Great FRC Game Design

Since game design will be part of the 2021 season I would like to if opinions have changed on what makes a great FRC game. This has been discussed before so if you are new I recommend reading those, but I would like to focus on if people agree with my summary and if they have additional things to add/change! What is your opinion of the “Controversial” category and how would you take those out of that category and make them something most people agree on?

Aspects of Great FRC games:

  • Exciting to Watch
  • Easy to understand/explain at least the basics (new spectators)
  • Allows teams of every resource level to contribute (hopefully beyond “go ram the best team on the other alliance”)
  • Unique Robot Strategies / Diverse “Meta”
  • Complex Game Strategy (both before and during the match)
  • Intuitive, Fair, Reasonable, and Safe Rules
  • New, interesting, and creative design challenge
  • Automated Real-Time Scoring

Controversial (IMO):

  • Defense
  • Amount/Speed of Robot Contact
  • Safe Zones
  • Themes
  • Short Rule Book
  • Coopertition
  • Seeding that perfectly reflects robot capability
  • Clear Field Visibility
  • End game task value
  • Catch Up Mechanisms
  • Few penalties
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Plz go drive a robot on the 2017 field and get back to us. Specifically from the center driver station.


Were there rules on being able to step out halfway to stations 1 and 3 to see better? I remember 2019 having it but it wasnt too useful.

I think everyone agrees the field needs some visibility, but how much and at what cost is not so easy. I think some of the theme could have been sacrificed in 2017 to make the ship more transparent. Was 2007 too little visibility (I don’t think so)? Was 2019 too little visibility (for drivers I don’t think so but for spectators I think it was)?


Nobody’s arguing that field visibility isn’t a factor; it absolutely can make games more difficult to play. Rather, is “good field visibility” something that an FRC game must have to be a great game? Can a game be made better by making strategically valuable areas of the field difficult to see? Certainly, there are lots of ways teams and alliances can deal with the challenge:

  • strategies that don’t require precision driving in invisible areas, or avoid them altogether,
  • robot designs that are unlikely to get snagged on field elements, game pieces, or other robots when driving blind,
  • agreed-upon communications between alliance members who can, and who can’t, see valuable areas,
  • robots with the brute traction and pushing force to plow through whatever their drivers can’t see
  • intakes and scoring mechanisms that don’t require precision alignment
  • automation or remote vision to allow robots or drivers to operate effectively when the drivers don’t have eyes on the robot

I’m not opposed to the idea that a great FRC game might have limited field visibility as a key aspect. For that to work, I think there will need to be a few other considerations in the game. Off the top of my head:

  • penalty rules that account for drivers not always knowing where their robot is or what it is doing,
  • scoring that is either done automatically or in areas that can clearly be seen the person counting score
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I would challenge you to provide an example of a great game that did not have a good visibility.

This is not conclusive evidence, but at this point I don’t think there is an example of a great FRC game that did not have good sightlines for drivers and the audience at this point in FRC history.

Perhaps there may be one in the future, but all evidence at this point suggests that it is something strongly related to good games.

Here’s a thought: allow alliances to choose which team sits where.

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I think there is a difference between general visibility and visibility in specific spots. 2019 had no visibility in “sandstorm” which I thought was unique and innovative. It also had bad visibility to the backside of the rockets, which I thought was fine and created a challenge but as mentioned above I think the in person spectator visibility was poor and not ideal.

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2019 was not a “great” game, so it falls outside the statement.


Good list. I would add:

  • An excellent game would not lend itself to design convergence as the season progresses. (I also think that’s really hard to design a game for; we’d all build LeBron-bots to play robo-basketball if we had the capability…) This is related to a diverse meta and unique strategies, but is sufficiently distinct for its own callout–forcing the vast, vast majority of teams to make trade-offs in what they’re going to shoot for in terms of game functionality is, IMO, something that makes a game better, and something that FIRST has been hit-or-miss on in the past. Greater diversity of high-performing robots on the field is just cooler than if they all are variations on the same theme, from the perspective some someone who’s there to watch/see neat robots.

  • An excellent game leads to interesting-looking/functioning robots. This has more to do with sponsors, spectators, and visitors than it does the game itself, but when all/most of the competitive robots look like boxes and most/nearly all of the mechanisms are hidden inside (like, say, a lot of 2020 robots), it simply isn’t as cool for those looking for an exciting spectator sport. Robots that have to extend outside of their bumpers and/or up are not necessarily neater/cooler/more impressive to anyone who knows robots and robotics, but to the casual observer, they are. (To wit, photocopiers are complicated, intricate machines with a lot of sensors and sophisticated doings inside, from which one can learn a great deal about control, manipulation, sensors, etc., but they’re not exactly fun to watch.)


I’ll quote what I said in the most recent “replay 2014” thread. Good games need to be both entertaining (fun to play/watch, possibility for upsets, etc) and a good engineering challenge (requiring strategic tradeoffs, incentivizing good engineering practices, etc)


I almost forgot about the hatch panel loading station…


Based on my experience with the relevant parties, not only is this usually against the rules, but it is literally impossible. The FMS will go into a screaming fit of rage, sending reverse current to the grid, attacking drive teams with 100’ ethernet cables, using the motorized field elements as weapons, and finally summoning HQ to vaporize the event out of existence, even at offseasons.


This. A great game has people choosing all sorts of different strategies and robot designs. One way to do this is to have lots of scoring methods. It seems like a lot of people hated the “wheel of fortune” this year, but I thought it was a great element

  1. because it was another way to score points (maybe not enough points), and
  2. it put a big robot design choice square in everyone’s face (tall vs short bot).

If there are lots of ways to score, and nobody can really do them all well, then I think that also adds a lot of excitement to the alliance selection.

Another possible way to create variation would be to have a 2 or 3 sets of allowable weights/heights/perimeters (do you go heavy/small, medium/medium, or light/big?).

Also, I think maybe make autonomous a bit longer would be cool.


This was done in 2007. I’ll let someone who was around for that comment on how it worked.

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According to many Stronghold was a great game and that had low visibility behind certain defenses. Also according to many Rack’n’Roll was a great game and it had visibility issues.

I think what game is best is pretty subjective. Rather than saying “this feature wasn’t included in my favorite game so it can’t be good” wouldn’t discussing the relative merit of that feature be more helpful?

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Which is more important to the game design: experience of the competing drive team, or experience of the spectator?

  • Drive team
  • Spectator

0 voters

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I’m going to resist the slide into pedantry here.

Stronghold is probably the closest we have to a great game with significant driver visibility issues. On the other side, Stronghold had fantastic spectator visibility, so it’s kind of a 50/50 thing. It’s funny that half a decade later I’m still not really sure how I feel about Stronghold from a game design perspective.


Maybe in the controversial section but:

  • Separate game objectives that are impossible for one team to complete them all.
    • Either by design or simply handing out different flags to be mounted on each bot with a rule saying which flag can do what
    • Yes I know you can get stuck with 2 dead bots, but a good game shouldn’t expect someone win solo anyway in my o-pin
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