Is specialization a viable strategy for Deep Space?

Hello everyone!

So in 2017 (Steamworks) we saw many robots that could cycle gears only and climb. These robots were quite successful, and were often alliance captains. In 2018 (PowerUP) we saw small, specialized valut/switch robots (think 7179, 1836, 2655, etc.) that were successful as 2nd round or even 1st round picks for their alliances. Applying this same logic to Destination: Deep Space, do you think that specializing this year (meaning hatches only, balls only, hatches+balls at the lowest level, etc.) is a viable strategy? Will specialized robots have a place on a championship alliance, or will they even rise to alliance captain?


I see good specialists being snatched up by Captains, as they say its better to be great at a few things rather than no so good at a lot of things. I can see Captains looking to bots that are better at something than they are to increase efficiencies.


The robots that score the most points will be the robots that are drafted first. It’s a unique year where you can score a lot of points without doing the “high goal”. I think it’ll be extremely common for specialists (in a sense that they specialized for the low objectives) to be early picks. I also won’t be surprised to see them make up a large number of alliance captains at many events.

In terms of Hatch Panel only, or Cargo Pod only specialists… I see no reason why they can’t be drafted high and perform well. The elite teams will handle both game pieces and elite teams are generally in a good position to content for world championships, so I would be surprised to see a single game piece specialist captain a world championship alliance. Overall I see very little cap for specialists this year in terms of how valuable they can be. It’ll be interesting to see how many teams resist the urge to handle both game pieces.


I personally think that there will be enough robots this year that handle both hatches and cargo that a specialized robot can become an alliance captain through winning a majority of their quals matches.

This year in particular, specialization lends itself well to simple, lightweight, and efficient intakes that prioritize cycle time, making such robots quite valuable to their alliances.

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Fixed that for you :slight_smile:

Though low objective specialists (meaning low hatches/cargo) may be useful, it’ll be interesting to see if teams choose to specialize in either hatches or cargo at all levels.

For example, doing just hatches at all levels might be faster in terms of cycle time than a robot that does both hatches and cargo at all levels, meaning that a rocket could be completed faster if each robot is allowed to do what it does best.

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With cargo only you theoretically get 50% more scoring per cycle, but you also rely on your alliance being able to place HPs reliably (which may or may not be a good assumption to make). IMO, you should always consider how you can contribute to an alliance as the only working robot. You cap yourself to 6x3 (6 null panels) in this way. The theoretical ceiling for 1st level hatch panels only is 12x2 which is higher. I think both are viable strategies, but I’m inclined to believe that HP specialization is an overall safer bet.

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I thought teams can only place 1 cargo or 1 null hatch panel, so 3 null hatch panels per alliance total. Where are you getting 6?

Nope. Check Section 5.1.1 again, then Q&As 71 and 131, then this recent thread on the topic.

Each team can place one null panel or cargo in each of their two bays. So for the three team alliance, you can get up to 6 null panels.


Specialization will be most prevalent in Low Bots this year, but to to address the greater question, specialization will likely be “viable” every year of FRC. The GDC needs to design games that all levels of teams can compete in. That’s why almost all games have options. Options to avoid certain things. Avoid obstacles, balls, Scale, etc. The answer should be yes, and the answer will likely be yes for a long time.


I think Hatch Panel specialists could do well, but not so much Cargo specialists. Sure the HP doesn’t net as many points/cycle, but Cargo-only relies on your partners too much. You could have a 7-second cycle but could never reach your scoring potential. With HPs the only limit to your scoring is how many spots your partners don’t get. Plus if you get paired with a hybrid scorer, they can focus on Cargo potentially speeding up their cycles (grabbing Cargo from the Depot). Win-win for both of you.

That’s the same rationale my team used when deciding on strategy. The fact that this year 1 game piece (hatch panel) should be scored before the other (cargo) will make HP specialists more valuable to their alliances.

Oh, wow. Ok, so 6 max per alliance, but null hatch panels aren’t scored (according to Table 5-1).

Thanks for the great answer and links!

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One drawback to being a hatch panel specialist is the first tie breaker is Cargo points, so a hatch panel specialist is likely to be at the bottom of any ranking ties. It is likely there will be some 3 to 6 team ties in the rankings in the alliance captain area. Especially if the bonus RPs prove to be harder to obtain than last year. An extreme example of this would be the 2017 Lake Superior regional that had a 14 team tie from 2nd to 15th.

I think this game is going to have a larger schedule dependency than last year. It seems unlikely that someone is going to be so good at cycling that they can carry an alliance against average opponents. That is before factoring in the defense top cyclers are likely to attract when facing two above average robots.

I also think it is interesting that people are not considering high scoring to be specialization.

Yes, it absolutely is.

It is not quite like 2017 where there is a task that is essentially useless unless you are amazing at it, but you will see cargo / low rocket specialists at all levels of play this year. Not just a backup bot or whatever, I mean as a top pick at Champs.

What people are missing by bringing up the usefulness of doing multiple tasks / scoring on multiple levels, is that with a finite amount of time for building and optimizing, you will get better at a narrow range of tasks than if you spread your team’s finite resources among a broad range of tasks.

For some teams (they know who they are), you try everything and see what sticks. For everyone else, if you stretch yourself too thin you’ll just be mediocre at everything.

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This game is different from 2017 since this year you are required to score one game piece before the other. That is why I can’t really see a cargo specialist being a viable robot to an eliminations alliance.

Also in 2017, the cycles between fuel and gears were completely different. The Gears were also worth a lot more than the fuel to a team that could specialize in it. A team could get 3 RP by just scoring the game piece that they specialized in. This year, a team can’t get the rocket RP from only hatches.

I feel that the hatch specialist will definitely do well but not be dominant captains (1st, 2nd, 3rd seeds). A hatch specialist will be very effective second picks or late 1st picks.

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You really aren’t, at least at first. I agree that you nerf your potential by placing null hatch covers, but that IS an opportunity for an alliance to complete six cycles without touching a hatch cover. That can keep a cargo-oriented robot busy until alliance partners can place a couple on the rocket to open that up. (And if six cycles isn’t enough time for an alliance to place two hatch covers on the rocket, press F to pay respects.)


I think that robots that specialize in a specific level can do very well, as they leave to bigger robots to do the higher work, much like last year. I don’t see robots that specialize in only hatch panels or cargo doing as well, but if they can do one thing really fast and then play defence when they aren’t needed for their task, they can still be just as successful as the aforementioned robots.

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^^ This. It’s better to be great at one or two things than fair or poor at three or four, especially as alliances for eliminations are selected, not randomly assigned, and captains can select alliance partners with complementary capabilities. As such, specialization makes scouting even more important, so you know who to pick, or market yourself to as an alliance partner.