Fuel Balancing

Now that I have had a day to contemplate and digest week 1 events, in particular regionals, I have come to the conclusion that gears do not offer enough unique scoring opertunities ( as in there are only a few placed game pieces that actually score the points) as other years. This is kind of a new dynamic that we are not used to.

There has been some talk on this thread about having FIRST “adjust fuel point values”, this game was balanced around champs, FIRST’s biggest show. Week one almost always seems broken, so we need to give it until at least week three before we pass judgment. IMO adjusting fuel points is not the way to go, it ruins the unique dynamic of this game, and will cause uproar amongst teams that have designed their bots to function at a championship level where fuel will inevitably be more important even with the game kept the same.

Instead I propose the following: Instead of adjusting point values on the fuel side, adjust the order in which the rotors are spun up. Currently it is 1-2-3-4, I suggest 2-3-4-1. In this configuration the game remains balanced, scores are not artificially inflated by 40 points, and fuel remains a tantalizing way to win. If you are worried about the value of auto-gears being lost, award 20 points for placing a gear(s) on the drivetrain during autonomous. FIRST can also still adjust pre-placed gears.

The only side effects I can see is the central rotor would not physically spin that often, but they were not physically working at the Double DECCer so no loss IMO as I found them rather disracting on webcasts. And this may push for even more same-rotor-points-per-alliance which would result in more ties for gearbot only alliances (and subsequently making fuel more valuable as a tiebreaker)

The overall biggest benifit that I see is an alliance has a really intense chance to prevent the last 2 gears being scored by the other alliance ( worth 180 points in elims ) bringing that incredible defense feeling we had in 2014 back.


I do not agree with this at all, mainly because it would be unfair for Week 1 robots and any Week 2 robots that are coming in. Also, it will be difficult for Pilots to adjust, for six weeks plus they were told that the proper order is 1-2-3-4 and to be told that 2-3-4-1 is now the right order will surely mess up any rule bookworm. Of course, I understand this idea came from the idea of making this game more balanced but I don’t think changing core game rules like that will help.

Like other people have said, we could scale up the points for fuel, but I still think its too early to call. We have just seen Week 1 matches and teams are still figuring out how to play and win the game. I think with TIME we will be able to access whether or not we need a game balance. For now, I think we should see how Week 2, possibly Week 3, teams perform and play the game before we make any final judgment.

Seems to be a lot of panic after Week One events…

Give it time, this game will look different in a few weeks.

I think they only put it there so that they could explain both airships flying in the endgame animation…

I’m with this guy!

How can the air ship fly with out any fuel to power it though? My car doesn’t move if i don’t put gas in it, would be nice if it did.

I think that there are a bunch of teams yet to play that have focused on scoring fuel, while still doing gears and climbing. Once these teams come out fuel will be much more prevalent in the end scores. We’re at week 1, nobody knows how to really play this game at an upper level yet, so the easy tasks are dominating the conciseness.

I see fuel this year the way the Can’s were in 2015. It’s such a small part of the game to design an entire mechanism(s) for, but ultimately will be the tie breaker between top tier alliances.

*Disclaimer, I was not very involved in 2015. This opinion is just going off of the Can races from champs.

I believe that team’s that put a lot of effort in to effective fueling will be rewarded later on in the season. (Some team’s design for regionals while others design for championships.)

Trust 48 to come to the defense of defense. :wink:

Top gun robots must aim and shoot very quickly, else defenders may spoil their scoring plans.

Can one defender hold off a top-gun, while simulataneously preventing a crucial gear delivery? If so, it will need skill.

I think some people are seeing other people advocate for a change in the score balance, and immediately make a few (logical and rational) assumptions:

1: That team isn’t scoring as much and wants the robot they built to be able to win matches more.

2: That team incorrectly guessed how the game would play out and would like it to shift to their initial predictions.

3: Their motives are mostly selfish, and they are not acknowledging what a change in score balancing would do to the teams who made informed decisions based on the rules to focus on gears.

And in some cases, the people making these assumptions are exactly right. I have no doubt that some of the people advocating for the change in scoring built the wrong robot and want to see themselves succeed regardless of how fair or unfair it is to other teams.

But I think those people are in the minority, and those who wish to keep scoring the way it is aren’t recognizing the other aspect of the argument, the one that most people are sticking to: Health of the game.

What I mean by the game’s health is how well the concept is executed, how well it’s received by the players, and how well it’s received by the audience. And I think in these three ideas is where the two opposing sides of this debate find the most disconnect.

For many of the people who want to change the scoring, the change isn’t to make their robots better, but to make the game more enjoyable to experience. Many of these people believe that, without proper balance, the entirety of teleoperated mode will be focused on gear scoring, which they believe isn’t a very exciting concept to the audience. The proponents of this idea think that watching robots cycle gears is like watching them stack totes - a good challenge for those on the field, but not a task that’s extremely enjoyable to watch. It’s monotonous and relatively low risk, especially once teams get good enough to the point where 3 rotors is expected, but 4 isn’t reliably attainable yet. At that level of play you can expect the climbs to cancel out in a good match, leaving the scores mostly tied up.

“But that’s why fuel is the tie breaker - it’s not the main game”.

And you’re right, it definitely is the tie breaker, but it’s one that the current in-game incentives only allocate to autonomous, with teleoperated shots only sparingly being useful. Now if this is what FIRST intended - that’s perfectly okay - but there are 600 fuel on the field. 600. 600 little plastic balls in specially designed hoppers that are scored into large, mechanized goals with two dye rotors in each that have individual fuel counters that count kPa and illuminate a string of LEDs that traverse the open air between the driverstation walls and the airships. And these 600 balls are also recycled back onto the field. That is a lot of time, money, and effort put into the fuel aspect of the game, which is a huge waste if FIRST only intended fuel to be the small differential in points between two alliances breaking the tie at the end of the match. Out of the 13 field elements (5 hoppers, 2 airships, 2 boilers, 2 loading zones, 2 overflow zones), 9 are for fuel-related purposes. That’s almost 70% of the field. Something is inherently wrong with a game if 70% of the field is for an aspect that of the game that accounts for 0.73% of the average teleop match score and a majority of teams refer to as “useless” and “not for them”.

If fuel is really supposed to only be a small tie breaker, limit it to 200 on the field total, none recycled back after scored, no hoppers, no overflow, make the goals simple with a single, larger opening at the top with no low goal, and only make the boiler process during autonomous and the last 45 seconds of the match, that way gears can be the center and main focus of the game, and you don’t have so many wasted resources towards an aspect of the game that isn’t worth the time or effort to do exceedingly well.

If we could go back and redesign the game, I bet many people from both sides of the argument would agree on a similar setup, because the institutions of the game will change to reflect how the game is being played now.

However we cannot redesign the game. The fields are built, and time machines don’t exist. We have a field with 70% of its infrastructure going towards fuel, a large quantity of 600 balls available on the field, and a core gear cycling game that many people, myself included, think is boring to watch. The field can’t be changed, but the scoring can. This is why many people are proposing re-balancing the scores. We have a field designed for both fuel and gears and a score balance designed only for gears. We want to prevent the waste of what we have, not to benefit ourselves or fraud others, but to create a game that is enjoyable to watch and fully utilizes what FIRST Steamworks has to offer. Such a change wouldn’t devalue gear scorers - if anything making shooting a more viable option will increase the demand for good gear scorers, and give those robots a more centralized and important role on alliances.

Some say it’s unfair to those who made design decisions around the original rules. I say it’s unfair to hold back the potential of FIRST Steamworks. A re-balance in scores will make for an exciting game while still giving value to the teams who designed gear-robots. Keeping things the way they are will keep value for gear-robots, but won’t make for an exciting game. Which is really unfair?

To those who still don’t think this is a game where fuel holds weight: You’re right. But if we don’t treat it like one, it will be a boring game.

Only 2 rotors can be started in auto, only 4 rotors can be started by the end of the game, and only 3 robots can climb at the end of the game. The only things deciding the game after that are fouls and fuel.

I agree that fouls are pretty stiff right now, but they were pretty stiff after week 1 in 2014 and a few rule changes helped that out quite nicely.

At the higher levels of gameplay, fuel will eventually become the most important part of the game as it’s the only way to score more points than your opponent.

Don’t analyze the balance of the game while everyone is still bad at playing it.

I don’t see the GDC increasing the value of fuel.

I do see Fuel becoming increasingly valuable as competitions progress every week. I hope we will see more robots capable of effectively scoring high and becoming more accurate. It will be interesting to see 2 ball scoring robots pairing up in eliminations to balance both their shooting and gear scoring capabilities.

To add, I must say ball scoring machines are really important for tiebreakers due to common scorelines and score jumps 205,255,305,etc. It’s unfortunate that the playoff pressure bonus is only 20 points versus the 100 for gears. Hopefully that will change!

Yes, let’s at least give it another 2 weekends. I’m sure the GDC has potential changes already to go if they are needed.

Everyone should read Andrew L.'s post on the previous page. It contains a lot of points that I never considered.

One point he made is this:

This is absolutely true. The GDC must have been thinking only about very high levels of play when they designed the game. Your average run-of-the-mill district or regional qualification match will not utilize the majority of field elements, and these matches comprise the vast majority of SteamWorks play.

My thoughts/critiques:

  • At low levels of play, all matches are going to be “boring”. Nothing we can really do about that. With fuel this year being so hard anyway, it’s not like there will be much “exciting” high goal shooting in your run-of-the-mill matches. (Note that I actually don’t find these low scoring matches that boring; there’s a lot to be learned from matches like these.) It’s reasonable to design a game around how it will be played at the high level.
  • The overflow loading stations may never get used. Darn. I see this as a sign that the GDC perhaps actually did believe there would be more fuel scoring, and fuel wasn’t an intentional red herring for low-resource teams to attempt.
  • Some game mechanics in previous years were rarely used. Level 3 of the pyramid in 2013 and hanging off alliance partners in 2010 are some examples. The fuel game mechanic will be used much more than this. Perhaps not enough to justify some of the fancy features of the field, but it is what it is.
  • Fuel is as much an obstacle as it is a scoring game piece. Having fuel on the field means that teams have harder times lining up to receive and score gears. Fuel can get in teams’ gear mechanisms. Fuel can make it harder to pick up gears off the ground. Releasing hoppers can be a valid defensive strategy. This is an intentional part of the game and is working well.
  • Fuel is as much an obstacle as it is a scoring game piece.


When defenses improve on gear bots (which I expect to happen in week 2), fuel will increase in value. A lot of teams picked up great gear-defending tactics in week 1. I think the game will evolve, and the next step in the evolution is to prevent opposing alliances from attaining 3 rotors. If you watch 27 play defense in the elims of Northern Lights, you will see their main tactic was to use fuel to slow down opposing alliances.

When teams realize they can be prevented from attaining the magical 3 rotors, they will dedicate 1 robot, maybe 2, to fuel. We are a long ways from the final evolution of Steamworks.

People with experience analyzing FRC games could readily predicted the gears were way overpowered and by far the strongest scoring object when optimizing for difficulty and cycle time. I do not think this was the intent of the GDC. I’d be torn if they changed it. On one hand the strategic analysis is an incredibly important part of the season. On the other, watching gears all day is boring. If any change is made I would propose increasing the number of preloaded gears. This still makes scoring gears absolutely essential but increases the match time in which shooters can be used. They reserved the option for CMP/DCMP so why not just pop it earlier?

I think the GDC was fully aware of the balance and it has some interesting qualites. Since the majority of points are scored in a relatively easy way, all teams can participate in scoring. The addition of an insanely hard challenge which isn’t valued very highly still gives experienced teams something to “shoot for” without making them automatically annihilate the beginner teams.

Bad puns… get out :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t.

and those who wish to keep scoring the way it is aren’t recognizing the other aspect of the argument, the one that most people are sticking to: Health of the game.

What I mean by the game’s health is how well the concept is executed, how well it’s received by the players, and how well it’s received by the audience. And I think in these three ideas is where the two opposing sides of this debate find the most disconnect.

Oh boo hoo - Grandma and some rich potential sponsor FIRST is trying to woo thinks the game is boring. If all they are swayed by is spectacle and not the core inspiration easily witnessed behind the scenes, we don’t give a crap what they think.

No professional sports league possessing even a shred of integrity has ever dared to change the major scoring rules of their sport DURING THE SEASON. Hey it’s Game 2 of the NFL season - Roger Goodell says, “I KNOW - let’s make touchdowns worth 4 points and field goals worth 46 points!” Would NFL teams sit back and tolerate such a change? They would not. Owners would likely sue the league, players would boycott, league officials would be “accosted”. In a word, it would be a glorious revolt.

And a revolt is exactly the kind of thing I and I know hundreds of others would manifest in creative ways should FIRST elect to expend whatever cache of integrity they’ve built up with the FRC community to harpoon their own game mid-season, all for what boils down to the pursuit of MONEY and PANDERING to the “elite”.

And as for inspiring spectators to start new teams? When I hear “FRC changed the game rules midseason”, I don’t think, “BOY HOWDY the FRC folks are awesome!!!111!!!”. On the contrary, all I can think of is telling such potential teams, “Hey guys, FRC is trash - you should go do VEX instead.”


No one was clamoring for a change in point value when the recycling cans on the step weren’t used during week 1 of 2015. Game play will get better.