Game Design

Posted by Dodd Stacy, Engineer on team #95, Lebanon Robotics Team, from Lebanon High School and CRREL/CREARE.

Posted on 5/6/99 8:47 AM MST

I apologize up front - this is going to be a long post. I’ve been following the discussion of the Competition here all season, and I have a number of ideas that I want to dump as a (hopefully) coherent whole. What I mostly hear, and relate to, is that all the teams hate it when they’re finally ‘put on the trailer.’ End of game, end of year, fini, caput. So everyone wants it to be ‘fair’ (to them) when they’re beaten. And let’s face it, all but 3 of the 200+ teams at the Nationals got beaten, all but 6 before the Final match. Lots of people like the alliance innovation (I do), but nobody likes the impact on their team of being paired with a ‘less capable’ team (or a no show) in the Qualifiers. Everybody likes interaction on the field, unless of course their opponent is ‘too rough’ and their bot gets bent. There’s the question of emphasizing offensive scoring over winning matches with a heavily defensive strategy. All of these factors have helped shape the ideas I’ll throw out below.

First, I’m not going to address a major question that FIRST faces, or soon must: limiting the number of teams at the Nationals. I have no idea how they will do this, but 500 teams, 1,000 teams at the Nationals in a few years is more than they can deal with. I think the Regionals, and maybe regular seasonal play, will assume more importance in speaking to the teams’ desire and need to strut their stuff. Good luck to you, FIRST.

I propose that alliances be continued as at the Nationals, with no-shows and dead bots during the Qualifying rounds replaced by subs from a volunteer standby pool. This would have totally avoided the problem at the Nats and is easy to organize.

I propose that offensive scoring be at least mildly bonused over simply winning the matches during Qualifiers, perhaps as a second level tie breaker. Teams within each win/loss bracket (eg: 6-0, 5-1) would be ranked by total points scored in the matches. I think offense deserves at least some premium on philosophical grounds. It’s harder to DO some task with a machine proxy than it is to PREVENT the doing. It’s harder to realize an idea than to shoot it down.

I propose 2 on 2 matches in a game (which could change in significant ways each year, or not) modeled on the common principles of hockey, soccer, football, rugby, lacrosse, etc: 2 teams fighting to possess and control one ‘ball’ and put it in the opponent’s home territory (goal). Play is restarted, with possession reversed, after each goal and whenever motion bogs down in a ‘clinch.’ Include a ‘shot clock’ to keep the game moving and emphasizing offense. Put a further premium on offense perhaps, by multiplying each score on the goal by the time remaining on the shot clock when the goal scores. Break 0-0 ties by time of possession or shots on the goal or? This type of game format is easy to score (and the scoring itself is exciting for the spectators), fast and interactive,and quick to reset for the next match. It’s also possible to play 3 on 3, 4 on 4, etc, but I think the game would quickly tend to bog with too many bots on too small a field. I like 2 on 2 on a field at least ‘half court’ in size, but that’s just my vision.

I propose that the match clock run longer than 2 minutes, perhaps 3 to 5, as long as scoring accumulates during the match and not just at the final buzzer.

I propose FIRST design ‘goals’ with any kind of challenge (that didn’t slow the game to a crawl); height, aperture, orientation, etc, and they could put any sort of obstacles or challenges they wanted on the field (a la bumper pool), if they thought it necessary to spice up the game. I would be leery of the latter tho’ in terms of slowing the game and making it more difficult for teams to construct, transport, and erect fields. I would also suggest that FIRST think further on the linked issues of interaction rules and bot height/reach required to play the game. I’m not sure the physics lessons on cg height and tipping moments are worth the price of shattered robots and crushed kids’ dreams.

Finally, I propose that tournament venues go to STADIUM seating, where the fans look DOWN onto the field. The Hartford and Orlando STAGE venues were pathetic for the spectators - not that many bothered to even watch the National Elimination matches. What a pity and a waste.

I have purposely avoided issues of equalizing team time with the robot, changing the game, kit of parts, etc, in order to focus on ideas for the game and the play. Those other issues remain important, and I hope we will continue the effort to make improvements and find ways to sustainable growth for FIRST. Thanks for listening.

Dodd

Posted by Andy Baker, Engineer on team #45, TechnoKats, from Kokomo High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.

Posted on 5/6/99 10:30 AM MST

In Reply to: Game Design posted by Dodd Stacy on 5/6/99 8:47 AM MST:

: Lots of people like the alliance innovation (I do), but nobody likes the impact on their team of being paired with a ‘less capable’ team (or a no show) in the Qualifiers.

: I propose that alliances be continued as at the Nationals, with no-shows and dead bots during the Qualifying rounds replaced by subs from a volunteer standby pool. This would have totally avoided the problem at the Nats and is easy to organize.

I totally agree. I think the alliance concept is worth the unlucky pairings. I also think that the volunteer idea is a very good and not too hard to implement.

I also like the games which one ball (or object) is used. We would keep the contact, make the scoring simpler, and increase crowd appeal… I can see it now… ‘the Walled Lake Monster-bot launches a 5 pointer from the platform to win… BOOM BABY!’

Also, the stadium approach is perfect. The Great Lakes Regional in Yipsilanti had a great venue, the basketball arena at Western Michigan Univ… perfect setup for competition (but the pits were cramped).

One idea that I haven’t heard yet… multiple games (or rules) for the same competition. Get this, during a competition, day one would be every team for themselves, day two would be alliances, and the game could be slightly different (different strategies, obstacles, whatever). Remember the show ‘American Gladiators’ where there would be multiple contests? Think about it… ‘Robotic Gladiators’ could take place where one contest would focus on a robot’s speed and agility, then the next contest could focus on power and contact, and the next maybe timing and strategy… you get the idea.

I realize that this idea is VERY crazy… but I did want to throw it out there for the rest of you to chew on it.

Whaddya think?

Andy B.

Posted by P.J. Baker, Engineer on team #177, Bobcat Robotics, from South Windsor High School and International Fuel Cells.

Posted on 5/6/99 11:13 AM MST

In Reply to: Re: Game Design posted by Andy Baker on 5/6/99 10:30 AM MST:

First off - I agree with all of Dodd’s comments.

Second, I was actually thinking about the American gladiator thing the other day. I think it would be cool

P.J. B.

Posted by Andy Grady, Coach on team #42, P.A.R.T.S, from Alvirne High School and Daniel Webster College.

Posted on 5/6/99 7:30 PM MST

In Reply to: Maybe we are related posted by P.J. Baker on 5/6/99 11:13 AM MST:

I like the ideas you propose, they would add to the game in the ways that we would want. As for the no-show robot, how about FIRST constructs a robot that can be used by teams to perform the task at hand. Nothing too powerful, but something that will help make up for anything lost from not having a partner.
Cya all later,
Andy Grady, DWC/Alvirne