals moves the “upper” also into the “lower bracket”, also known as a bracket reset. If it is in the interest of time, doing Red must win 1, Blue must win 2 preserves this advantage over doing a possible 2 2/3 matches.

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If only there was some aspect of competitions that could be moved from after the conclusion of the Finals to in between the Finals matches…

Oh well.

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The winner of the Upper Bracket didn’t get to lose a match, the winner of the Loser Bracket did get to lose a match. This is mostly mitigated by best 2 of 3, and is probably not a problem worth fixing, but it certainly is a thing.

Most double elimination tournaments in other contexts allow the winner’s bracket winner to lose in the finals and play an additional match. I don’t really think we should do that in FRC because of the perception of unbalanced play in the already-bo3 Final Matches (and the event length varying), but I just wanted to share how it’s done elsewhere.

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Upper bracket winners can win the event in 5 matches. Lower bracket winners need 6-7 matches to win the event. This is a pretty large advantage.

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True. I’m just approaching from the way I interact with double elim tournaments (fighting games). As Chris pointed out going from BO1 to BO3 mostly mitigates it. In a perfect world you’d do it, but explaining double elim reset mechanics to the crowd probably isnt worth FIRST’s time.

(in most fighting games they do 2/3 the whole bracket and move to 3/5 for losers, winners, and grand finals, with full bracket reset. Not quite feasible in FRC land :joy: )

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I think the big difference is in stuff like glitches/cards (see: G205 this year). IMO it’s kinda unsatisfying to have the event decided by something like that.

Not familiar enough with fighting games, but in sports I don’t think you see the game-effecting flukes as much as with robots.

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based

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It’s a definite improvement. 15m turnarounds are going to be wonderful. Time for awards and strat desk without more dance music :slight_smile:

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Being able to select alliance stations for the teams in your alliance is severely underrated. So glad that made it in there.

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Hopefully the event organizers and MCs can fill that time with fun and engaging content. Whether that be awards, interviews, costume contests, videos, ect.

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Indeed, nothing we enjoyed more than climbing traversal from drive station 3…

Is there a good way to assign a 3rd place alliance with this format? Or would we need to play another match?

It looks to me like we would need to have the losers of M12 and M13 play each other. But maybe M12 loser is 3rd place because they only lost one match?

I really hate that wild cards at regionals get lost if they can’t get awarded to the finalist teams and I would like to see that chain continued down to 3rd and 4th place alliances.

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Agreed. There is very little incentive for the top seed to select the highest ranked team even if they are the highest rated team on their picklist. They can (and should) select their second ranked team on their picklist, play the first match against the #8 seed and then call in the backup. I’m sure there are additional strategies teams can take advantage of once they have more time to fully digest the rules.

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