Fuel Balancing

After watching a few regionals, one thing that became apparent was the poor value of fuel compared to rotor value. I found myself expecting to see shooting play a major role. With launchers and hoppers taking up most of the space on a robot, I soon realized that they were simply for looks. Most teams just ran loops back and forth dropping off gears, and while that is a sound strategy, I can’t help but think that if the game designers would have balanced the values better, would would have seen a lot more interesting and dynamic matches.
An easy way to do this would be to modify just the point value per fuel. The point values and kpa values in auto would remain the same, however in teleop, every fuel in the high goal would be one point, but you still need three to make one kpa. In the low goal, it would take three fuel to make one point, and still nine to make a kpa. This makes the kpa ranking point just as hard to get, but it makes the thought worthwhile. Also, we would see teams finally use those massive boxes built into them for something more then momentum amplifiers for ramming past defence.

EDIT - I feel I need to clarify my position. I am not complaining about the outcome of a team, or whining because of miscalculated strategy in design (almost every team with a shooter also has a gear system). And, obviously, Worlds will be a much different then week 1 events. However, I find it odd that the most complex element of the field, and arguably the hardest objective to design for, plays such a little role. Usually, games reward more difficult elements with more points.That being said, I think it is fabulous the any team can make a gearbox and upset legacy teams. I also realize that many individuals out there in the gearbot/fuelbot debate are feeling pretty smug right now, but hopefully you will still understand what my point is in FIRST making a game where an entire aspect is left so difficult and (reasonably) unrewarding.

I agree with this sentiment. Another way to accomplish that would be to increase the teleop point values and also increase the KPA requirement to 120 kPA if it is desired to keep the RP threshold the same.

We’ll certainly see the game evolve to feature more shooting as the weeks go by, but I don’t see any reason why the gears and climb needed to be so overwhelmingly valuable compared to fuel.

Fuel specialist strategies are essentially ruled out by the game rules. That’s a shame, because fuel is the the expensive strategy, in terms of development time, robot space, and mechanical complexity, that benefits the most from not spending resources on gears and/or climbing. But this game doesn’t really allow you to skip gears or climbing and still be competitive.

Build season is over. More than six weeks have gone by since game reveal. It’s been said thousands of times, and I’ll say it again -
This is not a ball game.
One more time -
This is not a ball game.

Hanging and gears are designed to be the big points. This game is about focusing on those two tasks.
Fuel is intended to be a tie breaker, an option for a team to show themselves as an exceptional standout. Animal Allies, the FLL game, had several 1 point tasks. This, at a high level of play, can result in some scary close scores (even if the other team did 2 or 3 more tasks). Doesn’t that make things more exciting?

Thus, fuel acts in a similar fashion, with the potential to decide the game in very close match-ups.

To change the point value of fuel would be irresponsible. Teams (hopefully) designed their robot on a set point analysis, and the accuracy of said point analysis might (and likely will) deteriorate if point values are changed.

tldr; This is not a ball game.

I would have a huge problem with this. FIRST specifies in the rule book elements they may change for Championship events, but I don’t believe there is anything written in the rule book that allows them to change established point values.

I think we need to chalk this up to the GDC as a learning opportunity, but drastically changing the game dynamics after week 1 (and this would drastically change the game dynamics) is unfair to any team harmed by the change.

Yup, we’re seeing it. Yes, there are people who are surprised that fuel is not as valuable as they reasoned or hoped. However, if the GDC considers making any rule changes to boost the value of fuel, you can expect uproar from us gearmaster teams who looked at the challenge and concluded that fuel just isn’t worth it. We all had six weeks to anticipate what game play would look like. By this measure the playing field is level.

I still expect a lot of fuel scoring at very high levels of play. In my opinion, the GDC didn’t get the game wrong. Einstein will still be awesome for sponsors and VIPs to watch. It could be said, though, that teams who focused on fuel at the expense of gears or who overestimated their ability to get a decent fuel auto, can learn some very crucial lessons in prioritization.

The manual explicitly says FIRST can change the number and position of pre-populated gears and the kPa threshold for ranking points/bonus points,…

…but there’s nothing that says they can’t change other things like point values. It’s their manual, they can change whatever they want (And they have. For the most part, Team Updates have affected rules that don’t have “we may change this rule later” clauses.).

As much as I’d like to see it and although it does make the game quite a bit more boring, I highly doubt that they will change the rules AFTER week 1 competitions. I think even with the best teams, it’s going to take them most of the match to set up all 4 rotors. Shooting will be confined to autonomous and maybe the last 30-45 seconds of the match.

For qualifications, 3 rotors + as many climbs as possible is the strategy. Auto balls will be the tiebreaker.

For teams who focused on FUEL, now is the time to adapt… We’re going to put our FUEL intake on the bench and attach an upgrade that can intake GEARS off the ground.

They aren’t going to change the point value but I do find it funny that they put a reserve gear on the airship so at least 1 rotor is running at “ready for take off time” yet they devalued the item that is actually needed to power the ship that majority of matches have 0 fuel scored… Can’t operate a machine without an energy source…

If they raised the fuel points I’d also like them to reduce the gears for the last rotor from 6 to 4 (or 25 – trombonist joke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUAYeN3Rp2E). I still think even with more points for the boiler that boiler RPs will be rare and I’d like more RPs, so making the 4th rotor slightly more obtainable would make that happen more often and also counterbalance the higher modified fuel points.

Who’s ready for some extremely passionate defense against fuel powerhouses should they elevate fuel scoring relative to gears?

Gearbots and Boxbots of FRC, unite! Don’t put up with elitist rule changes seeking to denigrate your team and devalue your strategies. Rise up against your oppressors. Make your voices heard! You’re paying them thousands of dollars and they are going to take YOUR game away from you? How. Dare. They.

If they raise fuel points and lower the value of a climb, I’d also propose they increase the value of “toast” points (that is, making a slice of bread into a slice of toast via a warming system) from the current level (0 points) to, at minimum, 20 points per slice created, with a 2X bonus during autonomous. I feel this would make the games significantly more exciting, while increasing visibility for both arena spectators and folks watching via camera feeds.

By the way, this has nothing whatsoever to do with any impact it may or may not have on my team or our robot, “The Toaster”. Although we are not pleased with how unclear the manual was this year in regards to the point value of toast. We are sure the GDC will do the right thing for all teams and make this necessary change to the rules.

Don’t think it’s really needed. As teams get their shooters dialed in and more accurate, fuel scored will go up exponentially. Once that happens and when the lower end of teams gets better, fuelbots will start to dominate. Especially when the kpa bonus becomes more achievable. Basically I think time will fix the balancing. Guess we have to wait and see.

I’m not suggesting it as a late change either, but it could’ve been really interesting if the GDC had required a certain minimum kPa (even just 1-10ish) to start turning a rotor in addition to the gears being on. Though it would’ve put an even bigger premium on an audience display system that actually makes intuitive sense. One of the side effects here I didn’t anticipate is a lot of screaming from people in the stands who think they know what the pilots should do better than the pilots.

Personally, I would dislike it if GDC decided to change the value of fuel. I think the fact that fuel is so hard to justify really separates the good from the great this year.

The GDC has the option to remove the preloaded gears at champs level. Which option would make fuel more valuable?

If 4 rotors become the norm under the current arrangement, then fuel is the most likely tie breaker (and therefore valuable - even worth doing during teleop). If the 4th rotor remains rare, then removing the preloaded gears makes it an even more remote possibility - keeping fuel as the most likely tie breaker (and therefore valuable - even worth doing during teleop).

On the other hand, if the 4th rotor becomes a difficult-but-within-the-realm-of-possibility task that requires the full attention of the alliance, then any time spent on fuel after auton is a costly distraction, especially if the GDC removes the preloads.

I am not too proud to admit that we have a lot of blood, sweat, and tears tied up in our shooter and I hope it does more than provide comic relief during the first 15 seconds of the match.

I think that there is something that can be done to balance Fuel.


Every year, give-or-take Week 1: “Hey, this easy objective is taking over the game in Week 1. This other objective needs to have something done to make it worth more.”

Every year, give-or-take Week 6, same people:

[Hear the crickets?]

I would expect that as shooters get dialed in fuel will become more important. I’d say… Week 5. Likely going to be a hair later this year than normal (Week 3-4), so roughly in time for the DCMPs and CMPs.

One thing that’s weird about Steamworks, and quite unintuitive, is that as teams overall get better at gears, balls become more valuable, and gears stay static in value. I really don’t expect 4 rotors to ever become common or easy, but as gear scoring improves over the season, 3 rotors will become much more common. The more matches where both alliances have 3 rotors, the more valuable fuel gets as a tiebreaker, and the faster the alliances get 3 rotors, the more match time they have to shoot. Furthermore, as long as 4 rotors stays rare, gears don’t actually increase in point value, making fuel look even better. So don’t count fuel out yet - improvements both in fuel ability and gear ability make more valuable.

When elite teams build a robot, they build it with this in mind. What will it take to win the World Championship? Fuel may not be as important yet, but it WILL be in District Champs, St. Louis, and Houston. Now, the problem remains, got to get through the Regionals/Districts to have a chance at Worlds. That is a larger animal this year. It may seem very repetitive so far, but it is exciting. Reminds me a lot of 2011 and the minibot race. Everyone was fighting through the match, but it could be won or lost in the last seconds.

This might become a thing…

I understand that many teams put a lot of effort into shooters that now seem undervalued, but I can not see how this would justify the GDC increasing the value of fuel. The value of fuel and gears was explicitly stated from day 1 and has stayed the same since then. Every team had an equal opportunity to read the rules and assess how they believed Steamworks would be played. In my mind, a big part of the annual challenge for each team is determining what their robot should do. Changing the scoring would be punishing the teams that made more accurate assumptions and rewarding those who did not. We (and many others) spent a lot of time studying past games, running simulations, and prototyping to make our decision to avoid fuel, and changing the scoring would devalue this effort.

Had this apparent lack of importance for fuel been due to a major rule change or exploit then I would understand the complaint, but the rules haven’t changed and the field (for the most part) is working as described. It would be both unprecedented and unfair for the GDC to make major modifications to the scoring after designs have been chosen, robots have been built, and matches have been played.